(a) Policy Statement. It is the finding of the Court that settlement conferences are a valuable tool to promote the amicable resolution of disputes and promote the efficient use of court resources. Settlement conference time is also a valuable resource. It is expected that all parties who participate in settlement conferences, as mandated by the Court, be prepared to participate when scheduled and not squander this valuable resource.
(b) Settlement Conferences Required. A settlement conference is mandatory in all contested actions in which a dissolution/declaration of invalidity/legal separation of marriage or domestic partnership is sought. A settlement conference may be requested in any family law matter with the agreement of all parties. No trial date will be set unless the required settlement conference has occurred or has been waived by a judge for good cause.
(c) Readiness Statement. A party shall complete the Certificate of Readiness Statement and Mandatory Settlement Conference/Trial Setting Notice which shall be signed and filed with the Clerk. This document will include a statement verified by the party, or their attorney, that negotiations have been attempted between the parties.
- Form. The request shall be substantially in the form approved by the Court and available on the Court's website, www.cowlitzsuperiorcourt.us, or from the County Clerk’s Office or Court Facilitator.
(d) Settlement Conference Declaration. Each party must complete a Statement of Family Financial Status. If the parenting plan or child support is at issue, each party will provide a proposed parenting plan and child support worksheets. Appraisals, bluebook printouts, or other documents supporting contested issues should be included with the declaration. It is helpful if the parties can agree on a format for any proposed balance sheets. The declaration and supporting documents shall not be filed with the Clerk’s Office. The declaration and supporting documents shall be served on the opposing attorney or party, if not represented by an attorney, and an additional copy will be provided to the Superior Court Administration for the use of the presiding judicial officer conducting the settlement conference, no later than 4:00 p.m. five (5) court days prior to the scheduled conference.
- Form. The Statement of Family Financial Status shall be substantially in the form approved by the Court and available on the Court's website, www.cowlitzsuperiorcourt.us, from the County Clerk or Court Facilitator.
(e) Sanctions. Failure to file the documents pursuant to sections (d) and (1) above may result in sanctions.
Failure to appear at the settlement conference shall subject a party and/or attorney to additional sanctions upon motion of the opposing party. A party in compliance with this rule may seek fees and costs against a non-compliant party by way of motion to the Court and such terms shall be at the discretion of the Court.
(f) Settlement Conference Procedure. Participation in the settlement conference shall be mandatory. All parties and their attorneys, if represented, shall appear at the settlement conference.
(g) Completion of Settlement Conference. If the settlement conference results in a partial or full settlement of the case, a record of the settlement shall be made, either by a written CR 2A settlement agreement, signed by both parties and their attorneys, or by placing the agreement on the record in open court. If the settlement conference is not successful, the supervising presiding judicial officer shall file a notice of completion of the settlement conference with the Clerk. A private mediator may also file the notice of completion of settlement conference if private mediation is used to comply with this rule.
- Form. The completion notice and/or the CR2A Agreement cover page shall be substantially in the form approved by the Court and available on the Court's website, www.cowlitzsuperiorcourt.us, from the County Clerk, Court Facilitator or from Superior Court Administration.
(h) Notice of Settlement or Change. Whenever a cause has been set for Mandatory Settlement Conference and thereafter is settled or will not proceed for any reason, notice shall immediately be given to Superior Court Administration and the Clerk’s Office by the close of the next business day. In the event of a violation of this rule, the Court may, in its discretion, assess actual costs incurred, as a result of the violation, plus such other sanction as appears appropriate against the offending attorney and/or party.
[Adopted September 1, 2005; amended September 1, 2007; repealed on an emergency basis May 1, 2009; repealed on a permanent basis effective September 1, 2009; reinstated as amended effective January 19, 2010; amended September 1, 2010; amended September 1, 2012; amended September 1, 2015; amended September 1, 2016; amended September 1, 2018; amended September 1, 2019]