Mandatory Settlement Conferences

The information below is intended to provide general information on what to expect and how to prepare for a Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC). This information is not legal advice.

When there are issues you cannot resolve initially by agreement, parties can request a Settlement Conference and Trial. Parties are required to participate in a Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC) prior to conducting a trial.


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What is a MSC?

A MSC is a meeting of the parties as part of a case resolution plan. The purpose of the MSC is for the parties to discuss the disputed issues and facts of the case in an effort to resolve their matter by agreement. On the day of the MSC, the parties will either reach a settlement agreement and begin the process of filing a Judgment with the Court to finalize their case, or, if no agreement can be reached, the Court will determine if another MSC is needed, or set the matter for a Trial Readiness Conference (TRC).


What is a TRC?

A Trial Readiness Conference (commonly referred to as a (TRC) is scheduled to ensure that the parties are prepared for trial. The TRC is held to make sure the proper paperwork for trial has been completed, served and filed with the Court. Prior to the TRC the parties must comply with the Trial Rules and Procedures as stated in the Trial Rules and Procedure, form RI-FL035.

If both parties have filed and served the necessary paperwork, the Judge or Commissioner will schedule a hearing date.

If the parties are not ready to proceed to trial, another TRC may be scheduled.

The TRC is also an opportunity to present a settlement agreement to the court and avoid the need for a trial.


What if both parties are in agreement?

When both parties agree to all the issues in the case, the parties can avoid the MSC requirement by preparing an Uncontested Judgment for court approval. Providing a judgment, disclosures, stipulations and court forms to the court before or during a Mandatory Settlement Conference lets the court know that you would like to finalize your divorce and that you do not need a trial.


Who Will Attend the Hearing?

Each party and their attorney, if represented, must personally attend the MSC. Failure to appear or failure to timely request a continuance of the MSC is good cause for sanctions. Sanctions can be monetary fines or removing a party from the case.


What Should I Expect at the Hearing?

The Judge will ask if the parties have met to discuss all the issues. If not, they will be asked to discuss those issues to see if they can be resolved. If a party reaches an agreement, a party or their attorney must prepare the judgment paperwork. If both parties represent themselves, they can contact Self-Help Services for more information on how to draft the final judgment.

If no agreement can be reached, the Judge may continue the MSC to the next available date to allow the parties to meet and confer prior to the next hearing.

If the parties cannot come to an agreement, the Judge may set the Trial Readiness Conference.


What If I Cannot Attend My Hearings?

If you cannot attend your hearing you can request the court to continue the hearing. You will need to contact the other party first and see if they agree to the continuance. If they agree to the continuance, the parties can submit a stipulation. The parties would complete the Stipulation and Advisement to Continue Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC) and Order (RI-FL009) (pdf )

After the parties have completed the above form, it will need to submitted to the court for review and signature by the Judge. Once it has been continued, the court will send a notice with your new hearing date.

If the other party does not agree to the continuance, you will have to file the following documents to request that your hearing be rescheduled:


How Do I Prepare for an MSC? (Meet and Confer, Settlement Brief and Other Supporting Documents)

Both parties must be prepared to discuss how they would like to settle their case with the other party prior to the Mandatory Settlement Conference. This is called a “Meet and Confer.” It is important for both parties to attempt to resolve as many issues as possible, and narrow down the issues that need to be litigated during the “Meet and Confer.”

Each party must also prepare a written Settlement Conference Brief and timely file and serve this document on the other party.

These documents include:

  • Settlement Conference Declaration/Trial Brief
  • Income and Expense Declaration
  • Property Declarations for Community and Separate Property

Additional forms may be required, if not recently filed with the court already. Please see the table below under helpful resources for forms, explanations, instructional videos, and form guides.

It is important to follow the instructions on the Notice of Mandatory Settlement Conference that will be mailed to you by the court. Please be sure you have also updated your address with the court by using an MC-040 to ensure that you receive this notice.


Helpful Resources


What Do I Do If I Still Need Help?

Self Help Assistance and Referrals:

Self Help staff is available for free assistance to unrepresented parties. They can help you in preparing your forms and give you general information, but they cannot go with you to court.

Self Help is not your lawyer, but a neutral person who does not represent any party. There is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Facilitator. Communications between you and the Facilitator are not confidential. You should consult with your own attorney if you want personalized legal advice or strategy, have a confidential conversation, or be represented by an attorney in court.

PLEASE NOTE: You will be required to attend a workshop before receiving individual assistance with self help staff.

Click here for more information about self help services & MSCs (pdf ).