Deciding to separate?

There is life after divorce. The divorce process can be lonely and intimidating and is one of the hardest family law issues you will face. Your lawyer should offer you every option and help you stay in control over decisions made about your life. If you have explored the option of Collaborative Divorce and don't feel it will work for you, let's explore how we can help you get through the dissolution of your marriage.
Arizona has a 60-day waiting period for divorce.
Arizona is a No-Fault, Community Property State.
Child custody is decided by the Court unless you reach agreements.
On average, divorce costs more in court than through collaborative law.

Arizona Divorce Lawyers

Frequently Asked Questions

1How does the divorce process work in Arizona?
In Arizona, divorce begins when a person files a petition for dissolution of marriage with the court. The Petition is filed along with the following required documents:
  • Summons: This tells the other party when they must respond and what has been filed against them. This summons starts the legal deadline ticking for a Response to be filed.
  • The Preliminary Injunction: A Preliminary Injunction binds you as soon as you file it, and the other party once they are served. The Preliminary Injunction says that you cannot take your children from the State of Arizona, you cannot dispose of assets and you cannot hide or conceal assets or cash, among other items.
  • The Notice of Health Care Rights: You are entitled to remain on your spouse’s insurance policy until the divorce is finalized.
  • The Notice to Creditors: This allows you to obtain a copy of your spouse’s credit report.
  • A Notice to Attend Parent Information Program: If you are in any case involving children, then you must attend a Parent Information Program class. Some of those classes are available online.

After the Petition is filed, a copy of the petition must be served by a process server or by acceptance of service to the other spouse. If the spouse who was served with divorce papers lives in Arizona, that spouse has 20 days to file a written response. If the spouse lives outside the state, they will have 30 days to respond.

If the spouse being served does not live in Arizona, it is important that the spouse has substantial connections to the state. If a person who is served does not have sufficient ties to that state, the court will lack personal jurisdiction to handle any other matter besides child custody and the dissolution of the marriage. Lack of personal jurisdiction means that the court cannot make any determinations of child support, alimony, payment of attorneys’ fees, or the division of assets if the spouse being served does not have proper ties to Arizona. Any divorce decree made by a court without proper jurisdiction may be overturned, according to the Arizona Supreme Court in Schilz v. Superior Court.

Once the proper paperwork is filed for the divorce, either party can petition the court to schedule a Temporary Orders Hearing. These hearings can be used to accomplish a number of things, including custody orders, alimony, child support, payment of debt or attorneys’ fees, or even determining which spouse can use vehicles or homes. However, like the name suggests, these orders are only temporary. Once a final divorce decree is signed by the court, any Temporary Orders made during the case will be set aside and the divorce decree will become the final authority.

Before setting a Temporary Orders Hearing, a court will normally require both spouses to attend a Resolution Management Conference (RMC). This conference allows the judge to see what the parties agree on and what issues still need to be settled. The court will often send the parties to mediation if he thinks they can work out their differences, or he may order a Temporary Orders Hearing after the RMC. The judge may want to follow up the RMC with a status conference to determine if the parties were able to resolve their differences. Once the issues have been narrowed down, the court will set a trial date. After trial, the judge has 60 days to issue a final ruling on the case.
2Do I need to hire an attorney for my divorce case?
Hiring an attorney for your divorce is not required by the state of Arizona, but it is highly recommended. Any person who chooses to represent themselves is held to the same standards and rules as an attorney, which means you will have to know and understand all the law that may apply to your case. You will also have to abide by the same standards as an attorney. This can be very difficult without the proper training, especially since the court and its staff cannot give you any legal advice or tell you when or where to file court documents.

To make matters worse, a court may impose sanctions on you if you fail to follow all the appropriate rules when representing yourself. Sanctions mean that the court may deny you the use of certain witnesses or exhibits, and they may even prevent you from presenting some claims or issues at trial. The best way to avoid these pitfalls is by hiring a licensed Arizona family law attorney. These attorneys work with divorces every day and have mastered the appropriate rules and laws for your case, making them an extremely valuable asset in settling your divorce.
3What requirements must I meet to file for a divorce?
You must be an Arizona resident for at least 90 days before you will be permitted to file for divorce in the state. Additionally, you must be a resident of the same county that you intend to file in. Your spouse does not need to reside in the same county as you, but they should live in the same state or at least have several ties to the state if you want the court to have authority to make determinations about your divorce. The court may be limited in what decisions it can make if your spouse does not reside in Arizona or have sufficient ties to the state.

When filing for divorce in Arizona, you must first file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the accompanying documents. The petition must be notarized before you can file it, and all the documents must also be served on your spouse. If your spouse also lives in Arizona, they have 20 days to file an answer. They will have 30 days to respond if they live outside the state. If there are any defects in the filing or serving of the documents, any orders made by the court may become either void or voidable, depending on the seriousness of the defect.
4Do I need to show any reasons for filing a divorce?
In Arizona, you only need to show the court that your marriage is irretrievably broken. Arizona is a no fault divorce state, so you will not need to prove that either party is responsible for the divorce. You will not need to testify about why your marriage is irretrievably broken; the court will accept your statement that it is irretrievably broken before entering a divorce decree.
5Will adultery affect my divorce?
Even though Arizona is a no fault divorce state, adultery can still affect your divorce in other ways. Because courts require that each spouse manage their community assets in a way that benefits the marriage, any community money spent to perpetrate adultery may need to be reimbursed to the innocent spouse. Spending community money on adultery is considered a waste of community assets and courts will often reward innocent spouses with compensation for that waste.
6Can the court order my spouse to pay my attorneys’ fees?
Courts are permitted to order a spouse to pay either part or all of the other spouse’s costs for attorneys’ fees. For a court to award attorneys’ fees they must consider the factors required by the relevant Arizona statute, A.R.S. 24-324. Courts will look at how reasonable both parties have behaved throughout the course of litigation as well as the financial resources of each party in paying those costs. Spouses who unnecessarily prolong or complicate litigation, or who have considerably more financial assets, are more likely to be compelled to pay the attorneys’ fees of the other spouse. Public policy favors early settlement.
7Where do I go to file for divorce?
Only the Superior Court has the authority to grant a divorce in Arizona. Each county in Arizona has several divisions of trial courts, and the highest division is referred to as the Superior Court. If you and your spouse live in the same county, file your divorce in the Superior Court of that county. However, the matter can become more complicated when your spouse lives in a different county or state. Regardless of where the other party lives, the person filing for divorce must be able to prove that at least one of the parties has resided in Arizona for at least 90 days.
8Who will get custody of my children during the divorce?
Before a court says otherwise, both parents have equal right to the custody and control of their children once a divorce is filed. The court has authority to decide which parents can make medical, educational, and other important decisions for the children. Additionally, the judge may outline when each parent will have time with the children by making a parenting time order. Before a court makes any determination, however, there are no written rules determining when each parent can spend time with their children.

Many times, one parent will prevent their spouse from seeing their children by withholding them without consent. Judges, however, do not look at this type of conduct very favorably. In fact, some judges will even see this behavior as reason to make the spouse who does not withhold children the primary residential parent. If you and your spouse are unable to reach a parenting time agreement on your own, you will want to file a Motion for Temporary Orders Hearing. In this hearing, the court will make a temporary determination of when each parent receives parenting time during the divorce process.

If there is a question as to whether the father is the biological father of a child born during the marriage, it is important to address this concern at the start of the divorce. The law will automatically presume that the married husband is the father of the child. If this is not the first issue that you address during your divorce, the court may preclude you from contesting the issue later in the trial.
9Are there any advantages to filing for divorce before my spouse files?
Other than some minor procedural benefits, there are no real advantages to filing for divorce before your spouse. The person who files for a divorce is referred to as the Petitioner and the other party is called the Respondent. There are no real pros or cons to being either party, but the Petitioner will have the first opportunity to present their case at trial.

Additionally, the Petitioner will have an opportunity to present additional evidence at trial after the Respondent has concluded their case. This opportunity for the Petitioner to present rebuttal evidence is sometimes seen as a tactical advantage, because the Petitioner gets to give the last words on the matter before the judge makes their decision. Many attorneys can take advantage of this opportunity to present a compelling argument to the judge that will not be addressed by the other party. While this minor advantage is worth mentioning, you should not rush to get a divorce simply for the opportunity to give rebuttal. If there is any chance of reconciliation in your marriage, wait to see an attorney until you are absolutely sure that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
10I am married in Arizona but I want to obtain an annulment. How do I file for annulment?
An annulment can be granted in Arizona under very specific circumstances. An annulment is a finding that your marriage essentially never existed. If you were not legally married, then there is no community property application to your relationship, and spousal maintenance would not play a role in the annulment. However, you could still pay child support for children in common in the relationship. Certain transactions that took place during the relationship may also have legal ramifications. But an annulment is difficult to obtain and can only be granted in cases in which fraud is clear to the court. An annulment may also be granted based on technical factors, such as the failure to observe specific legal formalities when you marry. Call us today to discuss whether your marriage is eligible for an annulment as opposed to a divorce.

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