The Child Custody and Parenting Review Conference, or parenting conference, is yet another dispute resolution tool in the family court’s arsenal. The objective of the parenting conference is to assist the Court in determining what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.
The conference is not confidential because the family law judge can address any matters raised during the process. You’ll be pleased to learn, though, that no attorneys attend the conference. This not only levels the playing field when one party has an attorney and the other does not, it keeps the focus on the child where it belongs.
First of all, either party may request that a parenting conference be scheduled with a court-appointed provider by filing a written Motion for Parenting Conference. When the Court grants the motion request and orders the conference, you can expect these concerns to be addressed:
1. Where the child will reside.
2. How much time each parent will spend with the child.
3. How important decisions will be made for the child.
4. How day-to-day decisions regarding the child will be made.
When the Court orders a parenting conference it refers the case to Conciliation Services which facilitates the conference. The entire evaluation process, from the Court’s referral to the conciliator’s final report, can take two months or longer, so try to be patient.
In preparation for the parenting conference, both parties typically complete an intake evaluation. Unless there are domestic violence concerns or an order of protection that is in place, the conciliator will meet with the parents together.
Recommendations from the Conciliator.
The purpose of the parenting conference is to arrive at a custody plan for the child that is in his or her best interests. When the parents are able to come to an agreement on some, or even all, of their child custody and parenting time issues, then the conciliator may (or may not) choose to recommend their agreement to the Court.
The conciliator’s report includes important custody information and recommendations, including the following:
1. Referral details that led to the evaluation through Conciliation Services.
2. Background information about the child and the family.
3. All areas of agreement that exist between the parties on child custody and parenting time.
4. All disputed issues that remain between the parties regarding child custody and parenting time.
5. Concerns from either parent regarding custody and visitation.
6. The conciliator’s assessments and impressions regarding child custody.
7. The conciliator’s conclusions and recommendations for the Court.
Once the report has been submitted to the Court and to both parties, a review hearing is usually scheduled.
If a parenting conference is likely to be a part of your Arizona DIY divorce, then set aside some time to read our articles on this very topic. You may want to start with The Role of the Parenting Conference in Settling Child Custody Issues.