Written by attorney Ryan Hardy

Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure - Rule 5 - Consolidation

It is not uncommon for a pair of people to be in a rush to the courthouse to file their pleadings for the court to rule on a certain issue. If the case is new, then the court will assign both filings a new case number and each case will be often assigned to different judges and, in some circumstances, to different courthouses. What to do? Rule 5 tells you how the court will consolidate the actions. Typically the case with the lowest case number will remain and the other case will be consolidated into that case. If there has been a hearing or someone was served on the other case number, though, the earlier case wins. Of course, the parties can agree to hear the case under one or the other but if both are running to court and trying to beat each other there, it's unlikely they are going to agree on much. When a case is consolidated, there is no need to file a response to the other party's petition...your filing is typically deemed to be your response. You also should not be required to pay another filing fee.

Here's the rule:

Rule 5.Consolidation

A. Scope of Consolidation. When actions within the scope of these rules involving a common child, common parties, or a common question of law or fact, are pending before the court, the court may order a joint hearing or trial of any or all the matters in issue in the actions or order all the actions consolidated, and the court may make such orders concerning proceedings therein to avoid unnecessary costs or delay or to serve in the best interest of a minor child.

B. Lowest Case Number. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, when two or more cases are consolidated, the clerk of the court shall regard the number of the case filed first as the controlling number of the consolidated cases, and all further pleadings and papers shall be filed and docketed under that number only. Unless the court shall otherwise specify, it will be presumed that the consolidation is for all purposes, and not merely for the purpose of trial. Unless the court shall otherwise order, motions to consolidate shall be heard by the judge to whom the earliest-filed case is assigned. A case involving only an order of protection may be consolidated into the substantive family law case.

C. Duplicate Petitions. When two or more cases are consolidated by court order wherein the parties have previously filed competing or duplicate petitions that substantially respond to the issues in the opposing petition by stating detailed allegations, requests, or positions on the issues, such petitions shall also serve in all respects as responses to the opposing petitions, unless the court, on motion of any party or its own motion, orders further response.

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