Divorce is a complicated and emotionally challenging time for everyone involved. The Arizona divorce process is clear and straightforward, but as with any other process that involves people, issues can arise. Here are seven steps you’ll likely need to take to navigate the Arizona divorce process.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not intended to be legal advice. You should always talk to a family law attorney about your unique situation.
Step 1: Understand Arizona divorce laws
There are typically two types of divorce: contested (more common) and uncontested divorces.
In some cases, both spouses agree that the marriage should end. If both people agree on the terms of the divorce and how to divide their possessions, such that all that is required is filing the necessary documents, then the divorce is considered uncontested. It is possible to complete an uncontested divorce with DIY paperwork and appropriate filing fees. An attorney or legal document preparer can also make sure your paperwork is in good order.
A divorce is “contested” if the parties disagree on any of the proposed terms of divorce. Reasons divorces may be contested include disagreements about:
– Parenting time and legal decision-making (when children are involved)
– Division of assets
– Spousal maintenance (alimony)
Additionally, Arizona is a covenant marriage state. A covenant marriage is a specific type of marriage where the married couple agrees to divorce only under certain conditions. This means that a spouse in a covenant marriage must have specific grounds to dissolve the marriage (A.R.S. §25-903 and A.R.S. §25-904).
These types of marriages are rare, however.
Step 2: Get your information together
Next, you will need to gather all the relevant information that will be needed for your divorce proceeding. This includes bank statements, lists of shared assets, and required fees for children’s schooling or activities.
For contested divorces that are full of tension, this paperwork can also help create a clear picture of the couple’s financial life together.
Step 3: Fill out divorce forms
– Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance
– Joint Preliminary Injunction
– Creditor Notice
– Information on Parenting Information Programs (required for parties with minor children)
Step 4: File and serve divorce forms
Even after you fill out the forms, you have not officially started the divorce process until you file the forms and serve them on your spouse. You must make the following copies:
– One copy to file at the court
– Another copy to keep for yourself (the petitioner)
– One copy to serve on your spouse (the respondent)
Step 5: Pay filing fees
This step actually occurs when you file your forms, but it’s worth its own category to help you plan ahead.
Other filing fees can vary, so it’s important to carefully review what’s required with the clerk of your County court.
Step 6: Wait for a response
The spouse who is served a petition for divorce has 20 days to respond/answer after being served with divorce papers. The Arizona divorce process also includes a 60-day waiting period before the court will finalize a divorce, even if the divorce is uncontested.
During the 60-day waiting period, the petitioner (person filing) and respondent (person answering) might:
– Resolve conflicts: The petitioner and the respondent may be able to resolve conflicts about the terms of the divorce, such as asset division or parenting time and legal decision-making, in order to reach an agreement
– Reconsider their decisions: The petitioner and respondent may decide to try marital counseling or seek other means of resolving their differences instead of divorce during this period
If after 60 days both parties agree to the divorce and the conditions set forth in the petition, the parties may file a Consent Decree.
If the marriage includes no children and few assets, if you have lived in Arizona for at least 90 days, and if you believe your marriage is irretrievably broken, an uncontested divorce in Arizona may be granted in as little as 60 days (although this is rare).
Step 7: Attend a hearing
A hearing may not be necessary for all cases. If you and your spouse agree on all the terms of your divorce and file a Consent Decree, a judge will review the consent decree, and, if it is deemed reasonable, sign it granting the divorce.
If necessary, the judge will evaluate filings from both parties and come to a decision to settle any matters in conflict, such as issues with:
- Parenting time and legal decision-making regarding children
- Division of assets
- Spousal maintenance
- Child support
Note that if the respondent does not answer the initial divorce paperwork (and it was filed and served correctly), the petitioner can file for a default divorce. The respondent has another ten days to respond to the petition. If the respondent does not answer or contact the court, the court can grant the petitioner a default divorce.
Get with help with the Arizona divorce process
While it’s true that you can complete the Arizona divorce process on your own, each situation is unique and can be complicated. If you have children or shared assets, it is important to know your rights in order to protect your future.
At ARTEMiS Law Firm, our experienced and compassionate team of family lawyers can help with everything from filing the papers to finalizing parenting time and legal decision-making to spousal maintenance. If you have questions, we can help. Give us a call today!