PETITION FOR CONCILIATION SERVICES
In addition to filing for dissolution of marriage (divorce), legal separation or annulment of marriage, any spouse may request a referral to “conciliation court” prior to filing any petition, concurrently with the filing of any petition, instead of filing a response to an initial petition or any time while the case is pending. The court will then refer the matter to “conciliation court” for services. See ARS §25-381.08. A petition for conciliation court may be filed by one spouse or by both spouses.
Traditionally, conciliation court has been thought to provide marital counseling only. However, while ARS §25-381.08 mentions only spouses, the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, Rule 68 includes not just the preservation of marriage as a matter for referral to conciliation court, but also resolution of any issue related to legal decision-making and parenting time.
If there have been any orders of protection, injunctions against harassment and/or alleged or actual domestic violence between the parties, the conciliation court will meet with the parties separately and/or put in place additional measures to ensure the orders are not violated and to protect the parties.
Once a petition for referral for conciliation services has been filed, the conciliation court has sixty (60) days to conduct their services, during which time the case or the issue submitted will be “stayed,” or placed on hold.
While Rule 68(b)(4)(B), Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure states that the stay shall not exceed 12 months, Rule 68(b)(4)(D) indicates that either party may request, in writing, an extension of the stay, but must provide “good cause” and include a plan or schedule for the continuation of reconciliation services. The court may grant an additional extension of 120 days, but the court will not grant this extension if one of the spouses does not agree.
The superior court may also refer parties to conciliation court for additional service it deems advisable, such as mediation, alternative dispute resolution and the evaluation of the child(ren).
Petitions for conciliation are not meant to impose any delay upon the parties or the court concerning resolution of the case or issue.