Basics of Filing for Divorce in Arizona
Many people mistakenly assume that all divorces are long, drawn out, expensive battles in court. This is not always the case, and in some instances, couples who are divorcing can file paperwork without the help of an attorney, which can save them both money. Whether you are preparing for a divorce that is contested or one that is not, there are some basics that you should familiarize yourself with prior to filing for divorce in Arizona.
These are some of the general guidelines and laws that cover divorce in Arizona. This article is not meant to be construed as legal advice, as Arizona Statewide Paralegal is a document preparation service. We are not licensed and practicing attorneys in the state. If you have a specific legal question or require the guidance of a divorce attorney, we are happy to recommend a knowledgeable and skilled attorney near you.
Residency Requirements in Arizona
In order to file for divorce in Arizona, you must satisfy the residency requirements. This means that you or your spouse must currently live in the state for a minimum of 90 days, or one of you is an active member of the armed forces who is stationed in Arizona for a minimum of 90 days prior to filing.
In Arizona, a divorce proceeding is also known as a dissolution of marriage. It starts with one spouse, known as the Petitioner, filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Superior Court in the county where the Petitioner resides. The filed paperwork is served on the other spouse, who is now known as the Respondent. When the documents are served, it is called service of process, and the procedure is done under a set of guidelines as mandated by Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules 4.1 and 4.2.
The Respondent has the option to file his or her own Response to the Petition within 20 days of the date on which he or she was served. The Respondent is given an extra 10 days to file the response if he or she lives outside of Arizona.
If the Respondent fails to file a Response to the Petition within the allotted time, it is considered a default. In cases involving a default, the court has discretion on whether or not to award the Petitioner all the requests made in his or her original filing. The Petitioner can then file what is known as an Application for Default, which also needs to be served on the other spouse. Once the default application is filed with the court, there is a 10-day waiting period wherein the Respondent is given another chance to file a response. If he or she responds and files within the allotted time, the divorce will proceed as though the Application for Default was never filed. If he or she fails to respond again, the court has the discretion to grant the dissolution and issue an order.
Prior to granting the dissolution, the court may hold a hearing in front of a judge or commissioner to hear the Petitioner’s case. This may be set for some time out, maybe 60 days depending on the court.
Once the papers are served, the courts have instituted a mandated 60-day waiting period before a dissolution can be granted.
Contested versus Non-Contested Divorces
Divorces are either contested or not contested. A contested divorce is one in which one party does not want to divorce or there are outstanding issues that need to be resolved by the court. This means that in simple uncontested divorce matters, especially ones involving no assets or children, a divorce could in some instances be granted in less than four months. Contested divorces and complex dissolutions can take much longer, sometimes more than a year depending on the outstanding issues to be resolved. If you are utilizing an attorney throughout this process, you can see how legal fees can add up quickly in lengthy divorce proceedings. This is one of the reasons it is so important to try and come to an agreement on the terms of your dissolution, as it will save both parties time and money in the long run.
While your case is pending, either party can ask the court to issue a temporary order. These types of orders dictate who can stay in the house while the divorce is in progress, who pays which bills, or who has temporary custody of the children. In cases in which spouses can agree to everything, it saves time and legal fees by not having to hire an attorney and petition the court to schedule a hearing for a temporary order.
In situations in which both spouses agree to the terms set forth in the separation agreement regarding property and asset division, child custody, alimony, and child support, the dissolution can proceed without a trial. This is known as a Consent Decree. If both parties sign the required documents and attend a mandatory Parent Education class if children are involved, the court can legally end the marriage without the need for a court trial.
Dividing Marital Assets
Arizona is a community property state when it comes to dividing marital assets. This means that the court may split everything 50/50 if you are in dispute. In the event that you cannot agree on the value of marital assets, the court may assign a value. You can also retain the services of an appraiser to place a value on your property. For example, if you are trying to assign a value to retirement accounts and assets, you may need the services of a C.P.A. or other qualified financial adviser.
Complicated asset matters like the co-mingling of separate property with marital assets, or cases with expansive asset portfolios, may benefit from the services of an Arizona divorce attorney.
Figuring out a value for either spousal or child support is discretionary. The courts look at a variety of factors when deciding on award amounts. When determining spousal support, the courts look at factors like the spouses’ ability to maintain themselves, how long the marriage lasted, standard of living that was established during the marriage, the spouse’s age, employment history, and their physical condition at the time of divorce.
Child Custody and Support
Arizona courts look at what is best for the children in a divorce when deciding child custody matters. They base custody decisions on a variety of factors, and weigh input from the parties as well. They look at the parents’ wishes, the child’s wishes, how the child/children interact with their parents, what the adjustment will be like after the divorce, etc. They also look at allegations of domestic or child abuse.
Either parent could be ordered to pay support. There are established guidelines for determining the amount of child support, and they are reviewed periodically to make sure the amounts are still appropriate. The courts utilize information about the financial needs of a child, what the resources and needs are of the custodial parent, the emotional and physical condition of the child, medical support plans, and more. Child support may continue on past the age of majority in some instances if there are mental or physical disabilities that keep the child from living a full and independent life.
Arizona has what is known as a Conciliation Court, which is a branch of the Superior Court. It is not necessarily available in all counties, however. The Conciliation Court offers a variety of services, including mediation, education, and counseling, which are designed to protect the institution of marriage and the rights of children whose parents are involved in a divorce. The idea behind this branch is the hope that couples might reconcile or at least reach an amicable settlement division.
The court has discretion on whether to order a conciliation conference, which is typical with a covenant marriage, or as a means of trying to reach an amicable settlement of the sticking points of the divorce. Couples also have the option to invoke the jurisdiction of the conciliation court prior to filing for a divorce, legal separation, or even annulment to help them reach an amicable settlement arrangement.
Legal Grounds for Divorce in Arizona
Arizona recognizes no fault divorce guidelines for “regular” marriages. However, if you have a covenant marriage, the grounds for getting a dissolution granted are different. With this type of marriage, you may have to prove grounds, like adultery or physical or sexual abuse, if the divorce is contested.
Annulments are recognized in the state of Arizona. Annulment scenarios may include marriages between relatives, like a half-brother and half-sister, or a marriage where one party was underage and there was no consent of a parent or legal guardian.
Legal Separation in Arizona
The state of Arizona also recognizes legal separations. One party must be a resident of Arizona, and both parties must agree to the separation. In the event that one party objects to the legal separation, the court will direct the parties to amend their pleadings and file for a dissolution of marriage. Like regular divorce filings, the grounds for obtaining a legal separation vary if it is a “regular” marriage or a covenant marriage.
Covenant marriages became recognized under Arizona law in the late 1990s. It offers an option for couples who wish to marry and place complete emphasis on the belief that a marriage is a lifelong commitment. Couples interested in covenant marriages have to meet with a clergy member or marriage counselor for premarital counseling sessions. There is a special declaration on the marriage application form for couples who wish to have a covenant marriage. This means ending a covenant marriage is also more difficult and a divorce can only be granted in limited situations.
Learn More About Our Services
Arizona Statewide Paralegal offers services throughout Arizona and we are certified by the Arizona Supreme Court. We retain a staff of expert paralegals who have been assisting clients with legal documents since the early 1990s.
While you may need to retain legal counsel for advice during a contested divorce, our team can handle simple matters and even some of the more complex issues. Why spend thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees when you just need to have simple documents drafted? We can provide the same service for far less money. From preparing your documents to verifying that they are filed in a timely fashion and served when necessary, we can assist with all your Arizona document preparation needs. Arizona Statewide Paralegal also offers in-person consultations for those who prefer to discuss matters face to face.
When you are searching online, you will find many Arizona legal services that will fill out your documentation, but that is where the service ends. They offer no additional benefits whatsoever. Once your documents are prepared, you need to figure out how to handle everything else that is left to do. This includes any documents that need to be filed with the court or served to another party. These other services will not assist with other aspects of your pending legal issue, either. Any questions you have regarding the process of filing those legal documents will incur additional fees from a different legal service.
At Arizona Statewide Paralegal, we are a full-service agency. We will not leave you to fend for yourself with a mountain of paperwork or try to figure out the right way to file a court document or serve the other party. It is important to note that we are not licensed practicing attorneys, therefore, we cannot legally engage in practicing law within Arizona. Essentially, this means we cannot provide you with any legal advice; however, we can prepare all your documents while guiding you through the physical process itself. If you have specific legal questions that relate to your divorce and what is best for your situation, we will be happy to refer you to a qualified and licensed practicing family law attorney near you.
If you need divorce forms prepared, or have some other legal document preparation needs, contact the team at Arizona Statewide Paralegal to see how we can assist. We take pride in providing fast, friendly service, and offer convenience, all at a reasonable low price. Call our office today to learn more about Arizona document preparation services regarding your divorce and all other legal document needs.