Morning calendar call in RI Family Court is gobbledygook

Rhode Island Family Court lawyers and RI Associate Justices, Magistrates and members of the bar are so well versed in the bizarre and sometimes anachronistic calendar call it, has become nearly normal. The key word here is “nearly.”  Lets call it what it is: The calendar call is  RI judiciary, “inside baseball”, gobbledygook.

Few outsiders or pro-se litigants can truly understand this RI judiciary, quasi foreign language. Without years on the Rhode Island Family Court battlefield, it is nearly impossible to understand what this all means. A Rhode Island divorce attorney describes, in great detail,what various calendar calls actually mean in Providence Family Court.


RI divorce

Rhode Island divorce lawyer

Rhode Island Family Court and the RI Judiciary – Inside baseball

One retired judge became so frustrated by these conflicting and confusing calendar calls, she decided there would only be two calls “ready” and “not ready.” Genius! That made a lot of sense!  Another retired judge decided that ready subject calls would not be allowed anymore. These ready subject calls have gone the way of the 8-track tape and are currently disfavored for whatever reason. The “ready subject” call is really a relic of the past that the old timers may look back at fondly. Newer divorce lawyers in RI utilize the more modern phrase of “hold.”

“The Calendar call” – a moment of time which is normal for divorce lawyers and nonsense to everyone else

The calendar call occurs when the Rhode Island Family Court Judge takes the bench and after everyone rises and pays their respect to the Judge and the RI judiciary in general. The first order of business is the calendar call, when the clerk calls the calendar and the RI divorce lawyers report the status of the case to the Court. The main purpose of the calendar is for the RI Associate Justice or General Magistrate to control their calendar case flow and determine which cases are going forward that day and the status of those cases.

The general rule is that settled cases are heard first. Conferences are determined 2nd and hotly contested matters last. This is the carrot and the stick mentality.  If you settle, you get out of court quickly (the carrot) and if you want to fight you have to wait until the end (the proverbial stick). Nominal divorce hearings when they are ready are also given some priority on the calendar.

Here are some of the assorted calendar calls used by divorce and custody lawyers in Providence Family Court:

Calendar call: “Ready”

This typically may indicate that both lawyers are ready for a hearing or hearing with testimony. But in reality, it does not actually mean that the lawyers are actually “ready” to t-up the cause of action at that moment in time. In some cases, the lawyers call it “ready” because they know the judge isn’t ready for the case and they hope that the RI divorce attorneys will be ready when the judge is ready. This can cause some consternation if the judge is ready too soon but the lawyers are not ready.

The confusing part of the “ready” call is what are the Providence child custody attorneys ready for? If the judge is familiar with the case and the intricacies of the case, the judge will know what the cause of action is ready for. It will be an unspoken assumption. A case could be ready for:

  • a conference, (In this case it should have been called “ready conference”)
  • a hearing without testimony,
  • a testimonial hearing
  • a trial  (A better call would be ready trial.)
  • a conference (This should be ready conference)
  • In many cases, a ready call without more information imparted to the judge means that the Rhode Island divorce lawyers or RI child custody attorneys will use the waiting time to figure out what they are ready for. It is often best practice to provide more information to the Family Court Justice such as:
  • “ready trial”
  • “ready for a conference”
  • “ready hearing”
  • “ready when the opposing lawyer arrives in court after the traffic jam and her Dunkin Doughnut coffee stop” (Don’t actually state this.)

What could be the cause of a Providence custody lawyer calling a case ready but not being ready?

  1. There is a quick loose end that the RI child support lawyer has to hash out with opposing counsel or their client in the infamous hallways of the  Providence Garrahy Judicial Complex.
  2. The client changes their mind about something agreed to.
  3. One of the litigant chimes in “one last thing” and a brouhaha erupts.
  4. Another Providence Family Court judge needs one of the divorce attorneys for another case.
  5. One of the litigants needs to put money in the meter or an ill timed bathroom stop.
  6. The lawyers were not ready in the first instance and were just hoping they would be ready when the judge was ready so they could get out of court.

“Ready formal”

This means that the parties have resolved all of the issues and controversies that were before the RI Family Court on that date. The attorneys will read the agreement on the record. The judge will usually immediately prioritizes this on the calendar. The Judges reward litigants who settle by allowing them to leave Court early. An equivalent calendar call would be “formal.”

“Ready Hold”

This means the RI child custody lawyers are ready but not ready at the same time. The ultimate oxymoron. This appears to be a workaround concerning the above mentioned “ready” call when you are not ready. Therefore, “ready hold” means you are ready but you need to work out one of the bullet-ed issues set forth above. “Ready hold” certainly addresses any misrepresentation that a “ready” call when the lawyers are not close to ready could cause. Best practice is not to use the “ready hold” call but just hold the case.

If a case is called “ready hold” and this call is premised on an anticipatory readiness, it is imperative that both lawyers exit the court room immediately! The reason for this is the fundamental assumption that if both lawyers are sitting in the courtroom that this is an indirect representation that the matter is no longer held and is ready now. So if the RI divorce iscalled “ready hold” and not “ready” the Providence Family Court lawyers must hide.

How do lawyers remove the hold from a “ready hold”  or “hold” to a “ready” calendar call?

  • Sit quietly in the court looking at the judge with furloughed eyes and the judge will believe that the matter is ready now. The RI Family Court justice will say something like “Mr.  Slepkow are you ready to go” or “Mr. Slepkow is the Johnson divorce ready?”
  • Notify the judge’s clerk by approaching the clerk, by making eye contact or a hand gesture to the clerk that the hold is removed.
  • Jumping up when there is a pause between cases and stating your honor “the Johnson case is now ready” or “Johnson is a nominal now.”

Calendar call: “Ready nominal”

This means that the case is ready for a nominal trial. A nominal trial occurs when all issues in a divorce in RI have been resolved and the parties are ready for a perfunctory short divorce trial / hearing with testimony.

Calendar call: “track change”

The case was originally scheduled for a nominal hearing pursuant to the divorce summons but the case is not ready for a nominal divorce trial. If the divorce is on the calendar for the first scheduled nominal hearing, this call is somewhat unnecessary. If no one is present or no one says anything, the case will be automatically track changed to a new date for a case management conference.

Calendar call: Hold

This could be the same call as “ready hold” but it it might not be. It could also mean the case is not ready but  time is needed to negotiate in the hallway to see if the case will become ready. It could mean the lawyers have no clue who will show up, why the case is on the calendar or a plethora of reasons. It could mean that one of the RI Family lawyers is ready but has to go handle another case with another judge which is also ready. Hold could mean that the attorney has no idea why opposing counsel is not present and needs to figure it out. In most cases, hold means that the attorneys need to negotiate and figure out what to do about the case.

Calendar call: “Ready conference”

This means that the attorneys want a meeting with the judge to discuss the case off the record.  Conferences are not transcribed by the court reporter. Discussions could revolve around the following:

  • case scheduling and trial scheduling
  • settlement negotiations
  • disputing the merits of the case, issues and arguments

“Ready bench conference”

This means that the conference will be at the bench within the courtroom. These conferences are less private then in chamber conferences and clients and other Court observers can often hear what is being said.

“Ready chambers conference”

These conferences between the lawyers and the judge are held in the backroom and litigants cannot hear. Chambers conferences are usually for more sensitive, confidential and private matters or intense settlement negotiations. Chambers conferences have become more disfavored in the modern day Family Court.

“Ready trial”

This means that the parties are ready for the previously scheduled trial.

“Ready hearing”

This is a confusing calendar call to say the least. It usually means that the lawyers want to argue a procedural or short matter that does not require testimony.

“Hold that for a conference later”

The RI divorce lawyers well versed in the RI judiciary are not ready for a conference or want to see if they can settle the case before the necessity of a conference.

Pro-se calendar calls:

“waiting for my lawyer”



“Ready nominal hold”

‘were trying to work it’ out type call

freelancing calender call

jokester call –

the reverse a contested calender call


“Formal hold”

Ready hearing

Ready trial

Ready trial conference

formal and ready


“can we get a continuance”