Filing the Proposed Resolution Statement
Pursuant to Rule 49(c), parties to most types of family court litigation should file and exchange resolution statements no later than thirty days after exchanging initial disclosures or as otherwise ordered by the court. Typically, at least in Maricopa County, family courts order resolution statements to be filed five court days before an early resolution conference or a resolution management conference, but a different deadline may be imposed by your judge. Both are 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. Family court litigants always should review their minute entries carefully and calendar any deadlines the judge set.
The resolution statement can be hand filed at any Superior Court or electronically filed if your county supports eFiling. There is no additional filing fee for this. Once it is filed, it must be sent to the opposing party or their attorney.
Preparing Your Statement Without an Attorney
Proposed resolution statements are simpler than most other types of legal documents and there are (mostly) intuitive court forms available for each type of family law case. Unfortunately, the forms are not perfect for everyone’s unique situation. Unrepresented litigants sometimes waive claims or defenses inadvertently because their specific issues were omitted from the court forms. This does not mean that you definitely need to hire an attorney, it is just a reminder to be very careful when preparing any legal documents because you can be bound to their contents even if made by mistake. If you feel uncomfortable preparing your statement alone, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney.
Below we will go over the form used for divorce and legal separation and provide a non-form sample proposed resolution statement for reference. If your case is not a divorce or legal separation, you will use a slightly different form but much of the information below will still apply.
Any documents filed in your family law case usually will contain the same basic caption with your full name, as it appears in the court records; your address, if not protected pursuant to Rule 7; the best telephone number and email address to reach you; and your ATLAS number if you have one. ATLAS stands for “Arizona’s Tracking and Location Automated System” and it used to by the state to identify child support cases.
For this particular form, you also will check the first box to indicate that you are representing yourself without an attorney.
The next section requires you to provide the names of the Petitioner and Respondent, again as those names appear in the court records. For the rest of the form, the Petitioner will be referred to as Party A and the Respondent as Party B. You will provide your family court case number which, in Maricopa County, usually begins with FC or FN depending on whether the case involves children, and the year the case was filed.
You will check box to indicate if you are Party A (the Petitioner) or Party B (the Respondent) and provide the date of your marriage. Now we will move on to the enumerated sections.
The term IV-D (pronounced “Four-Dee”) refers to the section of the Social Security Act of 1975 that encouraged states to establish government programs to assist needy families and manage the enforcement of child support. Parents who receive AFDC, TANF, or AHCCCS benefits for themselves or their children may invoke IV-D. If your case is a IV-D case, the state may enter its appearance to monitor child support. Be sure to check the appropriate box.
Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time
If you have minor children with the other party in this case, provide their names, dates of birth, and, redundantly, their ages. Select the check boxes to indicate your preferred parenting time schedule for the children. These options may be confusing because this court form is dated. Family courts no longer use county-specific or model parenting time guidelines. Our law now presumes equal parenting time is in the children’s best interests. This does not mean that every parenting schedule is equal, but it is the starting point in every child custody case.
The factors Arizona courts use to determine legal decision-making and parenting time can be found under A.R.S. § 25-403. If you believe equal parenting time is best for your children, you can check the “Other” box and write in equal parenting time pursuant to your desired schedule. If you believe that equal parenting time is contrary to your children’s best interests, you can use the schedule options or write in your preferred schedule.
Next you must select a legal decision-making arrangement. Joint legal decision-making is the standard and it requires the parents to agree before either parent can make any non-emergency legal decisions for the children. Sole legal decision-making entitles one parent to make all non-emergency legal decisions without consulting the other parent. Though it is not listed here, another limitation of this form, there is a hybrid arrangement commonly referred to as “final say” where the parents share joint legal decision-making but one parent is authorized to make the final decisions when the parents cannot agree. For this arrangement, you could check joint legal decision-making and then check Party A or Party B to indicate the parent you believe should have final say authority. To be safe because this form is imperfect, you might write “final say to Party A” or “final say to Party B” in the space next to these options.
This section may be difficult to complete without discovery. Discovery refers to the process of formally requesting information from the other party during your case. For child support, you may not know many of the inputs this section requires. If you estimate a figure, it might be best to mark the estimate with an asterisk (*) to indicate that it is only an estimate.
Notice that the form requires gross monthly income. The Arizona child support guidelines use each parent’s pre-tax/pre-withholding monthly incomes. For parents who are paid every two weeks, you will multiply the gross income per paycheck by 2.165 to account for months when there are more than two paychecks. If you know the parent’s annual salary you can simply divide by twelve.
The next checkboxes ask if either parent has other minor children not subject to this case who live with the parent or for whom the parent provides court-ordered child support. For the latter, it also requests the monthly amount of child support actually paid. If the parent is not paying their child support obligation, this space should be left blank. If you do not know the exact amount, it is okay to estimate with the asterisk.
Indicate which parent should provide medical, dental, and vision insurance for your children. The total monthly premium costs for the children will be credited to this parent on the child support worksheet. This means it will decrease this parent’s obligation to pay child support (or increase child support received) by the other parent’s share of the insurance costs. 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 next two inputs, child care costs and education / extraordinary expenses, may be credited on the child support worksheet at your judge’s discretion. Child care costs are likelier to be included when one parent exercises the majority of the parenting time and incurs a significant child care burden. Educational expenses are sometimes misunderstood. This refers to expenses like private school tuition, not things like school supplies or extracurricular activities. Extraordinary expenses are a broader category that we see used most often when children have special medical or developmental needs. We have successfully used this category to include the increased costs of specialized nutrition, like a medically-necessary organic diet, and developmental therapies for children with autism and other special conditions.
Just like all of the other variables so far, the monthly cost should be listed. If the costs vary, try to annualize how much each category of expense costs during a year and divide that by twelve.
The last two inputs under this section require you to indicate how you want to divide unreimbursed or uncovered medical expenses and any tax exemptions/credits for the children. By default, both are divided proportionally according to the parents’ incomes.
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. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-320, family courts may establish new child support orders retroactively up to three years before the petition is filed if parties lived apart during that time. The form really gives you no guidance here, but you can use the child support calculator to calculate monthly child support for this period. This can be a little bit complex because child support depends on the parenting time each parent exercised.
Spousal maintenance is the term we use for what is more commonly referred to as alimony. Though comparatively rare compared to term maintenance, family courts can award spousal maintenance indefinitely. Of course, the form does not support this choice, so if you believe either spouse qualifies for indefinite maintenance, you can simply enter an infinity symbol (∞) where it asks for the number of months.
If you are uncertain whether either spouse qualifies, you can review the factors for eligibility and amount under A.R.S. § 25-319. Spousal maintenance awards are entirely discretionary, so if maintenance is an issue in your case, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of a free consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys.
Arizona is a community property state. This means that all property acquired during the marriage by either spouse is presumed to belong to both spouses. This presumption is rebuttable and there are categorical exceptions, like gift or inheritance, but the burden is on the spouse who claims the separate interest in property to prove it. Property acquired before the marriage is separate property unless it is subsequently gifted to the other spouse or the marital community.
If this section’s two lines are insufficient for you to list all of your separate property, you may attach an inventory of separate property to your proposed resolution statement and write in this section to see attached. Separate property will not be divided during the divorce or legal separation.
Community Liens on Separate Property
When community funds are used to pay for or improve the value of separate property, the community may be entitled to an equitable interest called a community lien. The most common example is real estate. If community funds, including income earned by either spouse, are used to pay the mortgage on a spouse’s separate property, the community is entitled to a portion of the principal paid and the enhanced value of the property. Community liens are complicated and currently the subject of multiple appeals. Please consult with a divorce attorney if there is any question about a community lien in your case.
Under this section you will find spreadsheets for different types of property that may need to be divided during your divorce or legal separation. The left column describes the property. Try to be as specific as possible here. For example, if you have two vehicles to divide, refer to each by its make and model.
For each property, the second column provides two rows. The first row estimates the fair market value of the property. Fair market value is pretty subjective and may depend on the type of property. If you do not know what a particular item is worth and you decide to estimate, you can use the asterisk again to indicate it is just an estimate. For real estate or automobiles, an appraisal might be the most accurate source. Some parties choose to use free estimate resources like Zillow or Kelley Blue Book instead. The second row in the second column should list any outstanding debt owed on the property. You can subtract the outstanding debt from the fair market value to determine the property’s net value. The property and its net value then can be assigned to Party A or Party B in the third or fourth column respectively. Repeat this process for all community property. Just like the separate property section, the form may not provide enough room to list everything. You can attach and refer to an inventory of community property.
You can propose any division of community property that you believe to be fair. But, the family court is obligated to divide the total value of all community property equally unless specific circumstances justify unequal division. If you believe unequal division is appropriate, it is probably best to schedule a free consultation with an attorney just to make sure it is a reasonable request. Litigants found to be unreasonable can be ordered to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees and costs.
Tangible Personal Property
This section is really just a continuation of the previous community property section. It asks you to estimate the value of the smaller personal items of community property that each spouse possesses, including but not limited to clothing, personal items, appliances, electronics, furniture, household goods. It is most important for situations where one spouse moved out of the marital residence and took a portion of the household furnishings. If there are any particular personal items that you want to be awarded in the divorce, you can use this section to indicate those. You also can specify what procedure you want to use to divide these items. Because most personal property items have very little “fair market value,” the easiest method often requires the spouses to inventory the property in each person’s possession and make sure the total value is divided equally.
With few exceptions, debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage also belong to both spouses. However, unlike community property, debt is frequently assigned unequally during divorce or legal separation. Several factors affect the division of debt, though the most impactful might be the comparative incomes of each spouse. If one spouse earns significantly more money than the other, it may be fair to assign that spouse a greater share of the community debt. This section asks you to list each creditor, the total amount owed, and your preferred allocation of the debt.
Either party may request attorney’s fees from the other party in any family law case. For requests made pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-324, the court must consider the financial resources available to each party and the reasonableness of each party’s positions during the litigation. Although judges must consider both factors, either may be sufficient to support an award of attorney’s fees.
This section is pretty straightforward for anyone who wants to restore their last name to the name used before the marriage.
This section is an opportunity to raise any other claims that do not fit under the previous sections. One example might be a claim for community waste if the other spouse spent community funds excessively and without your knowledge or on expenses that did not benefit the marital community in any way during the marriage, such as funds spent to maintain an extramarital affair.
Not to be repetitive, but it is really important to preserve all claims and defenses during any type of litigation. Failure to do so may constitute waiver and prevent you from raising those claims or defenses at an eventual trial.
This section explains your duty to “meet” with the opposing party or their attorney at least five court days before your hearing. We used quotation marks there because it normally does not require physical meeting, it just requires some type of communication between you and the opposing party to determine if any agreements can be reached. This section also confirms that the information you provided in this form is true to the best of your knowledge and that you are prepared to settle based on these positions.
You sign and date it and then complete the last page which is essentially a certificate of service to ensure that you filed the proposed statement and delivered copies to the judge assigned to your case and the opposing party or their attorney.