Fitzgibbons Law Offices - Pinal County Lawyers

520-426-3824

 
 
 
Richard Scholz, Casa Grande Divorce Lawyer

 

Fitzgibbons Law Offices
1115 E. Cottonwood Lane
Suite 150
Casa Grande, AZ 85122

 

Family Law

July 2015

EDCM: Quicker Divorce for Pinal County Couples?

The Pinal County Superior Court recently implemented a new process to help divorcing couples expedite the marital dissolution process.

A new court program, “Expedited Differentiated Case Management” (EDCM), was launched this spring with the goal of achieving, in some cases, “same-day resolution” of broken marriages.

The EDCM program, which is managed by Family Services of the Conciliation Court (FSCC) in Coolidge, is designed to improve time to the disposition of a case, quickly identify and stabilize family crisis situations, and use limited FSCC resources more efficiently.

There are unconventional – and, in the view of some observers, controversial – aspects to the EDCM process:

•  After the initial filing of the Petition for Dissolution, and where issues of parental fitness are not at issue, the parties are scheduled for their EDCM meeting at the Coolidge offices.

•  The parties may not bring their attorneys to the meeting, and attorneys are prohibited from attending.

•  With the assistance of the FSCC staff, the parties attempt to reach agreements on such issues as legal decision-making authority, parenting time, child support, and division of property.

•  If agreements are reached on any or all of those issues, the FSCC will record those agreements in a written document. FSCC can also make recommendations to the Court for other services that the Court provides.

•  If partial or full agreements are reached through EDCM meeting, each party may have the agreements reviewed by their attorney before the agreements become binding.

•  After the EDCM meeting, a status review hearing is scheduled before the assigned judge, so that the agreements can be adopted by the Court and/or the judge can schedule further hearings, direct the parties to other services, or set the matter for a final hearing.

If there are issues of domestic violence in the dissolution, the FSCC will make appropriate accommodations to protect the alleged victim from direct contact with the alleged perpetrator. Additionally, if a party does not wish to participate without their attorney, the FSCC will most likely vacate the EDCM.

Potential Drawbacks

As a family law attorney, I believe that most parties retain counsel in a dissolution because they feel the need for legal guidance throughout the process. The EDCM concept takes the attorney out of a very important role: negotiating and resolving difficult and important issues that the parties cannot put to rest on their own.

While it is true that any agreements reached through EDCM are not binding until the parties have had the opportunity to review the agreements with their attorneys, the EDCM process overlooks a critical truth: Without their attorney present, a person can feel intimidated and pressured into making agreements that, with their attorney present, they might not make.

Further, many parties may feel obligated to honor a tentative agreement made in their attorney’s absence, even if they later discover, with the help of their attorney, that some terms of the agreement are not in their best interest.

A Worthy Effort

Only time will tell if the EDCM process is successful or if it merely burdens divorcing couples with a requirement to spend a half day at FSCC without meaningful agreements being reached. The good news for couples in Pinal County is that the Court and the FSCC director are generally receptive to recommendations for change.

Further, to the extent that shortening the dissolution process is beneficial to the parties, their children, the judges and, yes, their attorneys, EDCM may prove to be a valuable tool for many couples.

Richard Scholz retired from the practice of law in May 2017.