(a) Services. The conciliation court provides the following services:
(1) conciliation services both before filing a petition for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or annulment, or while a petition for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or annulment is pending, as provided in Rule 68(b);
(2) mediation of issues relating to legal decision-making and parenting time, as provided in Rule 68(c)
(3) assessments and evaluations regarding legal decision-making and parenting time, as provided in Rule 68(d);
(4) family education services, as provided in Rule 68(e); and
(5) other services designed to assist the parties and the court in resolving disputes, as provided under Rule 68(f).
(b) Conciliation Services.
(1) Generally. Either spouse may file a petition for conciliation services, as provided in A.R.S. § 25-381.09, to preserve a marriage or to resolve controversies.
(2) Before Filing for Dissolution, Separation, or Annulment. If no petition for dissolution, separation, or annulment is pending, a party may file a petition requesting conciliation services with the clerk or may submit the petition directly to the conciliation court, as established by local rule or administrative order.
(3) After Filing for Dissolution, Separation, or Annulment. If a petition for dissolution, legal separation, or annulment is pending, a party may file a petition for conciliation services with the clerk. The requesting party must provide a copy of the petition to the conciliation court.
(4) Further Proceedings.
(A) Time. The conciliation court must conduct and complete its services not later than 60 days after the petition requesting conciliation services is filed.
(B) Stay. During the 60-day period in subpart (b)(4)(A), neither party may file a petition for dissolution, separation, or annulment. If a party has already filed a petition for dissolution, separation, or annulment, the action is stayed. The court may lift the stay before the expiration of the 60-day period and it may grant an extension as provided in subpart (b)(4)(D). But in no event may more than one stay may be entered during any 12-month period.
(C) Protective and Temporary Orders. During a stay, the court may consider petitions for orders of protection under A.R.S. § 13-3602 and requests for temporary orders under A.R.S. § 25-381.17 and may enforce its orders.
(D) Extension of the Stay. If a party wants to extend a stay, the party must ask the court for the extension in writing. The request must provide good cause for the extension and include either a plan for reconciliation or a schedule for services. The court may grant a reasonable extension of no more than 120 days, but it must not grant an extension if the other party has good cause to object to it.
(5) Conference or Hearing. After the conciliation court accepts a petition for conciliation services, the court or a conciliator will schedule individual or joint meetings with the parties. Each party must attend scheduled meetings as the conciliator directs. The person who filed the petition for conciliation services may withdraw the request with the conciliation court’s approval. If the parties agree, the conciliation court may retain jurisdiction while reconciliation efforts are continuing. The parties may not participate in alternative dispute resolution under Rule 66 or evaluation services under section (c) until the conciliation court terminates its jurisdiction.
(6) Report. The conciliation court must notify the assigned judge or the conciliation court presiding judge when it concludes conciliation services. The notice should include a recommendation about whether to terminate the conciliation court’s jurisdiction. In addition, the notice should disclose whether a party withdrew the petition for conciliation services, whether a party failed to appear for a scheduled meeting, or if the parties reached and signed a written agreement.
(7) Confidentiality. All oral and written communications during conciliation services are confidential and must not be disclosed without the consent of the party making a communication, or as required by law.
(c) Mediation/ADR. All family law cases that involve a dispute over legal decision-making or parenting time are subject to mediation or other alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) process under local rules. Unless the parties agree to private mediation under Rule 67.3, the court must determine whether mediation or ADR services are appropriate in a particular case. The court or conciliation services may deem mediation inappropriate for reasons such as parental unfitness, substance abuse, mental incapacity, domestic violence, or other good cause. The mediator may not conduct any subsequent family assessment or evaluation in the same case.
(1) Commencement. If there is a disagreement between the parties concerning legal decision-making or parenting time, either or both parties may file a motion or request for mediation or ADR services. The requesting party must provide a copy of the request to the assigned judge and the conciliation court. An order for mediation or ADR services may also be made on the court’s own motion.
(2) Domestic Violence.
(A) In a proceeding concerning legal decision-making or parenting time, if an order of protection is in effect involving the parties or there is a history of domestic violence between the parties, the court may order mediation or ADR services only if there are policies and procedures in place that protect the victim from harm, harassment, or intimidation.
(B) The court will notify every party in writing or orally in open court before mediation or ADR services that a party may request a waiver of mediation or request that reasonable procedures be in place at the mediation to protect a victim of domestic violence as determined by the court or conciliation services. Neither party is required to appear for mediation pending determination of this issue.
(C) Conciliation services must reject for mediation or terminate mediation in any case if the mediator deems mediation is inappropriate because of domestic violence.
(3) Confidentiality. All communications, both oral and written, made by a party in mediation are confidential and must not be divulged to third parties, as provided by Arizona statutes and court rules.
(4) Mediation Conferences. When a matter has been ordered or referred to mediation, conciliation services will schedule one or more individual or joint conferences that each party must attend. The mediator may meet with either or both parties in a confidential conference to determine the appropriateness of mediation before the start of the process. Counsel are not permitted to attend mediation conferences unless approved by the mediator or conciliation court policy. The mediator may permit any person to attend a conference that the mediator believes is appropriate. Any person not a party to the action who attends the mediation must sign an agreement to be bound by the confidentiality provisions of this rule.
(5) Reports to the Court. At the conclusion of a conciliation services mediation, the mediator must file a report with the court describing any agreements, full or partial, the parties reached. The report must also identify the parties’ areas of disagreement, but the report must not identify the parties’ positions regarding areas of disagreement. If no agreements are reached in mediation, the mediator’s report to the court will advise the court only that the mediation was unsuccessful in resolving the dispute.
(6) Agreements, Signature of Counsel, Notice to Counsel, and Notice of Objection. Any agreements reached as a result of conciliation services mediation must be in writing.
(A) The parties must sign the agreement and their attorneys, if any, must sign or object to the agreement within 30 days after the mediation. Conciliation services will submit agreements signed by the parties, and approved by their attorneys, if any, to the court for approval. If no timely objection is filed, the agreement will be forwarded to the court with a proposed order for the court’s consideration and signature. Upon receipt of an objection, conciliation services will terminate the mediation and issue a memorandum to the court indicating that there is no agreement in the matter.
(B) The court retains final authority to accept, modify, or reject the agreement, or to set a further hearing on the agreement. Upon the entry of a written order by the court approving or modifying an agreement reached by the parties in mediation, it is considered binding.
(d) Assessment or Evaluation.
(1) Referral. If the court believes it would be in a child’s best interests, it may refer a case to the conciliation court for the assessment or evaluation of legal decision-making or parenting time issues.
(A) Notice of Appointments. Conciliation services must notify the parties and counsel, if any, of all scheduled appointments. However, counsel is not permitted to attend these appointments unless the evaluator deems counsel’s presence is necessary for the process to be successful. Conciliation services will not reschedule appointments without good cause.
(B) Appearance Required. All parties are required to appear at all scheduled appointments. If one or both parties fail to appear, the evaluator will not proceed but will report to the court the identity of each party who failed to appear. The court may sanction any party who fails to appear for an appointment.
(C) Notice of Agreements. If the parties reach an agreement concerning legal decision-making or parenting time before the assessment or evaluation begins, the parties must immediately notify the court and conciliation services of the agreement.
(3) Conducting the Assessment or Evaluation.
(A) Generally. Conciliation services will conduct the assessment or evaluation to determine what allocation of legal decision-making or parenting time would be in a child’s best interests.
(B) Interviews. Conciliation services may conduct interviews that it deems appropriate, including interviewing the parents jointly or individually, interviewing the children, and observing interactions between parents and children.
(C) Documents. Conciliation services also may review documents that it deems appropriate. If either party submits documents to the evaluator, the party submitting the documents must promptly provide copies to the other party.
(D) Notification of Agreement. Conciliation services will notify the court if the parties reach an agreement concerning legal decision-making or parenting time before the evaluation is complete.
(E) Confidentiality. Conciliation services’ assessment or evaluation files are confidential, and only an order of the assigned judge or the family court presiding judge may release a file.
(A) Duty to Prepare a Report. When the assessment or evaluation is complete, conciliation services must provide the court and the parties with a written report but must not file it with the clerk. The court may direct the evaluator to provide an oral report in open court instead of a written report.
(B) Report’s Contents. The report may include recommendations to the court regarding legal-decision making, parenting time, or therapeutic interventions allowed by law.
(C) Confidentiality. A written report is confidential, but it will be available for appellate purposes.
(A) Court Appearances. Conciliation services evaluators may testify in court proceedings only if a party properly and timely subpoenas the evaluator.
(B) Depositions. Conciliation services evaluators may be deposed only by subpoena and with the judge’s approval. The judge may set reasonable limits concerning the time, duration, and location for the deposition, the nature of the questions, and the release of conciliation services’ files and records.
(C) Stipulation that Testimony Will Not Be Sought. Before the evaluator begins an evaluation or assessment, the parties may stipulate that the parties will not call the evaluator as a witness in any court proceeding or depose the evaluator, unless the court orders otherwise.
(e) Family Education Services. The presiding superior court judge in a county or a designee may implement family education services that parties must attend as the court deems appropriate.
(f) Other Services; Fees. Conciliation services may approve, establish, or administer other services designed to assist the parties or the court in resolving a dispute, including open negotiation, parenting conferences, or early post-decree conferences. The conciliation court may charge fees to persons participating in these services. The court may defer or waive these fee as provided by statute.