Protocol and Practice of Persons Appearing in the Court of Judge Danielle Viola

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Specific Comments or Advice for Litigants

Specific Requirements or Preferences • Please consider reviewing the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure before filing any requests with the Court and prior to a trial or evidentiary hearing.  
• Fax/Email communication: My staff may communicate with attorneys and their staff by email for scheduling purposes. This Division will accept facsimiles only if the party receives advance permission from Division staff. Documents that are sent by parties or counsel via facsimile must be filed before they are sent. Documents sent by facsimile must show the clerk of court stamp and must contain a certificate of mailing reflecting notice to all parties. Materials cannot be submitted to the Division without providing a copy to the other side, unless there is a basis for ex parte review.

Pre-Trial Practice and Management Issues

Motion Practice • In Family Court, oral argument is rare. When it occurs, oral argument is scheduled after the briefing is complete, either upon request of a party, or on the Court’s own motion. Oral argument is most helpful when the Court has questions after reading the briefs. It is not helpful for parties or counsel to repeat what is in the briefs. Discovery or Disclosure Disputes and/or Sanctions • Discovery disputes: Parties should try to resolve discovery disputes that arise. If resolution cannot be reached regarding a discovery dispute, please contact my judicial assistant, and request a telephone conference. A conference is typically scheduled the same day or within forty-eight hours. Parties may be directed to file a motion to compel if further briefing is deemed necessary. Other Pre-trial Practice Guidelines or Comments • Temporary Orders: Ex parte (without notice to the other party) temporary orders are appropriate in limited circumstances involving serious risk of injury and irreparable harm. As a result, ex parte temporary orders are granted only in rare circumstances, when supported by the information contained in the motion requesting a temporary order. If a request for either ex parte or a temporary order with notice is filed, it must comply with the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. This Division typically sets aside thirty minutes for hearings involving single issues, and one hour for hearings involving multiple issues.  
• Notice of Settlement: This Division generally requires the parties and counsel to appear telephonically to put the full agreement on the record. This Division expects the settlement agreement to be complete, or the agreement to be placed on the record before vacating a trial or hearing. If the hearing to be vacated is for annulment, legal separation, or dissolution, this Division will take jurisdictional testimony during teleconference with the parties, so that flaws in the consent decree do not preclude the entry of a decree.  
This Division will also set a date for the parties to submit a fully executed and complete decree. If the decree is not received by the date ordered, and if no good cause for extending the deadline is provided, the case will be dismissed. The case will be reinstated only when a motion to reinstate is filed and accompanied by a fully executed and complete decree. If one party is at fault for the delay, an award of attorneys’ fees and costs against the party who caused the delay may be considered.  
• Expedited Consideration: Requests for expedited consideration must comply with the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. Any request for expedited or emergency relief should be hand-delivered to the other side (or faxed/emailed if hand-delivery is feasible).  
• Expanded hearing/trial time: Counsel and/or the parties should submit a joint stipulation (or motion in the case of a disagreement) explaining the need for additional time. If appropriate, the trial or hearing time may be expanded but that may result in the matter being continued to another date and time. Parties and counsel should plan accordingly and avoid waiting until the last minute to request additional hearing/trial time.  
• Continuances: Given the Court’s calendar, continuances are disfavored. A continuance is more likely to be granted if the request is filed at least thirty days in advance of a hearing, and less likely to be granted in matters where a prior continuance was granted. Parties and counsel are expected to timely serve discovery requests to avoid the need for a continuance based on a failure to obtain needed documents or information. Counsel and parties requesting a continuance should indicate in their motion whether the other party consents, or what efforts were made to obtain consent before filing the motion seeking a continuance.  
• Telephonic Conferences: Telephonic conferences will be scheduled when it does not result in prejudice to the parties. The Court tends to schedule routine, administrative matters for telephonic conference (e.g., discovery disputes), however evidentiary hearings require the parties to appear in person absent prior Court approval (e.g., parties/witness resides out of state). A party seeking to appear by phone or requesting leave for a witness to appear by phone must file a motion making that request. The motion should explain the need for a telephonic appearance/testimony and whether the other side objects to the telephonic appearance/testimony. If a request is granted, use of a land line is requested. Additionally, if the telephonic appearance will result in long distance charges, the party or person appearing/testimony by telephone must contact the Division at the time set for the hearing at 602-506-3442.  
• Time Limitations: A typical dissolution case is set for three hours if the case involves custody, parenting time, property allocation, and /or spousal maintenance. If the case is lacking complex issues, or both parties are self-represented, the proceeding may be scheduled for one hour.  
• Attorneys’ Fees and Costs: Except for temporary orders for fees and costs because of a disparity of income or resources, attorneys’ fees and costs typically abide the entry of a final order regarding the pending issue. Upon a ruling from the bench, a party may be ordered to submit a China Doll affidavit (an affidavit containing information about the fees incurred by the client) to be filed. If the matter is under advisement, the Court will order a China Doll affidavit if fees and costs are awarded. After reviewing a China Doll affidavit, and any response and reply, if applicable, a ruling will be issued.  
• Bi-furcation: Bi-furcating issues for trial may be appropriate in rare instances. The parties need to present a compelling reason.

Trial Practice and Protocol

Trial Schedule • Schedule: Trials, status conferences, and other hearings are held daily, from 8:30am-5:00pm, with lunch from 12:00pm-1:30pm.  
• Trial Time: The Court will set the time for trial or evidentiary hearings, splitting the time between the parties equally. Time will be tracked from the Bench via a dual clock timer. The parties can request an update of any time remaining at any time. Arguments, direct examination, and cross-examination all count toward the time allotted to a party. If objections become repetitive and unwarranted, time may be adjusted accordingly.
Joint Pre-Trial Memo and/or Conference; Exhibits and Objections • Scope of Hearing: The order to appear or the minute entry will indicate whether evidence or testimony will be taken. In some cases, the Court will indicate evidence “may” be taken. In those cases, the parties should be prepared to present their positions in the time allotted and the Court will evaluate whether additional time is necessary to resolve the issue.  
• Findings of Fact/Conclusions of Law: Parties are asked to submit findings of fact and conclusions of law only if a party asks the Court to make findings of fact and law on any issue. If findings are requested, each party must file written proposed findings on those issues. The proposed findings also must be submitted in an electronic form that is editable, preferably Microsoft Word. The proposed findings must be submitted with the Pretrial Statement.  
• Joint Pretrial Statement: This Division requires parties to submit a Joint Pretrial Statement. In those cases where the parties are unable to work together to prepare a joint statement, the Court will accept separate statements. Please keep in mind that timely filing a Joint Pretrial Statement helps the Court prepare for the hearing. For all hearings, exhibits and the pretrial statement are due five (5) calendar days before the hearing, unless otherwise ordered. Please review the minute entry setting the trial for further details regarding deadlines.  
• Bench Copies: A joint set of bench copies is appreciated. It is helpful if the parties arrive early enough to make appropriate adjustments to the numbering on the bench copies based on the clerk’s exhibit sheet.  
• Objections: Objections should be limited to legal basis of objection, unless further explanation is requested.
Trial Practice and Procedure • Technology: This Division will make accommodations to facilitate the use of technology.  
• Child Interviews: Typically, Conciliation Services completes child interviews. This Division will consider interviewing children directly in exceptional cases. In those exceptional cases, the interview will occur in the presence of a representative from Conciliation Services, who will prepare a report for the parties, unless other agreements are made by the parties.
Courtroom Etiquette • Decorum: All litigants must be professional in their courtroom interactions.  
• Personal Electronics: Please turn off personal electronics to avoid interference with the recording system in the courtroom. Personal electronic devices may be turned on by parties and counsel for scheduling purposes or with permission from Court staff.  
• Drinks: Covered drinks are acceptable.  
• Gum: Gum is not permitted.  
• Hats: Please remove hats before entering the courtroom.  
• Presentation: Attorneys are free to move about the courtroom, but care should be given to the courtroom recording system, so that a clear record is created.  
• Please be courteous of all Court staff.  
• Please do not bring children under eighteen into the courtroom.  
• Please remember the Judge cannot speak with you about pending litigation unless the other party is present.