Family Court Motion Practice

First and foremost, a “motion” is a request made by a party to litigation to ask the court to take specific action. Most motions used in Arizona family courts are made in writing, though certain requests can be made orally. The party who files the motion may be referred to as the “moving party” or “movant” and this matters because this person usually has the opportunity to have the “last word,” by filing a reply, if the motion is contested. Very generally, Arizona family law motion practice is controlled by Rule 35, Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure (or “ARFLP”). There are additional rules that apply to specific types of motions.

Per rule, every motion should state the grounds for all relief sought. This is achieved by attaching to each motion a legal memorandum that includes the legal authority and the supporting facts for the motion and the relief it requests. Motions must be delivered to the opposing party who, for most types of motion, has ten (10) court days to file a response—unless the family court imposed a different timeline for response. Pursuant to Rule 4, this ten-day period excludes intermediate weekends and court holidays and adds five additional days for mailing. If no response is filed within the appropriate time period, the court may treat the motion as uncontested. Once the opposing party files his or her response, the movant usually may file a reply within five (5) court days. The reply is strictly limited to the contents of the response. It should not raise any new argument. The judge can grant, deny or set the motion for oral argument.

Most Common Family Law Motions

Though litigants can file a motion for a virtually unlimited number of requests, the following motions are among the most commonly used in Arizona family court:

Motion to Appear by Telephone

Pursuant to Rule 8, a litigant or witness may request to appear by telephone. Motions to appear telephonically are granted more liberally for non-evidentiary hearings, like resolution management conferences, status conferences, and return hearings, but it is possible to request to appear at any hearing by telephone.

Motion to Appoint Child’s Attorney, Best Interests Attorney, or Court-Appointed Advisor

Rule 10 enables the parties to request, or the court to appoint on its own motion, a child representative during child custody cases. Rule 10.1 has been added to specifically apply to court-appointed advisors.

Motion for Court Interview of Children

The family court can interview children subject to child custody litigation, in its discretion, pursuant to Rule 12.

Motion for an Interpreter

Either party can request an interpreter to be present during family court proceedings pursuant to Rule 16.

Motion to Dismiss or Motion to Strike

Both of these motions are available under Rule 29 (formerly Rule 32). Most motions to dismiss must be filed before a response is filed. A motion to strike can be used to strike a portion of the judicial record when it is superfluous or scandalous in some way.

Motion for Leave to Amend

When a party needs to amend or supplement a pleading, it is controlled by Rule 28.

Motion for Alternative Service

A party can request permission to serve the opposing party by alternative means, such as publication, if process service cannot be accomplished by ordinary practices, pursuant to Rule 41(l).

Motion for Temporary Orders

A family law litigant can request temporary orders by verified motion filed pursuant to Rule 47.

» View Sample Motion for Temporary Orders

Emergency Motion for Temporary Orders (Without Notice)

Rule 48 enables a litigant to request emergency temporary orders when irreparable harm would occur if the party were required to give notice to the opposing party.

Motion for Physical, Mental, or Vocation Evaluation

A litigant can ask the court to order the opposing party to submit to certain types of evaluations under Rule 63.

» View Sample Motion for Vocational Evaluation

Motion to Compel Discovery

After personally consulting, a motion to compel may be necessary under Rule 65 to resolve a discovery dispute.

Motion to Appoint Family Law Master

Pursuant to Rule 72, the family court can refer any family law issue except legal decision-making and parenting time to an appointed special master.

Motion for Summary Judgment

A motion for summary judgment can be filed under Rule 79.

Motion for New Trial or Amended Judgment

Rule 83 controls motions for a new trial or to amend a judgment. Ordinarily these motions must be filed within 25 days after the judgment or decree is entered.

Motion for Reconsideration

Within thirty days after an order is entered, a litigant may be able to ask the family court to reconsider pursuant to Rule 35.1. Uniquely, this rule prohibits response unless first ordered by the court. However, the court must allow an opportunity to respond prior to granting a motion for reconsideration.

Motion for Clarification

Rule 84 now provides the procedure related to motions for clarification.

Motion to Correct Mistakes and Motion for Relief from a Judgment or Order

Rule 85 enables litigants to ask the family court to correct clerical or mathematical mistakes in an order or judgment. A motion to correct mistake ordinarily can be filed within any period of time.

Form Motions & Other Legal Resources

For litigants with active cases in Maricopa County Superior Court, a quite literally blank form can be used for any type of motion. Obviously this is not always helpful if you do not know what the motion is required to say or what authority must be included. Our family law attorneys are working diligently to publish a sample of every type of motion, so check here often for updates or contact us for a free consultation. We can answer any questions you have about motion practice and even offer legal document preparation for clients who need a specific type of motion prepared.