Episode #2: Understanding the Initial Case Management Conference ("ICMC").

In this episode of Legal Lingo, MN Divorce Lawyer Rob Gadtke, and his friend, Lester Leslie, discuss the Initial Case Management Conference — A court hearing That is held at the beginning of most Minnesota divorce cases.

[Rob] That's my Lester alarm. So I don't forget to call him, and then have to talk to him on the weekend. So . . . you know.


[Rob] Hey everybody! It's Rob Gadtke.

Welcome to another episode of Legal Lingo with Rob and Lester. I am so glad to have you along for the ride.

On today's episode, we're going to cover one of those annoying divorce acronyms.

In this case, ICMC (or Initial Case Management Conference). And if you haven't figured it out already, family court bears a striking resemblance to military service. There are long periods of inactivity and sheer boredom interspersed with short moments of life-threatening terror.

Okay, maybe not life-threatening. But at least life-altering. And throw in the fact that almost everyone uses these sick euphemistic acronyms that no one but the professionals understand, and you start to see the parallel.

Well, don't worry.

On today's episode, we're gonna explain what ICMC means so that you can take back control.

The phrase ICMC (Initial Case Management Conference) actually means a lot like what it sounds like.

So, we've got Initial. Meaning early or first.

Case. Meaning your divorce case.

Management. Meaning control.

And Conference. Meaning some sort of meeting.

And so, when you put it all together, what you've got is the court or the judge in your case trying to take control of the case early on, so it doesn't spiral out of control. And attorneys don't start churning fees like crazy.

Lester's client got a notice in the mail from the court notifying her of this ICMC date. If you're involved in a family court case in Minnesota you'll probably get too, because almost every county uses that system.

Well, Lester has no idea what to do at an ICMC.

So we're going to help him.

Let's get him on the phone.

[Lester] Robbie, buddy! How are ya?

[Rob] Fine. I've already done the intro.

When's your ICMC?

[Lester] Tomorrow morning.

[Rob] What? Why didn't you say something earlier? We could have done this segment last week.

[Lester] Who cares . . .

[Rob] Did you at least have your client fill out the form that they get from the court?

[Lester] My clients don't pay me to fill out forms, Rob. I am paid to seek and destroy. Sort of like the Terminator.

[Rob] That's not really how an ICMC works.

[Lester] Well, that's what all the suckers say. But I'll tell you what I'm gonna do. Tomorrow, when they call my name, I'm gonna waltz up to that fat bobblehead who represents the husband and drop a big surprise in his lap. A two-inch thick custody motion. Right on the table. And by the end of the hearing, my lady, she will have the kids. The house, and all the money! Booyah!!!

[Rob] Did you even read the notice they send? The judge isn't going to listen to a contested motion at an ICMC.

[Lester] Then why would I bother getting dressed up, Rob?

[Rob] The purpose of an ICMC is for the judge, the lawyers, and the people to make a plan for the divorce. Find out what's in dispute.

[Lester] It's all disputed! That's my strategy.

[Rob] Not usually. If your client and her husband can reach an agreement on something, then that agreement can either be temporary, or in some cases, permanent and binding, and that means that those issues are settled. The big-picture issues that aren't settled are referred to some sort of mediation, and I'm using that phrase as a big-picture umbrella term because there are actually lots of different forms of dispute resolution that all have different quirks, but that's too much detail for now.

We'll have to cover those options in a later video.

[Lester] Come on! That's just ridiculous. I need to pummel him right away. Strike before he wises up.

[Rob] That's exactly why judges don't let that sort of thing happen. Most judges won't entertain a temporary motion like the one you've drafted until the parties have first tried mediation or some other kind of process. And the reason is because it not only saves them money, but it's a lot more successful than you'd think.

[Lester] But, I promised my client I'd get him out of the house.

[Rob] I get it. It's frustrating. If he's dangerous, tell her to consider getting an Order for Protection.

[Lester] No! He's not dangerous in that way! He just sits on his rear end. Playing video games all day, and eating cheese balls.

[Rob] Then she's just gonna have to wait. Judges usually require people to attempt the mediation, and report back within 60 days. If there's still a disagreement at that time, then maybe you can have your motion. But your client needs to know that's not a great option either.

[Lester] Fine.

[Rob] You really need to help your client fill out that ICMC data sheet. In most counties, the judges require it to be submitted before the date of the hearing. And if you don't have an explicit understanding on the terms of an agreement on some issue, mark that it's disputed. The last thing you want to have happen is to say you have an agreement, but then no one understands what the agreement is, and then later you're forced to go back and mediate on that issue when you could have just done it all the first time around. Also, if you're trying to list an asset's value and you don't know, just say: "To be determined." Or unknown. Don't guess unless you think you can be pretty close.

[Lester] It just all seems like a giant waste of time.

[Rob] A lot of people feel that way, but this new method is actually a lot better than the system used to be. Before they implemented early case management, what used to happen was one of two things either:

(1) a lawyer would just file the case with the court and then put the file on their shelf somewhere and leave it sitting dormant for six months until the court called and said we're gonna have a trial in three weeks. Or

(2) A lawyer would just reflexively file a contested temporary motion with the court which would cost $3,000 or $4,000 before even attempting to settle. Now at least the parties get a chance to settle within the first few months, and if they can't get it done, then they can litigate it.

[Lester] But that is so far away!

[Rob] Not really. I mean, completing the ICMC datasheet is pretty easy, but preparing for a mediation takes time. You have to often value assets, create a balance sheet, come up with workable parenting time schedules, compute people's income - at least if you're going to give the mediation a real good honest effort to succeed. You have to do those things, and then you have to report back to the judge. The great thing about doing a mediation as a result of the ICMC is that the mediation requirement is included in the court order. So that way, no one can back out. So, okay? Do the ICMC datasheet with your client.

[Lester] Yes, sir. Are we done?

[Rob] I think so.

[Lester] Well, then let me share with you that after a long and intensive course of study, I have been ordained as a minister in the Universal Web Church. And I am happy to announce that in addition to my divorce work, I am now qualified to perform marriages. I specialize in the re-marriage area.

For the next thirty days, I will throw in a free marriage to anyone who hires me for a divorce. How does that sound?

[Rob] So that's the Legal Lingo for this week. If you have an ICMC coming up, please make sure to check out some of our other videos that actually describe your mediation options in more detail because at the ICMC, the judge is going to ask that you pick from one so he or she can include it in the order.

If you liked what you saw here, please comment, subscribe, give us a thumbs up. Something. Anything.

And until next week: Stay strong. Stay safe. And for goodness sake, stay away from Lester.

See you!