Settlement Conferences

Questions about Family, Civil, and Probate Settlement Conferences

A settlement conference is a meeting between the parties (and counsel, if represented) during which the parties attempt to settle issues and avoid trial.  The conferences are informal and encourage discussion and creative problem solving.  Settlement conferences allow the parties to be active participants in resolving their dispute rather than leaving the resolution to a judge or jury.

Family:  All pre-decree dissolution cases, paternity and maternity matters, as well as grandparent visitation cases.

: Tort non-motor vehicle, tort motor vehicle, contracts, medical malpractice, and other cases as deemed appropriate by the judge.

: Contested decedent estate cases, adult guardianship, and conservatorship matters.


There are many reasons to take part in a settlement conference.  Some of the top reasons include decreasing cost, obtaining a quicker resolution, and increased satisfaction. 

By settling the case and avoiding trial, parties can save the expenses associated with a traditional trial.

The traditional trial process is often time-consuming. By settling a dispute before trial, parties avoid the possibility of a long trial and can move on with their lives.

Court clients participating in a settlement conference generally experience a higher level of satisfaction with the process than those who go through the traditional trial process.


Typically, the conference takes place outside the court at a location chosen by the judge pro tempore who is facilitating the session.

The judge pro tempore may also conduct the settlement conference at one of our court locations in downtown Phoenix, Mesa, or north Phoenix. 

Settlement conferences may also be held virtually so long as everyone agrees to a virtual settlement conference.

The process may take up to 3 hours or more.  You should set aside at least three hours to attend the conference. 

A volunteer judge pro tempore presides over a settlement conference. A judge pro tempore is a neutral attorney who is court-appointed to perform specific duties for the courts based on his or her experience and qualifications.  These attorneys volunteer their time to the Court and the parties receive the benefit of a no-cost opportunity to resolve their disputes.

Each party shall furnish the judge pro tempore with a settlement conference memorandum at least seven (7) calendar days prior to the scheduled settlement conference.

Be prepared to give a general description of the issues in the suit, including your views; be prepared to explain all previous negotiations and results; be prepared to discuss the possible consequences if your case proceeds to trial; bring any relevant financial, property, debt, and income information; bring any other relevant information for discussion; be prepared to communicate your needs fully, honestly, and respectfully with the judge pro tempore and with the other party.


Typically, the judge pro tempore, petitioner/plaintiff, respondent/defendant, and counsel (if represented) are the only people included in the settlement conference; however, there are exceptions under certain circumstances.  

Additionally, for civil cases, a person with settlement authority must be available for the conference.  In some cases, a person other than the party has the authority to approve a settlement.  In those cases, the person with authority must be available for the conference.


Each judge pro tempore handles settlement conferences their own way.  Generally, at the outset of the settlement conference the judge pro tempore will meet with the parties, either jointly or separately, to discuss overall observations and expectations.  Typically, the parties (and counsel, if represented) will also meet separately with the judge pro tempore to discuss issues related to the dispute and potential options for resolution.  These meetings are sometimes referred to as caucuses.  The judge pro tempore will often visit with each side multiple times throughout the day.  You should be prepared for some downtime between these sessions.  You should also be prepared to answer questions from the judge pro tempore about your position and the matter in dispute.

Please see Referral Flow Charts (located under Why ADR/Benefits of ADR on this website)

Referral Flow Charts:

  •  ADR Family Settlement Conference Referral Process
  •  ADR Civil Settlement Conference Referral Process
  •  ADR Short Trial Settlement Conference Referral Process
  •  ADR Probate Settlement Conference Referral Process

Family Settlement Conference: Except for extraordinary circumstances, failure to appear at the time scheduled for this settlement conference as ordered by the court will result in your being required to pay $100 no show fee by the assigned judge in your case. If you are represented and unable to attend your settlement conference, please contact your counsel so they can file the appropriate motion to continue the settlement conference. If you are not represented, please file the appropriate motion to postpone/continue your settlement conference to avoid paying the no show fee.

CV and PB Settlement Conferences: Failure to appear will be reported to the judge assigned to the case.


If you reach a full or partial agreement, the judge pro tempore will typically assist in documenting the agreement before you leave the settlement conference.  The judge pro tempore will then notify ADR of the settlement and ADR will notify the judge that a full or partial agreement was reached. In the case of a full agreement, the trial date, if set, may be vacated.

If you do not reach resolution, the judge pro tempore will notify the Court that you did not reach agreement and ADR will notify the judge that you participated in a settlement conference but did not reach an agreement.

Yes. You need to notify the judge assigned to the case by filing a notice of settlement upon reaching agreements.  Please endorse the judge pro tempore and ADR on the notice of settlement.


Only if the parties reach a full or partial settlement, then the settlement agreement is digitally recorded or recorded on the FTR (For the Record) (when a settlement conference is held in a courtroom), or a written settlement agreement may be prepared by the settlement judge for parties' signatures.  


Emelda Dailey
ADR Program Coordinator
Contact the ADR Office

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