December 12, 2017

Is Mediation Binding in Arizona

Family law agreements entered into in mediation in Arizona, are binding under most circumstances when in writing and signed.

Arizona law recognizes the right of divorcing or separating couples to enter into a written agreement as to all issues. A.R.S. § 25-317. Agreements as to property division, debt division, fees, costs and spousal maintenance are binding, unless the Court finds, “after considering the economic circumstances of the parties and any other relevant evidence produced by the parties, on their own motion or on request of the court, that the separation agreement is unfair.” If the Court believes those terms are unfair, the Court can ask the parties to submit other terms or enter other orders. The court must find terms as to child support, custody and parenting time to be reasonable.

Once the terms of the agreement are incorporated in the Decree or set forth in the Decree, they are just as enforceable as all other Court orders. Orders, except those for maintenance, support, custody or parenting time of children, may not be modified once the Decree is entered. The Court also cannot modify a term in the separation agreement that spousal maintenance is non-modifiable.

Further, parties to any family law matter (such as divorce, paternity actions, legal separation actions, and custody or child support modification actions) may enter into binding agreements pursuant to Rule 69 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. That Rule states that an agreement between parties “shall be valid and binding” if the agreement is in writing. Under some circumstances, an agreement is binding even if recorded by someone authorized by the Court, like a Judge, Judge Pro Tempore, or court reporter. The Rule states that an agreement entered pursuant to the rule “shall be presumed to be valid and binding, and it shall be the burden of the party challenging the validity of the agreement to prove any defect in the agreement…” Rule 69 specifies that the Court may award a party his/her costs for maintaining or defending the challenge to the validity of the agreement. The Court may still reject the agreement under the circumstances discussed in the first paragraph.

Alona M. Gottfried is a family law mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or alona@sglawaz.com. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.

Simmons & Gottfried, PLLC

8160 E. Butherus Dr., Suite #7

Scottsdale, AZ 85260

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