The Initial Case Management Conference
For many people, the decision to start a divorce or custody action is the most difficult and intimidating step. Other people are paralyzed by the idea of going to Court. Fortunately, the Court’s in Minnesota have come to understand that the idea of going to Court is scary for many people. Most counties in Minnesota have adopted a program called the Initial Case Management Conference or “ICMC”. The concept of the ICMC was first developed and implemented in Hennepin County. After years of positive feedback and success with the ICMC process, the program has expanded to almost every other County in Minnesota. In most instances, after a divorce or custody case has been filed by you or your attorney, you and/or your attorney will receive notice from the Court confirming that your case was filed and notifying you that your case has been scheduled for an ICMC. The ICMC will be scheduled within two to six weeks from the date your case was filed. If you are represented by an attorney, you and your attorney will attend the ICMC together. Your spouse or co-parent will also be expected to attend along with their attorney (if they have one). You will be asked to provide the Court with some basic information about your case. Typically you are required to submit that information to the Judge two to seven days before your scheduled ICMC. The ICMC is intended to be an informal meeting between all parties, attorneys and the Judge. This will give you an opportunity to see the Courthouse and meet your Judge. This is often also your first opportunity to meet the opposing attorney in your divorce or custody case. While each Judge may choose to manage their ICMC’s differently, you can expect the following to occur at the ICMC:
- The Judge will talk with both parties causally to learn about your case and your family;
- The Judge will encourage you, your spouse or co-parent, and the attorneys to consider alternative dispute resolution options for resolving the case;
- The Judge will explain some options for alternative dispute resolution, and particularly encourage you to participate in a program called an Early Neutral Evaluation; and
- The Judge will work with you to develop a plan for follow-up on your case and a status phone call or hearing may be set.
The ICMC is intended to be informational and it is not an opportunity for you, your spouse or co-parent, or the attorneys to argue specifics of the case. Unless the parties and attorneys specifically agree otherwise, the Judge cannot issue an order for custody, parenting time, child support or spousal maintenance at the ICMC. You can expect the ICMC to take between fifteen minutes to an hour. You should make sure to respect the Judge by dressing appropriately, turning off your cell phone, and by refraining from chewing gum or bringing food and beverages into the courtroom. Since many cases settle quickly, the ICMC may be your only visit to Court but if your case does not settle and you have to return to Court later, the ICMC process will give a much better idea of what to expect at the courthouse.