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Judge's Letter

Sent to Parties before Trial Management
Knox County Fourth Circuit Court
Sixth Judicial District
Judge Bill Swann

Dear Mr. & Ms. Doe:

Your divorce has been set for a trial management conference, and your attorneys have already received an order scheduling certain steps to prepare for that conference. On conference day, both spouses and both attorneys must be present in open court to do the things set out in the order. Your attorneys will be glad to show you the order if you are interested.  Divorce can be a miserable experience. I know this because since my election in 1982 I have worked in a court which handles thousands of divorces every year.

There is an outstanding chance that your litigation has at least some things in common with most other cases.  There will also be many aspects of your case which are shared by no other. We engage in trial management conferences, among other reasons, to find the common and the unique aspects of each case.

The conference has two principal goals.  First, to prepare your case for an efficient trial. But second and more important, to explore what it would take to settle your case without a trial.  Two-thirds of all trial managements end with negotiated settlements.  You and your attorneys can strike an agreed compromise on trial management day .

At conference, the Court will give you certain general guidelines which we will discuss together.  I will tell you how the law of Tennessee might apply to your case, if certain factual underpinnings are found to exist at the final hearing.

As your trial judge, I am not allowed to mediate any issues for you. The trial management conference is not mediation or a substitute for it. Mediation is becoming an increasingly used alternative to trial.  In cases involving children, if the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, alternative dispute resolution is required.  Contact the Community Mediation Center , 594-1879, to arrange for a Rule 31 alternative dispute resolution procedure.

If you and your attorneys can reach an agreement about dividing your common property, about co-parenting time for your children (if any), about spousal support (if any), and about other issues, then the case can end on trial management day.  You will announce the terms of your agreement, and the Court will pronounce a divorce.  At that point the case will be over, with huge savings of attorney fees, stomach acid, and court costs.

But, of course, that early conclusion may not happen.  You may need a traditional trial. Whichever happens, I hope you will find that this Circuit Court has done everything possible to advance your case with decency and dignity.

About twelve months after your case is over--whichever route you take--please let me know of any suggestions you have for improving this process. Your ideas will help others through a painful time.  It is your tax dollars which pay for this court; the job must be well done.

Thank you for reading this rather long letter. If you have questions about this process please contact your attorney and discuss the matter further with him or her.

Until your trial management conference, I am

Sincerely yours,
Judge Bill Swann

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Knox County Courts

City County Building
400 Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902

Phone: 865-215-2399
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