A contested divorce is where both parties file the appropriate pleadings with the court in a timely fashion. However, the parties disagree on one or more issues. These issues include legal decision-making, parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance or alimony, division of property and debt and recovery of court costs and attorney’s fees. Some of these issues may be the subject of temporary orders which sometimes, but not always, indicate how the judge sees the issues and how they may be resolved in a future trial on the merits.
If, after a temporary orders hearing, the issues are still not resolved, the lawyers usually try to settle the matter either amongst themselves with input from both clients or in a four way settlement conference with both lawyers and their respective clients in attendance. If this still does not resolve the matter, then the parties set the matter for a full trial on the merits. At this point, the parties can involve private mediators if it is deemed appropriate. Many of these mediators serve as Judges Pro Tempore so that they can dictate a resolution to the court record during the mediation hearing.
If mediation is not appropriate, the parties prepare a Pretrial Statement, Affidavit of Financial Information and Inventory and file these documents with the Court. In Pima County, the parties and their counsel then attend a Mandatory Family Law Settlement Conference with an assigned Judge Pro Tempore in an attempt to settle all, or at least most, of the disputed issues. If all of the issues are not settled, the matter then proceeds to a full trial on the merits with exhibits being admitted into evidence and testimony being taken from the parties and their witnesses. Each party is entitled to cross examine the other side’s witnesses. The matter is usually taken under advisement and ruled upon within 60 days.
The Judge’s ruling usually directs one of the attorneys to draft a decree for the court’s signature. The decree is submitted, signed by the Judge and filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court whereupon it becomes a Judgment of the Superior Court which is final in all respects.
*The information in this message is general and should not substitute for the advice and counsel of a licensed attorney.