Settlement Conferences in Maricopa County Family Court Cases
A settlement conference is a type of alternative dispute resolution process that the Court will utilize in effort to assist litigants to avoid Trial. Trial can be stressful, expensive and often the results of which are very uncertain. Because of this I often suggest to my Clients that a settlement conference be arranged prior to Trial.
If the Court approves a request for referral to a settlement conference and/or orders the parties on its own motion to the same, the office of Conciliation Services will appoint a judge pro tempore that will hear and facilitate the settlement conference.
A judge pro tempore appointed to hear the case is often another family law attorney that has been appointed for that purpose by the Superior Court.
Prior to attending a settlement conference, both sides should have completed the discovery (exchange of information) process as well as submit a settlement conference memorandum to the conference provider outlining each of their positions and desired outcomes.
On the day of the settlement conference I suggest that my Clients dress business causal, but comfortable as the process may take upwards of four (4) to six (6) hours depending on the amount and severity of issues in dispute.
Upon arrival to a settlement conference, generally the parties, and if represented their counsel will be split into two separate rooms. That is, the settlement conference will begin in “caucus” style where the settlement conference provider will move from room to room to discuss the various positions and/or proposals for resolution made by the parties.
If the parties reach an agreement or if an agreement is close, the parties and counsel if represented may be brought into the same room to either finalize negotiations or if a full or partial agreement has been reached to memorialize that/those agreements before the settlement conference provider.
This article is meant as a general overview of the settlement conference process. As with other aspects of law, the process may change and is often slightly different from conference to conference.
For information on this or any other Arizona family law matter, please contact our Firm today.