In divorce cases, the Court gives parties and their attorneys several tools to help them reach a settlement agreement through “alternative dispute resolution” without going to trial. One of these tools is a pre-trial meeting with the “Special Masters.”
The Special Masters are attorneys who are well-versed and highly experienced in the practice of Connecticut divorce law. Usually, one woman and one man, the two lawyers sit down with the parties and their attorneys to learn about the case.
Each attorney gives a brief statement and presentation of their financial evidence, including the financial affidavit which provides a snapshot of each party’s financial situation. The Special Masters have the opportunity to ask questions and review the affidavits as well as any other evidence presented by the attorneys. Then, they will deliberate together and offer their opinion on how they believe the judge would rule on the case.
No. The Special Masters give their best professional opinion about how a judge would resolve the case. Their job is to make both parties aware of where they stand as they move toward a trial date. They can’t force anyone to follow their recommendations or settle the case.
Yes. The Special Masters volunteer their time and will be replaced by another lawyer if there is any conflict of interest. For instance, if one of the Special Masters works in the same firm as an attorney representing a party, they will step aside and assign the case to another available Special Master lawyer.
Alternative dispute resolution is a great tool because it keeps the decision-making process in the hands of the client with the advice of their attorney instead of turning the matter over to the complete discretion of a judge. By offering the Special Masters’ pre-trial, the Connecticut courts give parties a great opportunity to reach an informed settlement agreement. However, if the parties cannot settle, the attorneys will continue to prepare to take the case to trial. Up until the trial (and even after the trial has started), there are still opportunities to reach a settlement.
Contact the Connecticut family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Piazza, Simmons & Grant, L.L.C. with questions about the Special Masters or any other alternative dispute resolution options available during your Connecticut divorce. Call our office today at 203-348-2465.