In the Courtroom

In the Courtroom

The next scenario is likely if one party or the other has an attorney and you are attending a Resolution Management Conference. Remain in your seat until the court clerk announces, “All rise.” At that time, the judge enters the courtroom and tells everyone to be seated. (Every time the judge comes in or out of the courtroom, you will be requested to stand and told when to sit back down). When the judge is seated, the judge will turn on the recording system in the courtroom. This recording system and the microphone that you have at your table are extremely sensitive. It often picks up whispering. The clerk may swear in the parties before the judge enters the courtroom.

The judge will then announce your case number and your name. He or she will ask the petitioner to identify him or herself first. When this occurs, you can sit or stand, but be very polite and announce your name. The dialogue will sound something like this:

Judge: “We are here in the matter of Smith v. Smith, matter number FC2010-000000.  Please state your name for the record.”

Petitioner: “Good morning your honor. I am Jill Smith and I am representing myself.”

Respondent: “Good morning your honor. I am Attorney Matlock and I represent Jack Smith.”

The judge will then introduce the matter and ask one party the status of your case. A typical dialogue at the Resolution Management Conference may sound something like this:

Judge: “Have any agreements been made by the parties?”

Petitioner: “Yes, your Honor. We have agreed to joint legal decision-making, but have not agreed on a parenting schedule yet.”

Judge: “Do you agree to that, respondent?”

Respondent: “Yes, I agree to joint legal decision-making of our children.”

Judge: “Let the record reflect that these parties have stipulated to joint legal decision-making of their minor children. Have you been able to reach any other agreements?”

Petitioner:      “No, we have not your honor.”

If there are other issues that you would like the judge to hear at this time, make sure that you tell the judge. This is your first opportunity to be heard and it is helpful to inform the court of issues in your case. For example, it may be necessary for you to inform the court that your husband moved out of the house three (3) months ago, you each have a car to drive, your husband is paying half the mortgage, your husband is providing you $350.00 per month for the two (2) children, and he sees the kids whenever he wants.

The judge will then look at your spouse to see if that is an accurate reflection of your situation. This is your time to be quiet. Do not interrupt. Take notes if you do not like something your husband says, so you can tell the judge when it is your turn again. Again, do not interrupt your spouse or the judge. This dialogue about the issues you brought up may go back and forth between you and the judge and between your spouse and the judge. Do not respond directly to your spouse; respond to the judge who asked you the question. If during this time, you and your spouse can agree to certain terms for your dissolution or legal separation, the judge will then make orders on all your agreements. The judge will dictate them to the court clerk and they will be provided in a minute entry. The minute entry may read something like this:

After discussion both parties advise the Court that they have reached partial agreement on the issues, which agreement is more fully set forth on the record and can be generally summarized as follows:

  • The parties agree to permanent joint legal decision-making
  • Mother shall be designated as the primary residential parent
  • Mother shall have exclusive use of the marital residence located at Cactus Avenue
  • The parties shall drive the vehicle currently in his/her possession

Petitioner and Respondent both testify that they have heard and understood the agreement as dictated in the record in open court, and that this is, in fact, their agreement.

THE COURT FINDS that the agreement entered into between the parties is not unfair, and is reasonable, and is in the best interests of the parties’ minor child(ren).

IT IS ORDERED approving the agreement of the parties as a binding agreement pursuant to Rule 69, Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, to be included in the final Decree entered herein.

The Court finds that the minor children who are the subject of this action lived in Arizona with a parent, or a person acting as a parent, for at least six consecutive months or more prior to the commencement of this action, or at least from the time of birth of the child until this action was commenced, such that Arizona is the home state of the children vested with jurisdiction to make a child decision-making determination pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-1031(A)(1).

The Court finds that joint legal decision-making is in the best interests of the parties’ minor children.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED awarding the parties joint legal decision-making of their minor children,

The parties have two minor children, Flynn, date of birth: September 20, 2000, and Rosie, date of birth: February 28, 1997.

Mother is designated as primary residential parent and the minor children shall reside with Mother at all times except for access time specifically provided to Father.

IT IS ORDERED the parties are referred to Conciliation Services for Mediation of child decision-making and/or parenting-time issues, as appropriate. The parties shall comply with all instructions and directives issued by Conciliation Services.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that each party is directed to immediately go to Conciliation Services and complete necessary forms following this hearing. This Court has contacted Conciliation Services and set the Mediation for September 4, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. in Conciliation Services.

This Rule 69 agreement becomes a court order that will be very difficult to change later. Be clear on what you want and what you will agree to before you set foot into the courtroom. If you are not sure about the terms of the agreement, ask the judge before the orders are entered. After the agreements have been made, the judge will then set a trial date and ask you how much time your case will take. The court typically sets trials for one to three hours, and you will get one-half of that time to present your side of the case. If you need more time than that, you will need to ask your judge. The more time that you need for your trial will dictate when your case will be heard. It is easier for courts to schedule two- hour trials into their schedules than six-hour trials. You are likely to get your case heard more expeditiously if you ask for two hours, rather than six hours.

Before the court ends your hearing, he or she will ask if there is anything else to discuss. This is the time to ask any questions or present issues that you have. If the court does not ask this, politely inform the court that you have other issues to be heard.

Next: After Court

The only way to overcome is to hang in. Even I’m starting to believe that. ~Dan O’Brien After your first hearing, it is important to take a break and try to relax. Family law matters are usually full of stress that is compounded when the parties go to court. Settlement negotiations can help manage that...

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