How to Avoid “Going to Court” When Getting Divorced

How to Avoid “Going to Court” When Getting Divorced

Most people getting divorced want to avoid going to Court. Technically, everyone must to go to court in Arizona to get a divorce. But its really not court people want to avoid, it’s litigation. Divorce litigation can be a lengthy, expensive, and stressful legal process of arguing your case in front of a judge. But if both parties are willing, there are many options to avoid “going to court.”  

Options to Avoid “Going to Court” and Divorce Litigation

As mentioned above, a divorce must go through the court system. But how the final decisions are made is up to the parties. There are 2 ways to resolve a divorce; reaching an agreement or requesting the judge decide through a trial.  

Ways to Reach an Agreement

Fortunately, there are a multitude of ways to reach an agreement in a divorce:

  • Informal Settlement Discussions. A good starting point for many couples is to start the discussion between themselves about the terms of their divorce. This is not ideal for all situations, as it really depends on the willingness to negotiate and settle the outstanding issues. 
  • Settlement Correspondence: One option is to send proposals back and forth to each other either via letter or email. Be aware that agreements that are in writing and signed by both parties can be binding agreements and email signatures can count as signatures. 
  • Mediation. This is where the parties work with a neutral third-party professional to reach agreements. The mediator’s goal is to facilitate a productive discussion and work with the parties to create solutions. Mediation is usually very effective, particularly if you use a mediator who is a current practicing attorney or retired Family Court Judge.  
  • Collaborative Divorce. This is an alternative process within the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure that allows the parties, their attorneys, and other professionals to work together to craft solutions for how their divorce should look. Because it tends to be expensive (both parties must have an attorney) and high-risk (if you can’t reach an agreement, your attorneys must resign, and you must start over, including with discovery and disclosure), it tends to be used primarily for high-asset divorces. 

Deadline to Reach an Agreement

Ideally, to avoid Court altogether, the parties must come to an agreement within the first couple of months of the Petition for Dissolution being filed and served. If the Respondent files a Response to the Petition, the Court will typically set an initial hearing within a few months. If a Response is not filed within 120-days, the Court will send a notice that it intends to dismiss your case. This creates a bit of a time crunch when trying to avoid court.  

If you wait to file the Petition for Dissolution, you have more control over the time to reach agreements. Many people go through the settlement process before they file. But keep in mind, once you file and serve the divorce papers, you must wait 60-days before your divorce can be finalized.  

Top 5 Tips to Successfully Avoid Court During Divorce

  1. Be reasonable.
  2. Know the issues (including the finances).
  3. Be willing to negotiate.
  4. Know what you want.
  5. Focus on the end game.


Learn More About Divorce in Arizona

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