Getting Ready for a Settlement Conference

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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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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

*Read this only if you are involved in a Superior Court case in the state of Washington.
*These instructions are for King County Superior Court cases. They may help in other courts. Your county may have its own settlement conference rules.

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

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

That’s understandable. Usually, though, settling a case during or after a settlement conference is better than going to 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.

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

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 an 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.

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.

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


Outside King County, call the CLEAR Hotline at 1-888-201-1014 weekdays between 9:15 am - 12:15 pm. 

In King County, call 2-1-1 weekdays between 8:00 am - 6:00 pm. They will refer you to a legal aid provider.

Seniors (age 60 and over) can also call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111, statewide.

You can also apply online with CLEAR*Online:


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Last Review and Update: Jan 26, 2022
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