Arizona’s Conciliation Court; Defined and Explained
If you have been referred to “Conciliation Court” you may be wondering what that is, and what it has to do with you!
Article 7, Title 25 of Arizona’s Domestic Relations Law sets forth the scope and powers of ‘The Courts of Conciliation”. Since the first section states that it preserves… promotes… and protects matrimony’, a casual reader might think the court only worked to reconcile divorcing couples. That’s just part of its’ purpose—the meat of the statute is to resolve ‘domestic and family controversies’ while protecting the rights of children involved in this dispute.
Jurisdiction of the Court
Either party to a pending separation, dissolution or annulment may petition to have the case removed to Conciliation Court. The statute gives the court power to resolve any controversy between spouses which might lead to separation or end of the marriage. It usually applies when minor children of the marriage or either spouse are concerned, and their welfare may be altered by the outcome.
Filing of Petition
Once a spouse files a petition to remove a pending case to the Court, it places a 60 day freeze on a case. All pending procedures, and orders issued will be transferred, and remain effective unless modified, vacated or they expire without action of the transferee court.
The How and Why of Conciliation
Under the statute, there are two types of conciliation. It serves to either save the marriage, or make its dissolution as painless as possible. The court wants to settle arguments about:
- Legal decision making (custody) – should there be joint or sole custody?
- Parenting Time: scheduling reasonable visits for the non-custodial parent
This is done through counseling of both spouses, meetings with mediators or social workers who can guide parents and their children through the legal process. Sometimes, spouses will be able to reconcile, but if that is impossible, they learn the skills needed to support a family after the marriage ends. Most importantly, spouses learn how to parent after divorce; how to communicate with each other, and solve problems together.
Extending 60 day halt
Either party can file for an extension of the 60 day halt to proceedings, upon a showing of good cause, and a plan for reconciliation or a counseling schedule. The extension will be denied if the non-moving party makes an objection for good cause.
Not For Parents Only
Given the focus on family issues, it seems surprising that the court would permit spouses without children to request a hearing. The court will take jurisdiction if doing so would not impact cases involving children currently before the court and it appears likely that the parties can reconcile or settle their dispute. A couple should not be denied the chance to save their marriage because they had no children.
Rationale underlying Article Seven.
This law was enacted because legislators were worried about Arizona’s high divorce rate, and the effect it had on children’s emotional and economic welfare. There was a belief that modern society did not take marriage vows seriously, so ending a marriage should not be too easy. The court will provide services to preserve marriages, or construct new relationships when the marriage is dissolved.