While divorce is far from rare in our region — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the divorce rate in Arizona is nearly 15 percent higher than the national average — actually going through a separation is never easy. Even if you are 100 percent certain that getting divorced is the right decision for you and your family, there are still so many complicated issues that need to be resolved.
At Edwards & Petersen, PLC, our Arizona divorce attorneys want to make sure that you know your rights and that you are fully informed about the legal process. Before you actually file for a divorce, you should take the time to prepare yourself for the road that is ahead. To help you get started, our legal team has put together a Guide to Divorce in Arizona as a free resource.
Table of Contents
1. What You Need to Know About Divorce in Arizona
2. The Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce
3. What are the Grounds for Filing Divorce?
4. What is a “Covenant Marriage”?
5. How to File a Petition for Divorce
6. What You Need to Know About a Consent Divorce
7. Legal Annulment in Arizona
8. Divorce Mediation
9. Preparing for Divorce Hearings and Divorce Litigation
10. Can I Just Represent Myself in My Divorce Hearing?
11. Understanding Property Division in Arizona
12. How Does Spousal Support Work in Arizona?
13. Child Support Payments
14. When Can the Court Deviate from the Child Support Guidelines?
15. Get Professional Legal Guidance
What You Need to Know About Divorce in Arizona
You need to know all of the basics. How do you file for divorce? What documents need to be submitted? What common problems arise during separation? How long will the divorce take? What issues will be at stake in your case? You can never be too prepared.
The Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce
Choosing to leave your spouse and end your marriage may the hardest thing that you ever do, which is one of the reasons that knowing as much as you can about the process of legally parting ways in Arizona is critical. In Arizona, one option that can take the place of divorce is filing for a legal separation. Here’s what you need to know:
What is Legal Separation?
A legal separation is very similar to a divorce in that couples must be residents of the state in order to request a legal separation, a petitioner must show grounds for the separation (either showing the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or that one or both spouses are or want to live separately), and the two parties negotiate the terms of the separation. Couples who are divorcing or legally separating must make decisions about tough issues like:
- How custody and visitation of children will be shared;
- How any property will be divided, including who will live in the couple’s current home; and
- Whether or not spousal maintenance will be included as part of the divorce/separation agreement.
All of the above are things that divorce and legal separation have in common. The biggest difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a divorce is a complete dissolution of the marriage, and once it is finalized and complete, both parties will be considered “single” and independent of one another in the eyes of the law. They both, therefore, maintain the right to remarry as they find appropriate.
In a legal separation, on the other hand, couples who part ways are still legally married! This means that a person who is legally separated, but not divorced, does not maintain the right to remarry.
Benefits of Legal Separation
Whether or not you and your spouse file for a legal separation or a divorce is a very personal decision that is dependent on a number of factors. You may choose legal separation over divorce if:
- You are unsure whether or not you want to permanently divorce from your spouse;
- You want to continue receiving insurance or other benefits on your spouse’s record;
- You are uncomfortable with divorce for religious or personal reasons;
- You want to legally separate for a set period of time to determine whether or not divorce is right for you.
For some couples, a legal separation can be a “test run” that helps them to decide what they want the long-term future to look like. After living apart for weeks or months, some couples may decide to give their marriage another try, whereas others will decide that filing for divorce is more appropriate. A legal separation can be thought of as a type of trial separation where there is a court-order that manages certain elements of the separation, such as responsibilities in regards to shared children.
If you’re unsure which is right for you, having an honest conversation with your spouse is the best place to start. From there, working with a therapist or marriage counselor, or/and consulting with a lawyer can prove helpful.
What are the Grounds for Filing Divorce?
Arizona is a ‘no-fault’ divorce state. You can end your marriage on the grounds that it is irretrievably broken. If you are having problems in your marriage in Arizona and are thinking about getting divorced, you will need to understand the grounds for filing for divorce. When we talk about grounds for divorce, there are both legal grounds and personal grounds. In other words, legal grounds for divorce are required in order for a couple to dissolve their marriage legally, while personal grounds for divorce simply are reasons that it may be time for a couple to make the decision to end their relationship.
Legal Grounds for Divorce in Arizona: No-Fault Divorce State
Some states in the U.S. still have grounds for legal divorce, which means that a party petitioning for a divorce must state a specific reason—or “grounds”—in order to get a divorce. However, under Arizona law, Arizona is what is known as a “no-fault” state. This means that, in order to get a divorce, the party who files a divorce petition only needs to state that there are irreconcilable differences and that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” There is no legal necessity to show fault in order to get a divorce.
At the same time, there is a timetable that anyone filing for divorce in Arizona must recognize. In order to be eligible to file for divorce in Arizona, at least one of the parties—the person filing for divorce or his or her spouse—must have been a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days beforehand.
How a Covenant Marriage Can Change
Although Arizona is a “no-fault” state when it comes to divorce, which means there need not be legal grounds (or fault) in order for a couple to get divorced, this changes if the parties entered into a covenant marriage. Arizona is one of only three states that continues to offer the option of a covenant marriage. Parties in a covenant marriage will have a much more difficult time getting divorced than those who are not, and those in a covenant marriage who want to get divorced will need to show legal grounds for divorce.
What is a covenant marriage? It is a distinct type of marriage in which both spouses promise to participate in counseling before filing for divorce and to wait for a longer period of time before being eligible to file for divorce. A covenant marriage is only available in Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana. In addition, under the covenant marriage statute, if the parties want to get divorced one of them must allege fault-based grounds for the divorce. Those fault-based grounds must include one of the following allegations about the other spouse:
- Committed adultery;
- Committed a felony offense and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment;
- Committed physical or sexual abuse;
- Has been living separate and apart from the other spouse for at least two years;
- Has been living separate and apart from the other spouse for at least one year following a legal separation; and/or
- Has abused drugs or alcohol.
Personal Grounds for Divorce
In addition to legal grounds for divorce, there are many personal reasons that a couple might decide it is time to file for divorce. An article in Psychology Today cites the following as the most common reasons—or personal grounds—for divorce:
- Growing apart;
- Financial difficulties;
- Lack of attention from the other spouse;
- Problems with a spouse’s personal habits;
- Sexual problems;
- Alcohol or other substance abuse problems;
- Arguments over the division of household duties; and/or
- Disagreements about how to raise the children.
What is a “Covenant Marriage”?
Arizona is one of just three states that still allows for ‘Covenant Marriage’. If you have one, there are special rules that will apply to your case.
How to File a Petition for Divorce
Are you ready to file the divorce petition? Find out the most important things that you need to know.
What You Need to Know About a Consent Divorce
If both partners are on board with the separation, you may be able to get a simplified, uncontested divorce through the filing of a consent decree.
Legal Annulment in Arizona
A limited number of marriages in Arizona can be declared null and void. Are you eligible for an annulment?
For many divorcing couples, mediation is the best way to reach a fair settlement agreement on the most complex and sensitive issues.
Preparing for Divorce Hearings and Divorce Litigation
Not all divorces move to trial, but some of them certainly do. Learn the basics of divorce hearings and trials in Arizona.
Can I Just Represent Myself in My Divorce Hearing?
It is often a big mistake. To best protect your rights and interests, it is strongly recommended that you hire an experienced Arizona divorce lawyer.
Understanding Property Division in Arizona
Disputes over assets and debts are often among the most contentious in divorce cases.
How Does Spousal Support Work in Arizona?
The financially advantaged spouse may be required to pay their former partner alimony following the divorced.
Child Support Payments
Parents have a duty to provide support for their children. Learn about Arizona’s child support guidelines.
When Can the Court Deviate from the Child Support Guidelines?
While the state has put child support guidelines into place, family law courts can deviate from these guidelines when the circumstances warrant doing so.
Get Professional Legal Guidance
Do not wait to take action. If you are separating from your spouse in Arizona, you need an experienced, compassionate divorce lawyer by your side as soon as possible.