At their core, a motion in family court is a formal request for a judge to make a decision. These can be decisions about a wide range of details of the case and its hearings. The person who files the motion is called the “movant.” The opponent has the opportunity to respond to the motion, that is, to either agree with or contest the motion, but the movant gets the final reply.
Family law is an extraordinarily involved area of the legal system. Not only are the laws complex, but they also cover topics that are very important to most people. When cases involve children, especially, it can be emotionally difficult for parents to navigate their claims.
Understanding family court and the options available to you may help to make the process more approachable. Our team at The Valley Law Group is committed to providing accurate and honest information to our clients so that they can make empowered decisions about their situations.
Motions are a powerful tool in family law courts, as they allow immediate action pending judge approval. They allow parents to exert their rights, keep their children safe, and allow their family to function while their family law claim is proceeding.
Types of Motions in Arizona Family Court
As mentioned, there are many different reasons that an individual may file a motion in a family law court. Understanding common family law motion scenarios can help you to identify and address any issues that arise during your case. Your attorney will help you to determine when and how a motion should be filed. Usually, you must submit in writing, but there are occasionally opportunities for oral motions.
Some motions help to make the courtroom more accessible for all involved. If a parent, child, or other party involved in a family law claim needs interpretation, they may move for the judge to allow an interpreter into court proceedings. These motions are generally accepted by all parties.
In some situations, a person involved in litigation or a witness who is called cannot appear in court, or it would be extremely inconvenient for them to do so. In these situations, the person may file a motion to be able to appear in court via the telephone or telecommuting services.
In evidentiary hearings, telecommuting may not fulfill the needs of the court, whereas motions to telecommute in non-evidentiary hearings are more often accepted. However, no matter what type of case you are involved in, you may request to be able to attend virtually through a motion.
A parent may file a temporary order for things like custody of the child or protection from the child’s other parent. Though ultimately, both of these decisions require a full court evaluation, a temporary order can be obtained much more easily. Temporary orders aim to keep individuals safe, especially children, in family law scenarios.
A request for a temporary order may be made on a standard or emergency basis. An emergency temporary order can only be requested if the movant believes that not having the temporary order will cause “irreparable harm,” such as if they believe that someone is in danger of domestic abuse.
A temporary order will last until a specified date or until a permanent order replaces it. For example, a temporary custody order will eventually be replaced by a permanent custody agreement that results from a full family law court process.
Children often do not appear in court for custody hearings. However, there may be circumstances where a testimonial from a child is helpful in determining the best custody situation for the family. Child testimonials may also offer insight into the child’s relationship with each parent, as well as allow the court to explore any suspicion of abuse or neglect.
There are many different reasons interviewing children may be necessary, and a motion does not automatically mean that there are accusations of domestic abuse.
Amendments and New Trials
Under certain circumstances, an individual may file a motion for a new trial or for an amendment to their judgment from their previous trial. This must be done within 25 days after the original verdict is entered into the court record.
This is not an exhaustive list of the reasons that one party may file a motion in family court. It is part of your attorney’s job to understand all opportunities for motions in your case and utilize them to your advantage.
When to File a Motion in Arizona Family Court
Because the topics of motions vary so greatly, there is no single timeline for a motion to be completed. Some people file their motions at the beginning of a court process, such as if they are requesting an interpreter.
Filing a motion for a temporary or emergency temporary order will occur when the issue arises. For example, if you are filing a motion for temporary custody, you would do so when the children’s custody comes into question, such as when their other parent moves out.
In Arizona, the judge generally has 60 days to either grant or deny your motion. However, the response requirement for some motions may be longer or shorter. If you are unsure how long your judge has to assess your request, speak directly with your lawyer about your specific circumstances. Your attorney should go through the entire motion process with you to ensure that the process is completed correctly.
Arizona Family Law Appeals
Although you may file a motion for reconsideration, amended judgment, or a new trial, these requests are distinct from appeals. It is important to understand the difference so that you may properly use both, if necessary, in your case.
Motions often must happen within 25 or 30 days of the court’s decision. They request the same court to reopen the case and address an issue that the movant has. There are limited reasons that the court will grant a motion like this.
An appeal is a request for an entirely new trial through an appellate court.
When an individual appeals a case, they believe one of the following:
- There was a miscarriage of justice. In other words, the judge or court misinterpreted or misused the law to the defendant’s detriment.
- There was not enough evidence for the judge or jury to draw the conclusion that they did.
If an appeal moves forward, an appellate court will review the case and come to a decision independently of the original court. If their decision is the same as the original court’s, they uphold the order. If it differs, they may overturn the original decision.
Though many people associate appeals with criminal claims, they also frequently occur in family law cases as well. If you believe that there was a miscarriage of justice or insufficient evidence in your child custody, child support, asset division, divorce, or domestic violence claim, an appeal may be appropriate.
Appeals and motions also differ from modifications, but many people use them interchangeably. Both motions and appeals happen soon after the decision, while modifications require more time.
Family law modifications occur when a significant change has happened in a family’s situation, and one or more parties involved believe that a legal change is appropriate. This is to say that if the circumstances had been in the present condition at the time of the trial, the court might have made a different decision.
For example, if a family develops a child custody schedule when their child is six, they may need to make a modification when the child reaches their teenage years. Children’s needs change and the court aims to facilitate the most positive possible environment for children under their responsibility.
In some situations, parents who do not have custody may gain custody through a modification. For example, if a parent is denied custody because they do not have gainful employment, they may request a modification after they have been working at a job for a significant length of time.
Though appeals, motions, and modifications all create change in a family law case, they are distinct. No matter what type of family law case you are facing, it is important to understand the basics of the system and the options that may affect you and your family.
AZ Family Law Motions FAQs
Families have common questions about filing motions. We’ve assembled some of those below.
The Valley Law Group for Arizona Family Law Appeals
Our team at The Valley Law Group is here to support you with Arizona family law appeals. With years of experience in Arizona family law, we are highly trained in a variety of family law case types. We have filed countless motions on behalf of our clients, and we feel confident that we can offer insight into your family law claim. Our attorneys are here to represent you, no matter your situation or needs.
Jonathan Roeder, Founder/Director of Marketing of The Valley Law Group, is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.