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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can get an annulment if you entered into a marriage that is either an illegal marriage or became voidable due to some defect in the marriage that occurred at the time of marriage. If you have only been married a short time and you realized you made a mistake, it may not be enough to get an annulment. The best way to figure out if you qualify is to meet with a divorce attorney.
Yes, you can stop a divorce at any time during the process if your spouse has not been served or has not filed a Response, and you were the filing party. But if the divorce has “officially” started, meaning, your spouse has been served or filed a Response, the two of you would have to agree to stop the divorce. If you and your spouse decide to stay married, the divorce case can be canceled or “dismissed” by filing a request with the Clerk of Superior Court and signed by both parties.
If your first divorce was never finalized, your second marriage is not legal. You will have to annul your second marriage and finalize the divorce from the first marriage before you can get re-married. Once the divorce is final, you can remarry your current spouse.
You must go through the Court to get divorced. But, when parties are in agreement, the paperwork can be drafted by an attorney who will file it once it is signed by the parties. In that case, the Court will still open and close a case, but neither party will have to set foot in the Courthouse.
But if you cannot come to an agreement regarding your divorce, a judge will have to make those decisions for you.
You are permitted to represent yourself in a divorce, but you are held to the same standard as an attorney. In other words, there is no excuse for not knowing the law or the rules. For that reason, if you do represent yourself, it may still be worthwhile to meet with an attorney and receive advice.
You may “need” an attorney if the other side has one. The rules and laws are complex, and people who represent themselves against an attorney are at a severe disadvantage. In contrast, if both parties are unrepresented, it is an even playing field; and, in that situation, hiring an attorney could give you an advantage.
Divorce can be especially difficult on children. Here are some things to keep in mind while supporting your child during…
One of the most frequent questions we get is, “Can I stay in the house after the divorce?” You can…
“My trial is today; can you help me?” “I signed an agreement and now I regret it—can I get out…
Student loan debts in a divorce must be divided and assigned to one spouse. Typically, student loan debts are already…
The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure in Maricopa County recently changed. These changes to ADR could impact your ability to…
Almost everyone who gets a divorce wants to get through it with as little time, stress, and money as possible….
The decision to file for divorce is never easy or hasty and neither is the divorce process itself. When you…
Finding hidden bank accounts in a divorce is a common issue, especially in high-asset divorces. If your spouse managed all the…
To get divorced in Arizona, you must be currently living in Arizona and you must have lived here for at least 90 days. To understand how it works,…
Our people are the biggest asset we have. We only hire the best people to work at our firm. We know our motivated, intelligent, high-quality people will deliver outstanding results for you.
Any issue or question I have has always been answered. I am super grateful to Jillian because I feel like I have someone by my side 100% of the time.
Throughout this entire process, everyone at the firm treated me with the courtesy and respect that you would extend a lifelong friend, and for that humble gesture I shall remain forever grateful . . .
The best at what they do! Im so impressed by the knowledge Stephen has off the top of his head. The whole crew is amazing . Would highly recommend them.
I've never met such a passionate, organized, and responsive group of attorneys. Family law matters can be emotionally and legally challenging but this group stands out as the place to go to get great help
The team that works here is professional, timely, and has your best interests at the root of every decision. They work tirelessly and have an amazing array of experience to act on your behalf...needless to say, they’d always be my choice!
Highly recommend this firm for family law disputes. The efforts that they put forth to a case are some of the best that you can get, but they also know how to really work with a client and make it feel like a team atmosphere
I know some of the lead attorneys at State 48 Law Firm, and have complete faith and trust in their knowledge and professionalism. I would trust them implicitly, with my own legal needs.
Excellent team of attorneys. Everyone has a wealth of experience and a great depth of legal knowledge. I would highly recommend this firm to anyone.
I can't recommend State 48 Law Firm enough. They have a great team of experienced attorneys, although I highly recommend Bryce Johnson! He has a wealth of family law knowledge and will fight for you.
I've known and worked with State 48 attorney Bryce Johnson for several years and know him to be a considerate and tactful attorney who fights tooth and nail for his clients. I would recommend State 48 for your family law needs!
Everyone at State 48 Law Firm is great! Jillian Hansen will take the time to educate you about the process while showing empathy for the situation.
State 48 Law includes a very experienced team of lawyers who will work tirelessly for you. I would recommend their team, and specifically Bryce Johnson, to anyone.
During one of the most difficult periods in your life, it is imperative to find a lawyer and a law firm, who can look after your interests.
I’ve worked with this Team before & can’t say enough about their professionalism & constant communication. Highly recommend State48 for anything family law.
Ankita takes her time, is very responsive, and shows that she does care. You don’t usually find that compassion in a lawyer. I can’t thank her enough for helping us through our case and I highly recommended her!