A settlement conference is a meeting between opposing parties of a lawsuit at which the parties attempt to reach a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute without having to proceed to a trial. The parties and their attorneys meet with a settlement judge who hears both sides and tries to help them reach a compromise. Usually the judge cannot make any decisions regarding the outcome, but will listen to each side, giving his/her critique and advising what s/he would be likely to decide in court.
Settlement conferences are mostly used in civil matters, especially for family law cases such as custody disputes which will help to keep the case from going to trial. In some states, a settlement conference cannot occur unless each party is represented by an attorney. The process of settlement varies from state to state.