The Resolution Statement is a document typically required to be completed in all types of Arizona family law cases. It provides a detailed summary of each litigant’s position on every contested issue. It also should contain details of any agreements the parties have reached. Pursuant to Rule 49(A), the Resolution Statement must be exchanged with the other party as part of the minimum disclosure requirements. Basically, both parties have a right to understand exactly how the other party wants the family court to resolve every issue.
Resolution Statements are intended to inform rather than to persuade. So the positions should be explained without argument or citations to legal authority. For example, a parent in a child custody case might say he or she wants the court to order equal parenting time according to a 5-2-2-5 schedule. The Resolution Statement should not provide argument to support this position.
Typically, Resolution Statements are filed five (5) court days before a resolution management conference or an early resolution conference, but a different deadline may be imposed by the judge. Both are types of preliminary hearings that function similarly to determine if the parties can settle any of the issues without litigation. The main difference is that early resolution conferences usually are reserved for parties who are not represented by attorneys. These conferences are less formal and involve meeting with a family court officer instead of the judge assigned to the case. Conversely, resolution management conferences are essentially scheduling conferences held, pursuant to Rule 76(A), with the judge assigned to the case.
How to Complete the Resolution Statement
The good news is that the Resolution Statement is far simpler than many other types of legal documents. Still, because it does represent a litigant’s positions in the case, it is important to be accurate and comprehensive. Litigants who hire attorneys should ask for an opportunity to review the Resolution Statement before it is filed to ensure that it accurately reflects the litigant’s positions.
Unrepresented litigants can refer to the PDF sample provided above or this form provided by the Maricopa County Superior Court. If you use the form and find it provides insufficient space, you can attach additional pages to complete the required information. Just be sure to indicate the corresponding section number for any additional information provided.
Below we attempt to explain each section and answer some of the common questions, but if any unanswered questions remain please do not hesitate to contact our family law attorneys for more information or a free consultation.
The term “IV-D” in Section 1 refers to a specific part of the Social Security Act of 1975 that encouraged states to establish government programs to assist families and manage the enforcement of child support. Litigants who receive AFDC, TANF, or AHCCCS benefits for themselves or their children should check the first box to indicate that this case is a IV-D case. Usually the state will enter an appearance in IV-D cases to monitor child support.
Sections 2-4 should be completed if the parties have minor children together. Section 2, titled Legal Decision Making, asks parents to make a binary choice for where the children should live primarily. This is an outdated take on parenting time. Parents who want to share equal parenting time can ignore that designation and use the “Other” checkbox and the space provided to describe their preferred parenting schedule.
The next section, titled Child Support, requires each parent’s gross monthly income. A parent should be able to calculate his or her own income, but the other parent’s income may be unknown at the time the Resolution Statement is prepared. If that information is unknown, it is fine to leave it blank. If either parent is paid biweekly, the gross pay per paycheck should be multiplied by 2.165 to determine gross monthly income. Litigants commonly multiply biweekly pay by 2 instead, but this multiple incorrectly extrapolates to 24 paychecks annually rather than 26.
Continuing in Section 3, where it asks for the monthly cost of insurance it is referring only to the prorated cost to cover the children subject to the family law case. If a parent provides insurance and the premiums are not itemized, the parent can obtain documentation from the insurance provider or employer to determine the cost to insure only the children. Sometimes this can be calculated by subtracting the employee only cost or the employee+spouse cost from the total premium. Or it may be more complicated if the insurance also covers additional children not subject to the family law case. A parent may have to further prorate the cost to exclude those children.
The term Past Support in Section 4 refers to child support that a parent may owe for a period of time before the child support order is established. Arizona law enables family courts to establish child support retroactively usually for a period not longer than three years before the petition to establish child support was filed. This discretion is invoked most often when paternity and child custody rights are first established but also can be applied during divorce or legal separation if the parents physically separated before the petition was filed. Past support is not the same as child support arrears. There is no statutory interest on past support.
Sections 5-10 concern the financial issues the family court must resolve when a married couple divorces or legally separates. Section 5 straightforwardly asks a spouse to indicate his or her position regarding spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is one spouse’s obligation to provide financial support to the other spouse during or after a divorce or legal separation. It refers to the same concept that other states may call alimony or spousal support.
Section 6 asks the spouse to list his or her separate property. Separate property is property acquired by either spouse prior to the marriage or during the marriage by gift, inheritance, or some other exception to the doctrine of community property.
Relatedly, Section 7 pertains to equitable interests Arizona law commonly refers to as community liens. A community lien may exist when community efforts, including either spouse’s income earned during the marriage, were used to pay for or improve the value of one spouse’s separate property. The most common example of a community lien involves real property purchased before a marriage or during the marriage and disclaimed by one spouse. When the mortgage is paid during the marriage by community funds or when community funds are used to renovate or improve the property, the non-owning spouse may be entitled to an equitable interest.
Section 8 requires a lot of information about Community Property. Community property presumptively refers to property acquired during the marriage by either spouse regardless of how the property is titled. This presumption can be rebutted. If a spouse is not sure whether property is separate or community, it is better to err on the side of caution and list the property as community property.
Much of the information Section 8 requires may be unavailable until disclosures and/or discovery are complete. Some family law attorneys may disagree, but typically we discourage our clients from speculation toward the fair market value of property until we obtain information or documentation to help the client more accurately appraise value. We are unaware of any authority that binds a party to valuation listed in the Resolution Statement but we have used an opposing party’s estimates to prejudice that party at trial. We just believe it is better to be uncertain than to guess unfavorably.
Section 9 moves to a specific type of community property, Tangible Personal Property. This section requires a spouse to estimate the total value of all personal property, furniture, appliances, and other household goods in each spouse’s possession. This can be incredibly subjective and often is a source of controversy. There is no universal source to estimate the value of personal property. But the idea here is to ensure that both spouses receive a fair share of the personal property or its value.
Similarly, Section 10 asks each spouse to propose how Debts should be allocated. Just like property, debts can be characterized as separate debt or community debt. Debt incurred during the marriage by either spouse may be presumptively considered a community debt even if the other spouse was unaware of it. Litigants can rebut this presumption if they can prove a debt was incurred without any benefit to the marital community. Unfortunately, this standard is not met simply by proving that only one spouse benefitted from the debt. It is more nuanced than that, so if you think this may apply to your case it is definitely advisable to consult with one of our experienced divorce attorneys.
Under Section 11, all family law litigants can indicate how attorney’s fees should be allocated. There are several ways a party can ask for his or her attorney’s fees to be paid by the opposing party. The most common authority for this is A.R.S. § 25-324. It gives the family court discretion to award attorney’s fees after consideration of the parties’ respective financial resources and their reasonableness. While judges must consider both factors, either may be sufficient to support an award of attorney’s fees.
The remaining sections are more miscellaneous. Section 12 enables a spouse to revert to a premarital name, usually the wife’s maiden name. Section 13 provides blank space for any contested issue not addressed by any of the previous sections.
Section 14 simply requires the party to verify that the previous sections were completed truthfully and that the Resolution Statement represents the litigant’s positions for settlement.