Arizona Family Court – Changes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Although the world seems to have come to a screeching halt, life continues to go on and people will still need legal help. Throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic our firm is working hard to stay apprised to the changes being made that will affect families and their legal matters in Arizona.

Below we’ve compiled the most recent updates from the Maricopa County Superior Court Family Division regarding changes made due to COVID-19:

Through at least May 4th, 2020, family courts are extremely limited in their operation, only holding in-person (even those being held in separate rooms via videoconference technology) hearings in emergency custody matters and Orders of Protection at the downtown Phoenix location with 2 judges on a rotating basis and with a limitation on the remaining judges of only being able to come into the courthouse 1 day a week with 1 designated staff member to conduct any necessary proceedings telephonically for that week as result of Arizona’s Stay-At-Home Order.

Under the current limitations, all Conciliation Court mediations, Early Disposition Conferences for pro per litigants, Decree on Demand/Default proceedings, child interviews and parenting conferences are suspended.

Single issue/specialty courts such as Accountability Court, Drug Court and IV-D Child Support Court are not in operation and their calendars are not being populated currently.

When Arizona’s Stay-At-Home orders are lifted or significantly modified to an extent to allow all the court staff and judges to return to the courthouse, family courts will go to a “skinny” operation. Hearings will resume but will be held telephonically through a bridge conference line or virtually through videoconference utilizing a specialized pilot version of GoToMeeting software. Courts will have separate rooms with computers and WiFi hotspots set up for parties that do not have attorneys and who do not have access to a computer or internet for their hearing.

Trials scheduled for May and even June will be either held as scheduled, via telephone or videoconference as set forth above, or vacated and reset to a future date. This will be determined on a case-by-case, division-by-division basis, but in large part will depend on whether the family court has been able to implement the “skinny” operation outlined above before the scheduled hearing date.

Rescheduling vacated proceedings due to the Court’s current operating limitations will have priority and take precedence over new filings once “skinny” operations are commenced.

If “skinny” operations are implemented, then it is anticipated that ADR and Conciliation Court mediations, Early Disposition Conferences and possibly Decree on Demand/Defaults will be reinstated, all to be done via telephone or videoconference. Child interviews and parenting conferences will still remain suspended indefinitely.

Masks are not currently required, but are encouraged and approved for use in courtrooms for court staff, attorneys, and litigants.
In summary, courts are working hard to swiftly and safely pivot their operations to ensure the safety of court staff, litigants, and attorneys, while maintaining operations that serve the families in our community.

To find out how COVID-19 could be affecting your family law matter, contact the attorneys at OWENS & PERKINS by clicking here or by calling our office at 480.994.8824 to schedule your FREE 30-minute consultation. We remain fully operational while practicing appropriate social distancing and cleaning regimes.