What are the steps of a divorce?

JENNIFER MOSHIER: Hi, I’m Jennifer Moshier. I’m the founder of Peaceful Family Law in Scottsdale, Arizona. So one common question I’ve already covered is: How long can your divorce take?

Now let’s talk about the steps of a divorce. This is important for different reasons. You have to file a petition to either begin in a legal separation or a divorce, also called a dissolution. A legal separation or a divorce is initiated by filing a petition for dissolution or a petition for legal separation.

Something to note is that a legal separation can later be converted to a divorce by agreement or by one person. What I often tell people is, “I can guarantee that you can get a divorce. I just can’t guarantee how long it’ll take.” And we covered that in a previous video. However, once you file that petition for dissolution or legal separation, you have to serve the other party with that.

Now, if you’re using collaborative process, this is going to be a piece of cake. It takes a few minutes. The other attorney will sign an acceptance of service. If you’re not using the collaborative process but you are friendly enough or at least cooperative enough that the two of you can sit down and sign an acceptance and a waiver of service, you waive the “right” to be served. I use that term in quotes because the right to be served often can mean that a process server knocks, knocks, knocks on your door while you’re having dinner, hands you legal papers, and says, “Are you so-and-so? You’ve been served.” And you then are notified at that point. “Oh my goodness, I am suddenly going through a legal action.”

This can be one of the most upsetting and difficult times of someone’s year. And so I always with service recommend that – you obviously want to take very clear steps to try to avoid escalating conflict by, if you can, trying to coordinate with the other person how service will happen.

A response to a petition for legal separation or dissolution is typically filed within 20 days if you’re inside the state. If you’re outside the state of Arizona, the response to legal separation or response to legal dissolution papers are filed within 30 days. Now, check your local rules always. This is not legal advice. This is just general legal information that’s available to anyone out there.

Once you filed a response, this initiates a process called discovery. The court will usually set an initial hearing at which time you’ll have a chance in Arizona to try to work out your issues. If you are not represented by an attorney during this initial hearing, it’ll be an early resolution conference. And you’ll have a chance to go to the conference, tell the court your side, they’ll tell the court their side, and you’ll see what you can agree on.

Sometimes there are agreements reached at this early conference. If you’re represented by attorneys or one of you has counsel, then your attorney will have you attend a resolution-management conference that will be set by the court.

We’ll talk about other types of hearings that can also arise, but they include things like temporary orders, petitions for things like spousal maintenance, child custody, parenting time, legal decision-making. Child custody is enveloped in those and we’ll talk about those in more depth later on in a different video.