Divorce with Minor Children in Arizona
Preparing for a divorce is an emotional and stressful process on its own, but when you add minor children to the equation, it can feel daunting and overwhelming. In Arizona, divorce is referred to as a “dissolution of marriage,” which is the process you undergo to end your marriage. The person who files the divorce is known as the “petitioner,” while the other spouse who responds is the “respondent.”
Once the final dissolution of marriage decree is entered, a lot of changes will result. Some of these include:
- Your marriage is officially and terminated, which means you are free to marry again at some point if you so choose.
- With children under 18, the final decree will set forth legal decision-making rights, parenting arrangements, and possible child support.
- It will divide your marital property, and establish what property, if any, was owned prior to the marriage and which spouse owns it.
- It will determine the amount of spousal support (if applicable).
- It can restore the former name of one spouse if requested.
- It will establish responsibility for marital debts and what debts were incurred prior to the marriage.
Requirements to Get Divorced in Arizona
In order to file for a dissolution of marriage in Arizona, you or your ex must have resided in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing. This is also applicable if you are in the military and are stationed in Arizona. If you have not yet reached the 90-day mark, you will have to wait to file until you meet the minimum time requirement.
For the courts to make any decisions involving minor children, like child support, parenting time, or granting legal-decision making, the child has to have been living in Arizona primarily. This means your children must have been living in Arizona for at least six months.
Fault versus No-Fault Divorce in Arizona
A fault divorce means the person filing for divorce is required to show the other spouse is at fault for the marriage breaking up. It will require proof and involves serious allegations. Depending on the state, some of these grounds for fault can include:
- Desertion or abandonment
- Emotional, mental, or physical abuse
- Alcoholism / drug dependency
- Being convicted of a crime and a lengthy prison sentence
- Contracting an STD
- Having a child with someone other than your spouse
Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. This means couples who want to get a divorce do not need to show that either spouse committed any wrongdoing that led to the failure of the marriage. Couples typically cite “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for divorce. And, if your spouse wants to object to a no-fault divorce, the court considers the objection as an example of irreconcilable differences.
Grounds for Divorce in a Covenant Marriage
If you have a covenant marriage, there are different requirements for filing for divorce. Possible grounds can include:
- Abandonment for one year or more
- Committed a felony with resulting imprisonment in a correctional facility
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Living apart and separate continuously with no reconciliation at all for a minimum of two years before the petition for a dissolution of marriage is filed
- Living apart and separated continuously with no reconciliation at all for a minimum of one year from the date of the decree of legal separation was filed
Contested or Uncontested Divorce
Your divorce can either be contested or uncontested. Surprisingly, a large number of couples with children are filing an uncontested divorce. A common reason is that they prefer the judge not be involved in their personal lives. To proceed with an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree on every aspect of the divorce, especially parenting time and custody. The uncontested divorce process is fairly simple, and once the consent documentation is filed, neither of you will have to attend a court hearing or speak with a judge.
Divorce by Default Judgment
Being in a no-fault state does not mean that your spouse will not challenge the petition to end your marriage. This is his or her opportunity to file a response or opposing papers with the court. In the event your spouse does not file a response in time, the court may continue the divorce proceeding by granting you a divorce by default. The law gives the respondent 20 days to respond from the day he or she is served with the filed copy of the petition. In the event your spouse lives in another state, the court gives him or her 30 days to file the response. In the event you were unable to personally serve your spouse and you did service by publication, the response time increases to 60 days.
Once the deadline passes for a response, you can file an application and affidavit of default. The clerk stamps a copy of the form and the default form has to be hand-delivered or mailed to your spouse. The court gives your spouse one more chance and he or she has 10 days from receiving the form to file a response to the original divorce petition. If he or she still does not respond, you can ask the court to schedule the default hearing.
The default hearing is a more informal court session in which a judge hears evidence to establish whether you are entitled to dissolve the marriage or not. When you have minor children and there are other issues that need to be resolved, like asset division, the judge will hear testimony and look at written evidence presented.
Custody or Legal Decision-Making in Arizona
In Arizona, custody is formally called legal decision-making. Law SB1127 was enacted in 2013 and abolished the term custody due to confusion and misconceptions. With joint legal decision-making, both parents would share decision-making authority equally. The courts prefer to grant equal authority to both parents, but there may be situations in which they opt to grant it to one parent only. Some issues that can influence the court’s decisions may include:
- Mental health issues that are severe
- Domestic violence
- Child neglect
- Child abuse
- Criminal history
- Drug or alcohol abuse
Parenting Time and Parenting Plans
Parenting time refers to the amount of time the child will spend with each parent. If the court awards joint legal decision-making, it is not a guarantee that it is 50/50 parenting time. Parents can agree to a parenting plan that works best for both them and the children, but it is not always for equal time. No matter whether the parents are making the agreement, or it is the court, everyone needs to consider what is best for the children involved.
Parenting plans have to be created and submitted to the court for every divorce that involves minor children. The court requires that the parenting plan discuss a variety of topics, including:
- Holidays and vacations
- Day-to-day parenting time
- Custodial exchanges
- Parental communication
- Transportation provisions
Arizona Child Support
Arizona laws state that every parent has a legal obligation to provide for their children. When a couple files for divorce, the court will establish the amount of support based on Arizona Child Support Guidelines. This establishes a general standard of support that is consistent with a child’s needs and the ability for the parent to pay. The Child Support Calculator used takes individual factors into account, like how many children are involved, their ages, what each parent earns, daycare expenses, health care costs, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child.
The court will enter a Child Support Order based on the calculations unless there is a reason to deviate or the parents agree on a different amount. The Child Support Order will also clarify who is required to provide health insurance for the children, what percentage of uncovered medical expenses he or she is responsible for, and how one parent will reimburse the other one who incurred the out-of-pocket costs. Lastly, the Child Support Order will determine who has the right to claim the children on their taxes each year for the child dependency exemption.
Forms for Divorce with Minor Children Involved
There are a lot of forms that need to be filled out and filed during a divorce, and even more forms if you have minor children involved. This is one of the reasons that even an uncontested divorce without attorneys can benefit from the expertise of an Arizona document preparation service company. For example, Maricopa County requires the following forms when filing for divorce with children:
- Family Department / Sensitive Data Coversheet
- Preliminary Injunction
- Petition for Dissolution of Non-Covenant Marriage with Minor Children
- Parent Information Program Order and Notice
- Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance
- Affidavit Regarding Minor Children
- Parenting Plan
- Notice Regarding Creditors
Learn More About Our Services
AZ Statewide Paralegal offers document preparation services throughout Arizona, and we are proud to share that our staff is certified by the Arizona Supreme Court. We have a workforce of skilled certified legal document preparers who have been assisting Arizona clients with legal document preparation services since the 1990s.
If you don’t need legal advice and are ready to have your divorce documents prepared, our proficient team can handle the document preparation and even some of the complex issues that may arise. Why spend thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees when you only need assistance drafting standard documents? We offer the same services without the hefty hourly rates. From filling out your divorce petition to ensuring everything is filed on time we can assist with all your document preparation needs within Arizona. AZ Statewide Paralegal also offers the convenience of in-person consultations for those clients who feel more comfortable handling these types of legal matters in person.
As you conduct research online, you will see search results for many different legal businesses in the state that advertise their document preparation services. However, that is where most of their services end. These agencies offer no additional benefits beyond filling out your necessary forms. Once the preparation of your documents is completed, you will be expected to figure out how to handle everything else that needs to be completed. This can include filing the necessary documents with the appropriate court and, in some cases, hiring a process server to serve any necessary parties. These other document preparation agencies will not assist with any other pending issues, either. This means that if you have any additional questions on a specific process or need to know how to file the documents properly, you will incur additional fees from a completely different legal service.
At AZ Statewide Paralegal, we take pride in offering exceptional customer service and maintaining a full-service agency. We will not leave you to fend for yourself with a mountain of paperwork that needs filing or make you figure out what court you need to contact, or what follow up needs to be done. It is important to point out that we are not licensed practicing attorneys; therefore, we can not legally engage in practicing law in Arizona or any other state. Essentially, this means we are barred from giving you any legal advice or telling you how to proceed with your individual case; however, we can prepare all your documents while guiding you through the filing process itself. If you have any specific legal questions that relate to divorce, custody agreements, spousal support, or covenant marriages, we are more than happy to refer you to a qualified and licensed practicing divorce and family law attorney near you.
If you need other divorce-related forms, or any other legal documents prepared, contact our skilled team at AZ Statewide Paralegal to see how we can assist you. We take pride in providing fast and friendly service, while offering convenience, all at a reasonable low price. We have offices conveniently located in Tucson, North Tucson, Phoenix, and Mesa. Contact us today to learn more about Arizona legal document preparation services for your divorce and other legal document needs. We look forward to helping you.