Uncontested Divorce in Arizona

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Uncontested Divorce

Technically, there is no such thing as an uncontested divorce in Arizona. But realistically, you can get divorced in Arizona by agreement without any acrimony—or even having to step foot in the courthouse, but the process is different than what is traditionally considered an “uncontested divorce.”

An “uncontested divorce” generally refers to a procedure in which spouses file for a divorce together jointly. That is not an option in Arizona. But what we do have is fairly similar. Here’s the simplest, quickest and best way to get divorced when you are in agreement or believe you can reach full agreements:

  1. Discuss the outstanding issues and reach agreements. Mediate, if necessary. For every divorce, you must decide how you are going to divide the community property. You must also determine if one spouse will pay the other spouse spousal maintenance. If children are involved, you must also decide the custodial issues of legal decision-making (how decisions will be made regarding the children) and parenting time (the schedule of when the child is with each parent) as well as child support.
    1. Mediation. Mediation can be started before or after filing. Mediation is ideal where spouses are open to discussing the issues and negotiating an agreement. Mediation is not ideal in cases involving domestic violence, extreme anger, or where the parties are not willing to discuss compromise.
  2. Filing the Petition. Every divorce in Arizona starts the same way: By filing a Petition for Dissolution with the superior court. The person who files will be listed as the “Petitioner,” the person who responds will be listed as the “Respondent.”
  3. Service. In cases where the parties agree to the divorce, service is most often accomplished by Petitioner providing the Respondent with a copy of all the documents filed and having the Respondent sign in front of notary that they have received the documents. The document the Respondent signs is called an Acceptance of Service. This is filed with the Court.
  4. Wait 60 days. Even where the parties agree to the divorce, they must wait 60 days for the divorce before they can finalize the divorce.
  5. Draft, Sign, and File the Consent Decree. During the sixty days, the parties can draft up and sign the Consent Decree. This is the document that divorces the parties. If the parties have children, they must also file a Parenting Plan (which contains agreements regarding custody and child support as well as other items required by state law to be included in a Parenting Plan). The parties can choose to have a Property Settlement Agreement, which divides their property with significantly more layers of protection than does a Consent Decree.
  6. The judge signs the Consent Decree. Once filed, it usually takes 7-10 days for the judge to sign and the clerk to process the Consent Decree and send it back out to the parties. Once the Decree is signed, the divorce is finalized and the parties are no longer married, and their agreement becomes an order of the court.

Be aware that Maricopa County Superior Court is trying a program called a Summary Consent Decree that allows the parties to file and submit a Summary Consent Petition and Decree at the time of filing, and the Court will then calendar 60 days as a reminder to have the judge sign the Decree once the mandatory 60-day waiting period has passed. This essentially combines the second, third, and fifth steps into one step.

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