Maricopa County has a leading alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program — the “Settlement Conference.” This ADR settlement program is made available in family law cases, other civil cases, and probate cases within the county.
What Happens at a Divorce Settlement Conference?
The parties may be referred to a Settlement Conference in advance of any trial, in an attempt to settle their remaining disputed issues. A commissioner or judge pro tempore (a temporary judge) is appointed to preside over the conference and offer a legal opinion on the likelihood of success on each party’s position. The judge’s non-binding advisory opinion is often a much-needed “wake up” call on the legal merits of each party’s case. Rest assured, the judge pro tempore is never the same judge assigned to the family law case.
Preparation for the Conference
In preparation for the conference, the parties each submit a “Settlement Memorandum” advising the judge of their respective legal positions. At the conference, which may take two hours or more to conduct, the parties with their attorneys appear before the judge. Each party should be fully prepared to discuss all previous negotiations and the results of those negotiations, the consequences of a trial if settlement isn’t forthcoming, the details of their finances, and any other unresolved issues.
The ADR conference is typically conducted a month or two in advance of the trial date. If the conference results in a complete settlement of all the issues, then the trial date is vacated — it is no longer necessary. When a partial settlement is achieved, the case will proceed to trial on the remaining issues. Of course, if no further settlement is reached, the case also proceeds to trial.
This conference is often the last formal opportunity the attorneys will have to broker a settlement in advance of trial. In our experience, these Settlement Conferences are very useful in resolving difficult cases. They allow a fresh view, through the eyes of the judge, on the legal issues in the case. This ADR process often leads to breakthroughs in the negotiations, even when further settlement was believed to be an impossibility.
Remember, there are different types of alternative divorce resolution (such as working with collaborative divorce attorneys in Arizona). The more you resolve outside the court rooms, the smoother the process of your divorce will be.
Client Review for Divorce Outside of Court
“My attorney, Amy Dohrendorf, from Stewart Law Group comes highly recommended. When I was going through the most painful time in my life, she always had my best interest at heart. She was clear on what my rights were as a spouse and mother, protected those rights, and with her guidance, was able to settle my messy divorce outside of court. She is passionate about her job – and it shows in the way she handles her cases and clients. She’s an excellent attorney, a hard worker, thorough, and extremely detail-oriented. She knows her stuff. If you hire Amy to represent you, you will not be disappointed. I’m so glad I did.”