The pretrial statement is an important document filed before an evidentiary hearing or trial. When the family court sets a trial, its minute entry usually contains detailed instructions and a deadline, typically five days before trial. If a litigant fails to timely file his or her pretrial statement or makes other procedural mistakes, it can negatively impact the outcome of the case and even expose the litigant to sanctions.
The family court’s minute entry may require specific information, depending on the issues in the case. For example, if the case involves children, each litigant also should submit a Child Support Worksheet to calculate child support. Carefully review the minute entries to ensure complete compliance. But, generally speaking, pretrial statements are prepared pursuant to Rule 76 and should contain:
The document should identify the parties, minor children (we typically abbreviate the children’s names to keep their full names out of the public record), the type of case, and the date/time of the hearing.
List of Witnesses and Exhibits
Each litigant should list his or her witnesses and provide contact information and a summary of the witnesses’ anticipated testimony, along with a list of the exhibits the litigant intends to admit at trial. Though included in the pretrial statement, this information usually must be disclosed at least thirty days before trial.
Stipulations or Agreements Between Parties
If the parties have resolved any of the contested issues, those agreements should be detailed in this section.
As the name suggests, uncontested facts not disputed. This section may include, but is not limited to, the date the parties were married and the procedural history of the litigation.
Contested Facts and Issues
This section should include disputed facts and the issues the parties want the family court to resolve. This is the section for argument where parties try to persuade the judge to rule in their favor. Though it may seem obvious, it is helpful to cite to controlling authority — case law, statute, or rule — to support your positions. If you are not using a form, be sure to include your proposed resolution for all contested issues. So, for example, if parenting time is contested, be sure to propose the parenting schedule or parenting time conditions you would like the family court to adopt as a court order. It is essential to include every contested issue and the relief you seek. Failure to include an issue can have harsh consequences, such as that issue being totally excluded from the trial.
If you have a specific objection to the other party’s witness(es) or exhibit(s), this section can be used to reserve that objection. Often attorneys will use blanket objections here, too, such as “[Client’s Name] further objects to any evidence or testimony not properly disclosed to the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.”