COURT PROTOCOL DURING THE COVID CRISIS
In Pima County, all Family Law matters brought under Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 25 (which includes: marriage; property and contract rights of husband and wife; child custody and visitation; child support; maternity and paternity proceedings; interstate custody issues) are determined in
Pima County Superior Court. The website to Pima County Superior Court is: www.cosc.co.pima.az.us. This is where initial pleadings are filed; where court ordered settlement conferences occur; where hearings and trials take place; where you can find legal and resource information; and obtain child support/spousal maintenance payment histories. When you have your day in court, plan to arrive early; it is difficult to find parking. When you enter the court house, you will be required to go through security. It is similar to the airport, except you keep your shoes on. Common items that may be confiscated are: knitting needles, chains, manicure scissors, etc. – you will get these items back when you leave.
Once you have successfully found parking and gone through security, your court room information can be found on the court’s calendar which is located at the Information Booth on the first floor. The staff at the Information booth will not provide legal advice (no matter how nicely
you ask), but will courteously give directions to your court room. When you get to your room, double check the docket, which is posted on the door. If you are the first case on the docket, the door may be locked. This is a good time to collect your thoughts and become comfortable with the environment. If there is another case pending, remain outside or sit patiently in the back.
In Pima County Superior Court, the sizes of the court room differ and so do the placards on the counselor’s table. Only the parties and attorneys are allowed to sit at the counselor’s table. This means that you cannot bring a friend or relative to act as an attorney and sit at the table with you. If you are the one who initially filed a Petition, sit at the table with the placard saying “Petitioner” or “Plaintiff;” if you were served with Petition, sit at the table with the placard saying “Respondent” or “Defendant.” If you are in court after a decree has been entered, you are whatever you were in the initial proceeding.
The court room will also have a device that looks like a microphone. The purpose of the device is to record everything that is said in the court room, even whispers during someone else’s testimony. So, if your spouse is on the witness stand, making disparaging remarks about you, do not mumble obscenities; your comments will be recorded. While you are waiting for your matter to be heard, be courteous to the clerk, the bailiff, and your opponent. You have a limited amount of time to make a good impression. Use your time wisely.
Most family law matters are “evidentiary hearings.” At evidentiary hearings, it is expected that documents will be marked as evidence, that witnesses will be called, and that testimony will be offered. If you have an attorney, make sure that you provide your attorney the documents he/she has requested, that you provide contact information for any witnesses you believe would be helpful, and that you are honest with your attorney about the testimony you will give. It is difficult for your attorney to fight for you if you do not provide information timely; producing documents in court for the very first time is a disaster.
In sum, the court room is like live theater. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to effectively present your case. Things happen quickly and are mistakes are difficult and costly to correct. The more comfortable you are with the court room environment, the more likely it is that you will make a favorable impression.