Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona
A dissolution of marriage in Arizona, normally called a divorce, is a legal process by which you terminate your marital relationship and are returned to the status as a single person. Sounds simple enough but there are a lot of things that need to be settled or resolved by a judge before you can obtain a dissolution of your marriage in Arizona. We will walk you through the steps of a dissolution of marriage case, so you understand all of the steps involved in dissolving your marriage. Before we take a deep dive into the subject, we want you to know there are free services available through the court to help you save your marriage. Marital counseling is available at no charge through the Court’s Conciliation Services department.
First Step in Dissolving a Marriage in Arizona
The first step in dissolving a marriage in Arizona is to file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the county Superior Court in which you or your spouse resides. In addition to the divorce petition, you will need to file other associated paperwork including, among other things, a Summons, a Preliminary Injunction, a Notice to Convert Health Insurance, a Notice to Creditors, and a Sensitive Data Sheet. You need to bring several copies of those documents to the clerk of the court to have them filed. You need multiple copies because the clerk of the court will file one copy with the court and will date stamp (referred to as “conforming copies”) of at least two additional copies, which will be handed back to you. One copy is for you to keep and the other copy will be served by a process server on your spouse.
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Your spouse will then have a certain period of time to file a written Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage after he or she has been served with the divorce petition. If a response is not filed by your spouse within the time stated in the Summons, you can apply for a “default” against your spouse and may, as long as proper notice of the default is filed and received by your spouse, be able to proceed to a default hearing to obtain a court order dissolving your marriage, dividing your assets and debts, and awarding custody of your children. If your spouse does not default, it will be up to you in most cases to pursue your case with the court. Let’s talk about those options next.
Resolution Management Conference
The court will not take any action, in most cases, on your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona unless you prompt the court to do so. When you filed your case, you were automatically placed on the court’s “inactive calendar”. The term “inactive calendar” is a complicated way of saying your case has been filed but your case is not on the court’s “active calendar”, which is another complicated way of saying your case has not been set for trial (i.e., the court’s “active calendar”). If you do not move your case from the inactive calendar to the trial calendar you will receive a notice after 120 days have passed from the date the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was filed providing a date in the future at which time the court will summarily dismiss your case. So, let’s talk about how we avoid that from happening.
To get your case on the active calendar, you can do one of two things. You can file a Motion for Temporary Orders or a Motion to Set and Certificate of Readiness. A Motion for Temporary Orders is a written request that the court have a hearing to issue orders pertaining to custody of your children, child support, spousal maintenance, use of certain property during the case (such as who will have possession and use of the family home), and payment of community bills and, possibly, an order that one spouse pay an amount for the other spouse to hire an attorney. A Motion to Set and Certificate of Readiness is simply a document indicating you have all the documentation and information you need to properly present your case at trial and a request that the court set your case for trial; thereby moving you to the court’s active calendar.
Upon receiving either the Motion for Temporary Orders or Motion to Set, the court will schedule a Resolution Management Conference. You receive a notification of the location, date and time for you and your spouse to appear for that Resolution Management Conference. Evidence is not usually required to be presented at that conference, but read your notice carefully to see whether the court intends to hear your testimony at that conference. So, what is the purpose of a Resolution Management Conference in a Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona. The purpose of that conference is for the court to talk to both parties, determine what you agree on and what you disagree on, and to manage the case. The court can order you to attend mediation, set your case for trial, or discuss the issues with you to see if you can settle your disagreements with the assistance of the judge assigned to your case.
Settle Your Dissolution of Marriage Case
Although a judge needs to approve your settlement, it is almost always better to settle your Dissolution of Marriage case under terms you and your spouse agree upon. In Arizona, you do not have to appear before a judge if you settle all the issues in your case. All you have to do is to draft an settlement agreement in the proper form which is then signed by both spouses and submitted to the court with a proper Consent Decree for Dissolution of Marriage. The judge will then sign the Consent Decree within a couple of weeks and will mail your final divorce decree to you and your spouse in the self-addressed and stamped envelopes you provide to your judge when you submitted your Consent Decree to the Court.
Take Your Dissolution of Marriage Case to Trial
If you do not settle your case, you will have to proceed to a final divorce trial. You will be required to follow all of the court’s pretrial orders before trial which will include providing a written statement of the disagreements you and your spouse have related to the divorce and your position on those issues. You will also need to list all witnesses and exhibits you intend to present to the court at your final divorce trial. The court will also order you to provide all of your exhibits to the judge’s judicial assistant before trial. You will then arrive at the time the court scheduled for your trial and you will testify, present the testimony of witnesses, and move your exhibits into evidence during your trial. Once that trial is completed, the court will either issues his or her decisions that same day or will tell you he or she will be taking some time to review all of the evidence and will rule at a later date.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about dissolution of marriage in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about divorce laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law 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.