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. They may not know the Arizona divorce process. They may not know what the Arizona divorce process entails. 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.
These concerns are understandable but, fortunately, very easily fixed. We are going to do that for you now in this step by step guide. A divorce referred to as a dissolution of marriage, is the court procedure used to end a marriage. Knowing the Arizona divorce process before you hire an attorney is essential.
You should know as much as you can about the things you must do in your case. You should also know other things that, although not required, should be considered to come out on top. We are going to share the entire divorce process in Arizona with you so that 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 called the Petitioner. The other person in the divorce is called the Respondent. Either spouse may begin a divorce in Arizona by filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. However, one of the spouses must be a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days before you file for divorce. To register for divorce, you must submit the following documents:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage;
- Preliminary Injunction;
- Notice to Convert Health Insurance;
- A Sensitive-Data-Sheet;
- Notice to Creditors;
- 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
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage starts a divorce in Arizona. You will list all your allegations and a list of what you want the court to do in that document. Generally, a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage contains the following information:
- Statements about when and where you were married;
- A statement indicating the marriage is irretrievably broken;
- The names and dates of birth of your children;
- The addresses the children have lived for the past five years;
- A statement on the payment of child support;
- A statement about spousal maintenance;
- A statement regarding the division of property;
- A statement regarding who should pay attorney fees for the divorce;
The Preliminary Injunction in Arizona
The Clerk of the Court issues a preliminary injunction when the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed. It is immediately effective upon the person submitting the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and is valid on the other spouse when 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. The Summons notifies the other spouse of the divorce. It also informs them how much time they have to file a Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
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 health insurance to an individual health insurance plan. The notice to convert health insurance notice informs the spouses of their right to convert their health insurance into their 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. The court needs dates of birth, social security numbers, and the like. This information is 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
Parents with children are required by Arizona law to attend a parenting class. They are also required to file proof they completed that class before their a divorce is final. The notice informs the parties of the necessity to take the course 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. Other laws apply to couples that chose to have a “covenant marriage.”
Everyone may represent themselves in their divorce. A person representing themselves must follow the laws and Arizona divorce processes that apply to the case even though they are not a divorce attorney.
You may harm your case if you represent yourself in your divorce. Harm to your case can happen by not following the laws and the divorce procedures applicable to your situation. Representing yourself may also damage your chances of obtaining certain benefits and utilizing your legal rights. Presenting your case at trial can be difficult if the judge prevents you from presenting some evidence or prevents you from using certain witnesses at trial.
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.
An experienced divorce attorney does everything correctly. An experienced attorney will ensure all necessary documentation is filed in 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.
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and related documents need to be served on the other spouse by a process server. The other spouse (Respondent) has 20 days to respond after being served if served in Arizona. The other spouse has 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. The Respondent has only 10 to 15 days to respond after an Application for Default is filed; depending on how they were served with the Motion and Application for Entry of Default.
If the 10-day rule applies and the Motion was mailed, the other party receives an additional five days to file an Answer to avoid the default. If they do not, they run the risk the court will give the filing spouse everything they put in their Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
If the Respondent does not respond and the court enters a default, the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage may cover significant issues including:
- The termination of the marriage;
- The determination of custody and parenting time for the children and child support;
- The decision of spousal maintenance or alimony;
- The division of marital property obtained during the marriage and assignment of separate property owned prior to the marriage;
- The determination of responsibility for debts accrued during the marriage as well as an affirmation of debts accumulated by either spouse before the marriage;
- The decision of liability for attorney fees, costs, etc.;
- The restoration of the maiden name of the requesting spouse;
The parties can settle their case after the other spouse files a response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
If they settle the case, they can submit their settlement agreement to the court along with a proposed divorce decree. They, however, cannot file those settlement documents until 60 days have passed from the date of service of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
Discovery and Disclosure Phase of an Arizona Divorce
If the case is not settled, 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 requirement 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 the following:
- 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
The taking of 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. The court will then issue orders about 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
The parties will be required to attend a Resolution Management Conference before the court schedules a trial. At the Resolution Management Conference, the judge will determine what issues will be resolved at a hearing and how long that trial make take to complete. The judge will also issue orders dictating what needs to be done by both parties before 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. A Dispue Resolution Conference is a settlement conference. This conference is planned 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 settles 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, they will have to go to trial to resolve the issues in their divorce. Before trial, the parties will have to complete a Joint Pretrial Statement. The Joint Pretrial Statement will contain the following:
- A list of the contested issues;
- The parties’ position on those contested issues;
- A list of each parties’ witnesses that will be called to testify at trial;
- A list of each parties’ exhibits that will be used at trial;
- A list of objections to the calling of witnesses or the use of exhibits at trial;
- A statement as to whether all discovery and disclosure has occurred;
- A statement from the parties indicating whether they will complete the trial in the time scheduled for the trial;
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. .The judge has up to sixty days to issue a decision after the hearing. The divorce case is then over. Well, the situation 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 is a request for the judge to change his or her rulings.
A Motion for New Trial is similar to a Motion for Reconsideration but argues there was some defect in the trial process.
A person who wants to challenge the court’s rulings to the Arizona Court of Appeals files a Notice of Appeal. A Notice of Appeal puts everyone on notice a party in the divorce is appealing final rulings in the divorce. A trial court’s decision can be set aside by the Court of Appeals.
As you can see, it is imperative you understand how to handle your divorce. Alternatively, you should hire an experienced divorce attorney to handle your divorce for you.
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.
Arizona Divorce Process Common Questions
How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in Arizona?
A divorce in Arizona can take as little as 60 days if both spouses agree to the terms of their divorce. A contested divorce can take one to two years to complete if the divorce is contested.
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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. The procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce are based upon principles of honesty and integrity. Chris and his staff care about what their clients are going through in a divorce.
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