Divorce needs no introduction. It is a life-changing event that affects everything from your social life to your retirement accounts. Regardless of where you are in the divorce process, the most beneficial thing you can do is to understand your options, learn more about how the system works, and know the possible outcomes. When going through a divorce, you have a lot of decisions to make. It is easy to lose focus and rely on your emotions, but emotional decision-making can lead to poor outcomes. Learning more about the process is the best way to help you make good decisions during your divorce.
We can help make your divorce less stressful. Our attorneys have experience representing divorce clients in nearly every circumstance. We help our clients reach successful resolutions by ensuring they are informed throughout the process. We will help you learn what you don’t know. We always encourage and facilitate settlement and negotiations outside of the courtroom, but when that is not possible, we get the job done in the courtroom.
Simplified-10 Step Process
Deciding to Divorce – Before the divorce process officially begins is the best time to meet with an attorney to learn about your options and the process. Knowledge is power and knowing what to do before you start a divorce can make the process easier. If you are the one asking for a divorce, you should make sure you are ready before you start. But keep in mind, just because you are exploring the idea of a divorce, does not mean you have made up your mind. It is not like jumping off a cliff; you can take small steps until you know if it is the right decision for you. The beginning of a divorce is reversible. If you discover along the way that you would like to reconcile with your spouse, you should try. You can stop the process any time before the court signs the final decree. This is the time to explore your options and to make sure divorce is right for you.
Questions to think about in the Decision stage:
Filing for Divorce – Every Maricopa County divorce requires standard documentation to start the legal process. A Petition for Dissolution must be filed with the court and whomever filed the Petition must legally serve the opposing party. During the divorce proceedings the person who filed for the divorce is referred to as the “Petitioner” and the person who responds to the divorce is referred to as the “Respondent”.
The court does not favor either party in the divorce. It does not matter if you file for the divorce or if you respond. Arizona is a no-fault state, which means that a person does not need a reason for seeking a divorce. terms Petitioner and Respondent are only used to differentiate between the two people involved.
Serving the Divorce Petition – In an Arizona divorce, once a Petition has been filed, a copy of the Petition and the related documents must then be legally served on the other spouse. Service can be accomplished in a few different ways, including by waiver, by personal service, or by process server. The date of service is important, because it is the date the “marital community” is deemed separated.
End of the Marital Community – From the date of service going forward, the parties will no longer accumulate “community” property or debt; that is, property that each spouse has a claim to and debts that each party is deemed equally responsible for.
A Preliminary Injunction will be served along with the Petition. This stops both parties from selling community property, making changes to existing insurance coverage, and removing minor children from the state without court permission or the other parent’s written consent.
“Cooling-off” Period – Once a Petition for Dissolution has been filed and served to the opposing party, the mandatory 60-day “cooling off” period begins. This means that the soonest you can be officially divorced is 60 days from the date of service.
Responding to a Petition for Divorce – In an Arizona divorce, the responding spouse has 20 days after service to file a Response to the Petition of Dissolution served within Arizona; he or she has 30 days to respond if served outside of Arizona.
If No Response is Filed – If the responding spouse fails to file a Response within the allowed time, the petitioning spouse may apply for a default judgment. A spouse applies for a default judgment by filing an Application and Affidavit for Default. The responding spouse will then have 10 days to respond to the Application and Affidavit for Default. If the spouse fails to respond, a Default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage may be obtained, which grants the divorce on the terms of the spouse who originally filed the Petition.
If Both Parties Agree to All Issues – In an Arizona divorce, if a Response is filed and the parties are able to agree on all issues, a Consent Decree of Dissolution of Marriage setting forth all the agreements can be submitted to the court.
Court Involvement in Divorce – Most divorces in Arizona follow a similar path. The primary court events are outlined below:
Resolution Management Conference (RMC) – The court typically schedules an RMC at the outset. This takes place in court (virtual or in-person) and is attended by both parties and their attorneys.
Rule 69 Agreement – At the RMC, the court will try to determine if there are already any agreements and if so, the court may have those agreements recorded as a formal and binding agreement, known as a Rule 69 Agreement. The court will also review the status and decide if there are any, services and/or orders the parties need to help conclude the matter. Those services and/or orders could include drug testing of one or both parents, mental health evaluations, vocational evaluations, and business evaluations.
Parenting Conference – If parenting issues are disputed, the Court may Order that the parties attend a parenting conference or a family assessment. Some parenting disputes may require a court appointed advisor for children.
Settlement Conference – Next, the Court will generally schedule a settlement conference with the court’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services. A settlement conference involves the help of a neutral mediator who attempts to help the parties resolve the remaining issues without going to trial.
Trial – Last, the court will set a trial date to hear any disputed issues; if the parties are able to settle all issues before the trial date, they can notify the Court to cancel or “vacate” the trial. If the matter does proceed to trial, the court will issue a divorce decree within 60 days of the trial.
Divorce Decree – In an Arizona divorce, your divorce decree will terminate your marriage and you will be officially divorced as of the day the Court signs the decree.
Depending on your circumstances, your decree may also determine child custody (known as legal decision-making and parenting time in Arizona), child support, spousal maintenance, property and debt division, responsibility for attorney fees, and changing back to prior name. If you have a minor child or children together, both parents must separately attend a court-mandated education program about the impact of divorce on children. This requirement must be completed before the court will grant a divorce involving minor children.
Arizona is a community property state. This means anything either spouse earned during the marriage belongs to both spouses.
It is possible to fix a bad ruling from the court, but it is difficult. Prior to trial, you were on even footing with the other party—you both had, in theory at least, an equal chance of prevailing.
Some parts of a Court’s ruling are not modifiable, including the division of property and an award of attorney’s fees. While many parts of the Court’s order are subject to modification, some parts are not.
There are four parts of every child custody case. The typical case has four parts to it: Paternity, legal decision-making, parenting time, and child support. Except in unusual circumstances, paternity will only get ruled on once.
Being on the birth certificate doesn’t mean you’re legally recognized as the father. When a child is born to an unmarried mother, only the mother’s rights are automatically established. The father will have to establish his rights separately.
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