How Do I Respond To A Divorce Petition In Arizona?

The divorce process begins with one spouse filing a divorce petition then serving (delivering) the papers to the other spouse. The spouse who receives the papers is called the respondent. If you have been served divorce papers in Arizona, you may either file your response within a certain time period, or file no response at all. This depends on whether or not you agree with the facts and terms specified in your spouse’s divorce petition.

Here is an overview of the documents you will receive, and a step-by-step guide on how to file a response to a divorce petition in AZ.

Documents Served In Arizona Divorce

In Arizona, a divorce petition is formally called “Petition for Dissolution of a Non-Covenant Marriage”. (Ending a covenant marriage requires a different process.) As the respondent, expect to be served the following documents:

  • Petition for Dissolution. This is your spouse’s official request to the court to terminate the marriage. It tells their side of the story, including marital situation, property and/or debt claims, child custody and support (if applicable), spousal maintenance, parenting time, and any other relevant details from their perspective. You’ll want to read this document carefully as it will contain claims that you may or may not agree with.
  • This calls you to appear in court. It also tells you how many days you have to file your response.
  • Preliminary Injunction. This is a court order telling both spouses what you can and cannot do regarding pending issues such as property, children, and others. Violating anything in the injunction can lead to serious legal trouble.
  • Notice of Rights About Health Insurance. Since your health care coverage could be affected by divorce, you need to read and understand your rights in this area.
  • Notice Regarding Creditors. This is a form allowing you to request information from creditors regarding debt that you or your spouse owes. Personal and marital debts will be examined during the divorce proceedings.
  • Information for Conciliation Court. Your spouse (the petitioner) may or may not include this. But whether or not you received this document, you may avail of the court’s conciliation or mediation services, which may help you and your spouse discuss settlements on divorce disputes.
  • Parenting Plan. This paper is only applicable if you have a minor child. It is a detailed plan on each parent’s time with the child and how parental decisions will be made. You and your spouse may develop this plan together, whether on your own, with the help of court staff or lawyers, or during mediation. It is also possible that the judge will be the one to make the parenting plan after hearing.
  • Child Support Worksheet. This is only applicable if you have a minor child. It shows the calculation that your spouse has done to determine how much child support they believe you should pay.

If you believe that a document is missing, you may approach the Clerk of the Superior Court in your county to ask for a copy.

When To File A Divorce Response In AZ

If you were served the papers within Arizona, you have 20 days to file a response with the court, starting from the date you received service. If you were served out of state, your time period is 30 days.

You may also choose not to respond at all, especially if you agree with everything in the divorce petition. If the court receives no response within the given timeframe, your spouse may then request for the divorce to default in their favor – subsequently, the court may grant everything that is requested in their petition.

Another way to express your agreement is to respond with a Consent. In this document, you and your spouse state that everything is agreed on, then you can file it with the court without waiting for your response deadline. This helps quicken the divorce process, as it is an uncontested divorce.

On the other hand, if there are items in the petition you disagree with, you may choose to either file a disagreeing Response right away (contested divorce), or spend some time to try to resolve disputes with your spouse. The 20- or 30-day deadline applies to either case.

How To File A Consent To Uncontested Divorce In AZ

Each county has its own procedure regarding filing, but here are basic instructions from the Maricopa County Superior Court:

  1. Wait 60 days after the divorce petition was served. The court requires this waiting period so that spouses can consider their decisions carefully and also attend engagements such as the Parenting Education class.
  2. If 60 days have passed with you and your spouse agreeing to all items in the divorce petition, you can both complete the Consent packet available from your county’s Superior Court. This packet includes the Consent Decree, Parenting Plan, Child Support Worksheet, and other required papers.
  3. Make three sets of the completed papers. Original documents are for the judge, while the two copies are for you and your spouse. The two sets of copies must each be contained in 9”x12” envelopes with enough postage; one addressed to you or your attorney, and the other to your spouse or their attorney.
  4. Mail or hand-deliver all papers (originals and copies) to the Family Department Administration of the court.
  5. Wait for the court’s decision. If all goes well, the Judge/Commissioner will sign and file the Decree, finalizing your divorce. If not, you will receive a Correction Notice or a hearing schedule so that you can iron out any mistakes or clarifications with the court.

Steps To File A Response To Contested Divorce In AZ

Each county has its own procedure regarding filing, but here are basic instructions from the Maricopa County Superior Court:

  1. Ask your county’s Superior Court for the divorce Response packet. This includes the form called “Response to Petition for Dissolution of a Non-Covenant Marriage (Divorce) With Minor Children” or “Response to Petition for Dissolution of a Non-Covenant Marriage (Divorce) Without Minor Children”, whichever applies. Also ask for the Family Department Sensitive Data/Coversheet. If you have a minor child, you must also get a Child Support Worksheet.
  2. Complete the form. Most of it are checkboxes and small blanks, but there are areas where you must provide longer descriptions or your own personal claims. For example, there is a section where you’ll summarize your own plan for dividing property and debts, and how your plan differs from that of your spouse. There are similar sections for spousal maintenance, minor children, and child support. Towards the end, you’ll have space to request for other orders and explain why.
  3. Sign the form in front of a notary public or the court clerk.
  4. Complete the Coversheet, the Parenting Plan, and the Child Support Worksheet (if applicable).
  5. Make three sets of the completed papers. Original documents are for the court clerk, while the two copies are for you and your spouse.
  6. File all sets of papers with the court clerk. Personal delivery is necessary because you will need to take back the two copy sets after the clerk has notarized and stamped them.
  7. Keep one stamped copy for yourself; mail or hand-deliver the other set to your spouse or their attorney.
  8. Wait for the court to notify you of court dates such as the Initial Status Conference and hearing.

If you have questions or concerns about your particular divorce process, please don’t hesitate to talk to a lawyer. In Arizona, we at Goldman Law are ready to listen and guide you. Call our office at (602) 698-5520 today.