EDCM: Quicker Divorce for Pinal County Couples?
The Pinal County Superior Court recently
implemented a new process to help divorcing couples expedite the marital
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
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.
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
Richard Scholz retired from the practice of
law in May 2017.