(a) Appointment and Compensation.
(1) Appointment. If the parties stipulate in writing or on the record in open court, the court may appoint a family law master who is an attorney or other professional with education, experience, and special expertise regarding the particular issues to be referred to the master.
(2) Compensation. The court will determine the master’s allowed compensation. The court will allocate the master’s compensation among the parties, which will be treated as a taxable cost.
(3) Party Stipulation. The parties may stipulate to the appointment of a particular person to serve as a master and the amount of compensation, but before such a person may be appointed, the court must approve the appointment and, after reviewing the person’s qualifications, the proposed compensation.
(1) Order of Appointment and Scope of Authority.
(A) Contents of Order. The order appointing a family law master must specify the particular issues referred to the master and must fix the time and place for beginning and closing any hearings and for filing the master’s report.
(B) Scope of Authority. An appointment order may not direct a master to perform services within the scope of Rule 74 or to otherwise make decisions or recommendations concerning legal decision-making or parenting time. Other than these subjects, the master may determine any issues under A.R.S. Title 25 that could be presented to the assigned judge, including post-decree matters.
(2) Proceedings Before a Master.
(A) Generally. Subject to any limitations in the appointment order, the master may exercise the power to regulate all proceedings in every hearing before the master and may do all acts and take all measures necessary or proper for the efficient performance of the master’s duties under the order.
(B) Discovery. The master may require the production of evidence on all matters included in the appointment order.
(C) Evidence Admissibility and Witness Testimony. The master may rule on the admissibility of evidence, unless otherwise directed by the appointment order, and has the authority to place witnesses under oath and examine them.
(D) Procedural and Evidentiary Rules. Unless the parties stipulate otherwise, these rules apply to all proceedings before the master.
(E) Record. If a party requests it, the master must make a record of the evidence offered and excluded in the same manner and subject to the same limitations as provided in Arizona Rule of Evidence 104 for a court sitting without a jury. The court must allocate the cost of creating the record among the parties, with allocated costs being treated as taxable costs.
(1) First Meeting. Upon receipt of an appointment order, the master must set a time and place for the first meeting of the parties or their attorneys. The first meeting should be held not later than 20 days after the appointment order is filed.
(2) Notice. The master must provide the parties reasonable notice of all meetings.
(3) Proceeding with Reasonable Diligence. In scheduling meetings and otherwise discharging the master’s authority under the appointment order, the master must proceed with reasonable diligence.
(4) Failure to Appear. If a party fails to appear at a scheduled meeting, the master may proceed ex parte or, in the master’s discretion, reschedule the meeting with notice to the parties.
(d) Witnesses. The parties may procure the attendance of witnesses before the master by serving subpoenas as provided in Rule 52. If a witness fails to appear or give evidence without adequate excuse, the court may hold the witness in contempt and order the sanctions and remedies provided in Rules 52 and 65.
(1) Generally. The master must prepare a report on the matters submitted to the master by the appointment order, including requested findings of fact and conclusions of law concerning disputed issues. Before filing the report, a master may circulate a draft to the parties’ counsel, or to any self-represented party, and solicit their comments and suggestions.
(2) Filing. The master must file the final report with the clerk. Unless the appointment order provides otherwise, the master also must file any transcript of the proceedings and the evidence and original exhibits submitted by the parties.
(3) Mailing. The master must mail a copy of the report to each of the parties on the same day the master files the report with the clerk.
(1) Procedure. A party may object to the master’s report by filing a motion to modify or reject the master’s report but must do so not later than 15 days after the master’s report is mailed. Each objection must be stated with specificity and must reference the exhibits or portions of the record supporting the objection.
(2) Response and Further Briefing. Any response to an objection must be filed not later than 10 days after the objection is served. No further briefing may be filed without a prior court order authorizing it.
(g) Court Actions.
(1) If No Objection Is Made. If no objection is filed by either party, the master’s report will become an order of the court, unless the court sets a hearing on a particular issue in the report within 10 days after the due date for filing an objection.
(2) If an Objection Is Made. If an objection is filed, the court may set oral argument on the objection, adopt the report, modify it, wholly or partly reject it, or receive further evidence. The court must hold a hearing or enter an order regarding the objection not later than 30 days after a response or later court-authorized brief is filed.
(h) Stipulation as to Findings. When the master is appointed, the parties may stipulate that a master’s findings of fact will be final. If the parties have filed such a stipulation, the court may consider only questions of law arising from the master’s report. Absent such a stipulation, the court may not reverse a finding of fact by the special master unless it is clearly erroneous, but it must review de novo the master’s conclusions of law.
(i) Sanctions. The court may impose sanctions on any party or counsel in connection with proceedings before a master for conduct intended to harass another party or a witness, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation. The master also may make recommendations to the court for imposing sanctions under these rules, case law, or statute.
(j) Immunity. A family law master has immunity in accordance with Arizona law as to all acts taken under and consistent with the appointment order.
(k) Applicability. No county is required to employ or use family law masters, but these rules apply if a county does so.