Divorce in Arizona is formally known as a dissolution of marriage. Here is an overview of the procedures involved in filing for a divorce in this state.
Before you can file for divorce, you must satisfy what is commonly called the residency requirement, although it involves more than having an Arizona address. You or your spouse must have been “domiciled” in Arizona for at least 90 days – meaning, either of you must have taken legitimate action indicating that Arizona is your primary residence. For example, either of you must have registered to vote in the state or obtained an Arizona driver’s license.
Grounds For Divorce in Arizona
Another requirement is grounds for divorce. Arizona is a “no-fault divorce state,” which means you don’t need to prove that anyone is at fault. You only need to state that your marriage is irretrievably broken without the prospect of reconciliation. However, divorce grounds in Arizona are different if it is a covenant marriage. In this case, you will need to establish any of the following:
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Imprisonment of your spouse
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Living separately and apart for a minimum of two years
- Living separately and apart for a minimum of one year after a finalized legal separation
- Both you and your spouse agreeing to divorce.
Filing Your Divorce Petition In Arizona
To start the divorce process, file a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” in your county’s Superior Court. You can find the forms and instructions in the Arizona Judicial Branch’s website. Once you file the petition, you will be referred to as the Petitioner and your spouse as the Respondent.
Serving Your Spouse Divorce Papers in Arizona
“Serving” means sending the initial divorce papers to your spouse so they have a chance to respond. This is a formal process that must be done within 120 days from your petition date.
If your spouse does not have a lawyer yet, the documents must be served at their home. If they already have an attorney, you must send the papers to the law office instead.
For service to be valid, documents must be sent through either the deputy sheriff or a certified process server. Another option is serving the documents via certified mail with a return receipt… this can be done if your spouse lives inside or outside of Arizona.
Once your spouse has been served, they have 20 days to formally respond (or 30, if they live out of state). If they fail to respond in time, the court will likely pass a default judgment in your favor – that is, it may grant everything that you have requested in your divorce petition.
Uncontested Or Contested Divorce Proceedings in Arizona
An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse already agree on all aspects of the divorce. In this ideal scenario, you may only need to attend one basic hearing where the judge makes sure everything is agreed on before officially entering the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
The more common scenario is a contested divorce. This occurs when spouses cannot agree on any particular issue such as child custody, division of property, or spousal maintenance (alimony). It is possible for a divorcing couple to iron out these issues outside of court, creating a divorce agreement that they can then present to the judge. However, in more complex or contentious cases, the divorce may have to go to trial where the judge hears each side and makes decisions for the spouses.
Child Custody In Arizona Divorce
There are two types of Arizona child custody: decision-making authority (formerly called legal custody) and parenting time (formerly called physical custody). If you and your spouse cannot agree on the custody of your child, the court will have to decide on it. It will examine many factors, typically bringing in child development professionals to help assess the situation. The court does not favor one parent over the other. Its main goal is always to uphold the best interests of the child.
Property Division In Arizona Divorce
Under Arizona law, any property, debt, or a combination of the two, acquired by either spouse during marriage is considered “community property” and the property division must be determined between the couple during divorce. (There are a few exceptions, such as inheritance.) You and your spouse may choose to distribute the property yourselves, or have the judge decide on the division.
Alimony In Arizona Divorce
The judge decides whether a spouse should be awarded spousal maintenance, and if so, how much and for how long. Generally, a spouse may get alimony if they lack sufficient property to support their own needs, or if they cannot sufficiently earn for themselves. The court will also decide whether the support payments should be paid as a lump sum or as regular installments.
Contact an Experienced Arizona Divorce Lawyer
To learn more about how your divorce may proceed in Arizona, talk to us at Goldman Law by calling (602) 698-5520. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys can guide you on your best steps based on your specific circumstances.