According to the American Bar Association, a pretrial hearing is often used to help the judge manage the case, help establish a time frame for all pretrial activities and set a tentative date for the trial. In some instances, a judge may refer special cases, such as child custody hearings, to a special program including dispute resolutions or arbitration.
Judges also sometimes use a pretrial hearing to encourage both parties of a case to settle before going to trial. All cases where a defendant pleads not guilty must be sent to a pretrial. Failure to attend a pretrial can result in a bench warrant and/or a forfeiture of a bond.