Dealing with Family Issues through ADR, Part IV – Settlement Conferences

This is the last part in our series on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). In Arizona, we use the following forms of motions to schedule ADR: 1. Motion for Mediation. 2. Motion for Parenting Conference. 3. Motion for Custody Evaluation. 4. Motion for ADR Settlement Conference. Today we'll cover our last option – the Motion for ADR Settlement Conference. ADR #4: Motion for ADR Settlement Conference. Optional Conference. When the parties are unable to reach agreement on the financial matters in their case, then they could utilize private mediation to attempt settlement on those issues. A party might also consider filing a Motion for ADR Settlement Conference. When child custody disputes are remaining, we usually recommend private mediation. However, it is possible to combine custody issues with the financial issues presented in a settlement conference. Not Binding. In this last ADR process, a commissioner or judge pro tem is appointed to oversee this formal settlement conference. He or she then gives an opinion on the likelihood of success of each party's position. (The judge assigned to the family law case isn't involved in the settlement conference.) The commissioner's or judge pro tem's opinion is not binding upon the parties, but it does serve as a powerful recommendation. Needless to say, this straightforward advice is sometimes a "wake up" call as to the legal merits of each party's position on the issues. Settlement Memorandum. At lease five days before the settlement conference, each party submits a settlement memorandum advising the commissioner or judge pro tem of each party's position on every issue presented in the conference. Last Opportunity. The ADR settlement conference is often the last opportunity the attorneys have to broker a settlement before trial. The settlement conference is very useful in resolving cases because it allows a fresh look, through the eyes of a commissioner or judge pro tem, at the legal issues in the case. We've seen this lead to breakthroughs in negotiations between the parties. There are some expenses involved with a settlement conference. The parties' attorneys have to prepare and submit the settlement memorandum and appear at the conference. But this ADR process is far less expensive than going to trial. Settlement conferences have been a successful tool in settling many family law cases. If after the conference the parties can settle all the issues in the case, then they'll enter into a binding agreement. Once there is an agreement, only the consent decree and supporting pleadings need to be drafted. The benefits of the settlement conference, therefore, frequently outweigh the costs associated with this ADR process. The decision to end a marriage is an enormously difficult one. Once you've made that decision, though, try to approach the divorce process from a rational, businesslike perspective. This may be extraordinarily difficult, given the emotional issues that you're coping with. The family law team at the Law Offices of Scott David Stewart can help. We work with our clients so they get the full value of every ADR alternative available to them. With our extensive knowledge of Arizona ADR, we can help you through the divorce process. So you can move forward with your new life. Resource: Judicial Branch of Arizona: Alternative Dispute Resolution http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/SuperiorCourt/AlternativeDisputeResolution

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