Divorce in Arizona

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.

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Divorce, Custody, or Family Law Issue

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.

Your Guide Through 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.

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Stages of an Arizona Divorce

The Decision

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:

  • Do you want to try and save your marriage?
  • How will your spouse react?
  • Where will you live?
  • Do you have enough money for expenses?
  • Do you need an attorney?
  • Do you need to protect your money?
  • Should you file first?
  • Do you know your financial situation?

Official Start of Divorce

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.

Divorce Litigation & Negotiation

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.

Official End of the Marriage

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.

Have Questions? We have answers

Divorce in Arizona FAQs

Divorce FAQs

How soon can I get divorced?

The quickest timeline for a divorce is a little more than two months, and it requires both parties to be in agreement. That is because of a 60-day waiting period that is put in place under Arizona law. On this timeline, one spouse files the Petition for Dissolution, the paperwork that starts the divorce. Then they serve the other spouse (when things are amicable, this is done by giving your spouse the paperwork, and having them sign a notarized document that they received it, and this is then filed with the Court. That service date is important because it starts the sixty-day waiting period. At the end of the waiting period, the two of you can file your Consent Decree (and Parenting Plan, if you have children, and a Property Settlement Agreement, if appropriate). These are the documents that divorce you, contain your agreement, and divide your property and decide what happens with your child. Once the papers are signed by the judge, you are divorced. 

Will I be able to stay in my house?

If you want to stay in the house, you will need to get your spouse to agree to it, and you will need to buyout your spouse’s interest in the house. Unless a disclaimer deed has been signed, your spouse is entitled to half of the net equity in the home. To figure that out, you need to how much your home is worth and what is owed on the mortgage (in some cases, a home equity line of credit or a lien on the home may impact the net equity). For example, if your home is worth $400,000, and there’s $200,000 left on the mortgage, the net equity is $200,000, and you will need to pay your spouse $100,000 to buy out their interest. In most cases, you will need to show you are pre-qualified for a refinance. Most lenders can work with you to include the buyout as part of the refinance.  

My spouse managed all the finances during the divorce. How do I know what is out there?

Before we can divide the marital property, we need to know what property is out there. The primary way we learn this is through disclosure and discovery. Under the rules of procedure, both parties are required to make extensive disclosures of their assets and debts. You can request additional information via discovery—a process that allows you to use different tools to find money. For example, if you believe your spouse is not forthcoming regarding their salary, you can subpoena their employer for their pay history. There are numerous discovery tools—depositions, subpoenas, interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admission, etc. You should speak with an attorney to learn your options regarding discovery and your duties under the disclosure rules. 

My spouse started a business, can I get it in the divorce?

Maybe, unless an exception applies, you are an owner of the business because it was started during the marriage. Under Arizona law, it does not matter whether your name is on the business because it was started during the marriage, it is part of of the community property and needs to be divided as part of the divorce proceeding. There are a few exceptions: Where the business was inherited or gifted to your spouse or where or a prenup or postnup is in place, then the business may not be community property.  

Can we get an annulment?

Contrary to popular belief, annulments are not given easily or given out simply because the marriage was of short duration. An annulment is given out when the marriage itself is defective. For example, one spouse was married to another person at the time of the marriage or one spouse was defrauded into marrying the other spouse or you did not intend to get married. You have to meet one of the reasons for an annulment in order to get one.  

Learn More About Divorce

Arizona Divorce Resources

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