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WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

Getting Ready for a Settlement Conference

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Read this to learn why you should go to your settlement conference, what will happen there, and what happens if you do not settle. #3911EN


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*Read this only if you are involved in a Superior Court case in the state of Washington.


Should I read this?

Yes, if you have to go to a settlement conference before having a trial in your court case.

*These instructions are for King County Superior Court cases. They may help in other courts. Your county may have its own settlement conference rules.


What will I learn?

You will learn why you should go to your settlement conference, what will happen there, and what happens if you do not settle.


Do I need a settlement conference?

It depends. Some courts require it. It can help you avoid trial. Trials can take lots of time, emotion, and money.


But I want my day in court!

That's understandable. Usually, though, settling a case during or after a settlement conference is better than trial:

  • It may make it easier to make future agreements with the other party.

  • It is cheaper than going to trial.

  • There are no surprises. You know what you are agreeing to.

  • You are making decisions about your life. No judge is making those decisions.


Can I skip the settlement conference?

No! (There are a few exceptions to this.) If you do not have good reason for missing it, the settlement judge may charge you a fine.


What happens at a settlement conference?

The settlement conference judge will

  • Tell you what they think might happen if you go to trial. Example: in a divorce, the judge will give an opinion about things like the parenting plan (custody), which spouse should get which property, or child support.

  • Talk to each of you about the strengths and weaknesses of your case.

  • Try to help you reach agreement.

The settlement conference judge can also issue some orders. Examples: in a divorce, the judge can appoint an expert to advise about the children's welfare, a spouse's property, or a spouse's physical or mental condition.


I don't think we will reach an agreement.

That's okay. A settlement conference can still be worth your time.

*If you do not reach agreement at a settlement conference, you do not have to follow the judge's opinion.

Listen carefully to the judge's opinion about your case. It will probably be like a trial judge's ruling.

If you believe the settlement conference judge did not understand your side of the story, you may want to go to trial.


Can the other party use what I said at the settlement conference against me at trial?

No. What happens at the settlement conference is confidential. It cannot be reported or recorded.


Will the settlement conference judge be in charge of my trial?



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Last Review and Update: Mar 15, 2021