Edwards & Petersen are Mesa divorce lawyers ready to inform you of your rights and educate you about the process. Before filing for a divorce, you should know what to expect and find out what’s best for you and your family. Below you’ll find information you need to know about the divorce process, contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.
In Arizona, a divorce is known as “dissolution of marriage,” and it is a court process designed to end a marriage legally. Besides terminating the union, an Arizona court has the authority to divide certain debts and property of the spouses.
In some instances, one spouse may be required to pay spousal maintenance (formerly alimony/spousal support) to the other. The court may also decide on issues such as custody, child support, and parenting time if children are involved.
Filing for Divorce
In Arizona, you can only file for divorce if you or your spouse has been a resident of the state or stationed there as a member of the armed forces for at least 90 days prior to the date of filing.
When it comes to issues such as child support and custody, Arizona follows a very specific set of rules on when and where a court can decide child support and parenting time issues and whether or not your child has lived in Arizona for a minimum of 6 months before filing is one of the things that needs to be considered. Additionally, the state must be the primary residence of your children.
Grounds for Divorce
Arizona is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means neither you nor your spouse is legally required to provide a reason; as long as one party claims that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” the proceedings can commence.
However, Arizona is one of the few states that recognize “Covenant Marriage” as a higher form of marriage. In this case, the person seeking the divorce (the Petitioner) must have one of these grounds:
- The Respondent (the other party) has committed adultery.
- The Respondent has abandoned the marital home for at least 12 months prior to the Respondent filing for divorce and will not return.
- The Respondent has been found guilty of a crime and received a death penalty in a municipal, county, state, or federal facility.
- The Respondent has abused (physically or sexually) the Petitioner, a child, or a relative of either spouse living in the marital home, or he/she has committed an act of domestic violence.
- The Respondent regularly abuses drugs or alcohol.
- The spouses have been living apart for at least two years prior to the filing.
- The spouses have been living apart for a minimum of 12 months prior to the entry date of the decree of legal separation.
- Both spouses agree to the dissolution of marriage.
Although you have the option to represent yourself, the court expects you to follow all the usual procedures and laws. Failure to do so could result in you losing important rights and the ability to request certain benefits. In the event your case goes to trial, you may not be able to call witnesses or produce certain evidence if you do not follow court procedures.
Additionally, neither the judge nor court personnel can provide you with legal advice, so hiring an experienced divorce attorney in Arizona is the best option.
How to File for Divorce
The Petitioner files for Dissolution of Marriage along with related documents. The forms you require and the accompanying fees vary depending on the county you live in (find pertinent information here). If you are filing for a divorce in Mesa, here is a list of associated fees.
Upon filing of the petition, your spouse must be served with copies of the papers, unless service is waived in writing and filed with the court. If the petition is served in Arizona, your spouse has 20 days to respond; this increases to 30 days if it is served outside the state.
If your spouse does not file a response within the appropriate timeframe, you have the right to apply for a “default.” Once you do this, your spouse has just 10 days to respond or the divorce could be granted on all of your terms. If no response is filed, you can obtain a default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage at the end of a 60-day cooling off period that begins on the day the Respondent was initially served with divorce papers.
In the event that a response is filed but you and your spouse agree on all issues, you can place all your agreements on a Consent Decree of Dissolution of Marriage and have it signed by a judge.
If you file for divorce but your spouse does not agree to the proceeding, he/she has the right to request a reconciliation meeting with the court. The divorce is held up for a maximum of 60 days while this meeting takes place. If both parties fail to reconcile and refuse to postpone proceedings, the divorce proceeds.
Issues such as child custody, parenting time, and spousal maintenance are often sticking points during a divorce procedure, so you may need the input of a judge on these matters, which means requesting a trial to finalize the divorce. You should hire an attorney to help you obtain a trial date and venue.
Once the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been served, the divorce cannot be finalized until the 60-day cooling off period elapses. If both parties fail to agree, a trial is set and, depending on the county and the circumstances surrounding the divorce, it may several months for it to become final.
A Decree for Dissolution of Marriage does the following:
- Ends the marriage
- Determines spousal maintenance, child custody, and parenting time and support (if applicable)
- Divides any property acquired during the marriage and affirms ownership of property acquired before the marriage to the party that owns it
- Determines who is responsible for any debts accrued during the marriage and affirms any debts owed before the marriage to the appropriate spouse
- Decides who is responsible for any legal fees
- Restores the last name of a spouse if he/she requests it
Many divorces are complicated, but even the most straightforward divorce proceeding needs the helping hand of an attorney experienced in this area of law. So, if you are looking to file for Dissolution of Marriage and seeking child custody, spousal maintenance, or other forms of support, contact an Arizona divorce attorney today.