Arizona Divorce Process | Step by Step Timeline
The Arizona Divorce Process Explained
Our Arizona divorce attorneys know that most people feel going through a divorce feel scared for many reasons. One of the reasons people are afraid of the Arizona divorce process itself is because they do not know what the Arizona divorce process entails or how to choose the right attorney for their divorce. The state laws we share with you applies to all divorce cases in family courts in Maricopa County and throughout Arizona. We are going to discuss the process of filing a divorce in Arizona.
This is understandable but, fortunately, very easily fixed. We are going to do that for you now in this step by step guide. A divorce, or dissolution of marriage as it is referred to legally, is the court procedure used to end a marriage. Knowing the Arizona divorce process before you hire an attorney is important.
You should know as much as you can about the things that must be done in your case, as well as the things that should be done, but are optional, to come out on top. We are going to share the entire divorce process in Arizona with you, so you can be strategic in your divorce.
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Filing for Divorce is the First Step of the Divorce Process in Arizona
The individual who “starts” the divorce is termed the Petitioner, while the other party in the divorce is termed the Respondent. Either spouse may begin a divorce in Arizona by filing a petition for dissolution of marriage, but one or the other must have been a resident of the state of Arizona for at least 90 days before filing.
To file for divorce, you must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, a Preliminary Injunction, a Summons, a Notice to Convert Health Insurance, a Sensitive Data Sheet, a Notice to Creditors, and information on the Arizona Parenting Class if children are involved. Let us explain what each of these documents is and what they mean.
Filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona
A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage contains statements about when and where the parties were married, a statement that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the names and dates of birth of the parties children and the addresses the children have lived for the past five years, a statement pertaining to the payment of child support and spousal maintenance, general statements about the division of community, common, joint and separate property, and any requests for attorney fees.
The Preliminary Injunction in Arizona
A preliminary injunction is an order of the court issued by the clerk of the court upon the filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. It is immediately effective upon the person filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and is effective on the other spouse when it is served upon that other spouse. The injunction prevents either party from concealing assets, transferring ownership of assets, and removing the children from Arizona among other things.
The Summons in Arizona
The summons is a document that is served on the other spouse and contains information on what that spouse must do to avoid the court entering a default judgment of divorce. It notifies the person the divorce has been filed and informs them how much time they have to file a Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to avoid the entry of a default divorce decree.
Notice to Convert Health Insurance in an Arizona divorce
A spouse covered by his or her spouse’s health insurance plan has a right to retain that plan and convert his or her plan to an individual health insurance plan. The notice to convert health insurance notice simply informs the spouses of their right to convert their health insurance into their own individual plan without losing health insurance coverage.
Sensitive Data Sheet in an Arizona divorce
The court needs a lot of information from the parties in a divorce, including dates of birth, social security numbers and the like. To ensure this information remains protected, this information is all listed on the sensitive data sheet, which is not available to the public.
Notice to Creditors in an Arizona divorce
In Arizona, creditors are required to provide information to a spouse regarding the debts owed by the other spouse in a divorce. The court, therefore, provides a form notice to creditors informing them of that right to enable each spouse to obtain credit card and other debt statements in a divorce without incurring the cost of issuing a subpoena.
Arizona Parenting Class Notice in an Arizona Divorce
If parties in a divorce have children, they are required by Arizona law to attend a parenting class and file proof of completion of that class with the court prior to the entry of a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. The notice informs the parties of the necessity to take the class and provides address and telephone numbers of class providers.
What Happens After You File for Divorce in Arizona
Since Arizona is a no-fault state, neither spouse needs to give a reason to obtain a dissolution of marriage. At least one spouse needs to be able to assert the marriage is irretrievably broken. Additional laws apply to couples that chose to have a “covenant marriage.”
While everyone is entitled to represent themselves in their divorce, if you do so, the court will expect you to follow all the applicable laws and correct Arizona divorce processes that apply to the case at hand even though you are not a divorce attorney.
If you choose to represent yourself and you do not follow the laws and the Arizona divorce procedures applicable to your case, it may damage your chances of obtaining certain benefits and utilizing your legal rights. This can be particularly problematic if your case goes to trial, as the judge could determine you not be allowed to present evidence or call certain witnesses to the stand.
If you are at all unsure of the Arizona divorce process and laws about your divorce case, you should contact an experienced Arizona divorce attorney as soon as possible. In some situations, a judge could order your spouse (or ex-spouse) to pay all or part of your lawyer’s fees accumulated as a result of the proceedings.
Once you have contacted an Arizona family law attorney and obtained legal representation for your divorce, they will ensure all necessary documentation is filed and compliance with the Arizona rules of procedure as needed. If you were filing for Dissolution of Marriage as the Petitioner, the list of necessary documentation would begin with an actual Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and associated documents.
Once the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and related documents are filed, the documents need to be served on the other spouse by a process server. The other spouse (Respondent) then has 20 days to respond after being served if served in Arizona or 30 days to respond if they are not an Arizona resident and were served outside of Arizona.
If the Respondent fails to respond within the 20 (or 30) day period, the Petitioner may file for default. Once this request is filed, the Respondent has only 10 to 15 days to respond; depending on how they were served with the Motion and Application for Entry of Default (i.e., personally served or mailed).
If the 10-day rule applies and the Motion was sent, the other party receives an additional five days to file an Answer to avoid the default. If they do not, they run the risk that the divorce is granted on the terms of the Petitioner.
If the Respondent does not respond and is correctly defaulted, the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage may cover major issues including:
- Termination of the marriage
- Determination of custody and parenting time for the children and child support
- Determination of spousal maintenance or alimony
- Division of property that was obtained throughout the marriage/affirmation of property that was owned by either spouse before the marriage to the individual who owned it
- Determination of responsibility for debts accrued during the marriage as well as an affirmation of debts accrued by either spouse before marriage
- Determination of liability for attorney fees, costs, etc
- Optional restoration of the last name of the requesting spouse
If the other spouse files his or her Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the parties have the option of settling all the issues in their divorce. If they settle the case, they can submit their settlement agreement to the court along with a proposed divorce decree. They, however, cannot submit those settlement documents until 60 days have passed from the date the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was served on the responding spouse.
Discovery and Disclosure Phase of an Arizona Divorce
If the other spouse files his or her Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the parties have not settled their case, the case enters the discovery and disclosure phase of the divorce. In this phase of the Arizona divorce process, each party accumulates and shares information and documentation in the divorce.
Disclosure refers to the legal obligation to provide certain routine documents needed in a divorce. It includes the obligation to turn over income tax returns, copies of debt statements, copies of titles to property, income statements and the like.
Discovery refers to the process whereby both spouses can request additional documentation that falls outside the normal routine disclosure obligations. Discovery can include a request for the other spouse to produce certain documents, a request for the other party to admit certain facts, a standard list of questions the other spouse is required to answer under oath, and depositions, which enables your attorney to question your spouse under oath regarding the details of their position on issues and the alleged facts that support those positions
Temporary Orders Hearings in an Arizona Divorce
Either spouse may file a Motion for a Temporary Orders Hearing. The purpose of the hearing is for the judge to issue orders that will be in place until they are modified or a final divorce decree is issued. The court will schedule a hearing and listen to evidence after which he or she will issue orders pertaining to the temporary custody of the minor children, child support, alimony, used of community assets, payment of community bills and even attorney fees.
Pretrial Procedures in an Arizona Divorce
When the case is ready to go to trial, both parties will be required to attend a Resolution Management Conference so the judge may determine what issues need to be set for trial and how long that trial make take to complete. The judge will also issue orders dictating what needs to be done by both parties prior the day of trial.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Conference in an Arizona Divorce
Most judges will schedule the parties to attend a mandatory Dispute Resolution Conference. This is a legal way of referring to a settlement conference. This conference is scheduled well in advance of any trial and includes both parties, their attorneys, and a court assigned mediator.
The parties are also ordered to provide the mediator with separate and confidential mediation statements detailing their positions on the contested issues. If the case is settled in mediation, the parties file a Notice of Settlement with the court requesting the court to vacate the trial.
Joint Pretrial Statement in an Arizona Divorce
If the parties did not settle their case in mediation and have to go through with the trial of the case, each party will be required to cooperate with drafting and filing a Joint Pretrial Statement with the court in which both parties state their positions of the contested issues, their witnesses, their exhibits, a statement as to whether all discovery and disclosure has occurred, and a statement indicating they can complete the trial in the time allotted by the Court.
Divorce Trial in Arizona
Lastly in the Arizona divorce process, if the parties cannot agree on all of the issues the case proceeds to a divorce trial. When the trial is completed the judge has up to sixty days to issue a decision and the case is over. Well, the case is almost over. Let’s talk about what can happen after the trial in an Arizona divorce.
Post-Trial Motions and Appeals
After a ruling is issued, either party can file a Motion for Reconsideration, a Motion for a New Trial, or an Appeal in objection to the court’s decision. A Motion for Reconsideration simply contains arguments and citations to the trial with an explanation why that person feels the judge should change his or her mind and, consequentially, the ruling.
A Motion for New Trial is similar to a Motion for Reconsideration but argues there was some defect in the trial process. A Notice of Appeal puts the judge and the Arizona Court of Appeals on notice that a party intends to have the Arizona Court of Appeals review the judges orders and decisions in hopes some decisions can be set aside by the Arizona Court of Appeals. As you can see, it is very important to understand your how your divorce may be handled.
You can call the experienced Scottsdale and Phoenix Arizona divorce attorneys at (480)305-8300 to get your questions regarding the Arizona divorce process answered. Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined family law legal experience.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about the Arizona divorce process to ensure everyone has access to information about divorce laws in Arizona. Chris is a divorce attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce.
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