📌Learn the Seven Steps of the Arizona Divorce Process
The Arizona Divorce Process Explained
If you are facing a divorce in Arizona, it is important that you understand the Arizona divorce process. Having an understanding of the divorce process in Arizona will help you plan for yourself, your family, and plan how to manage your finances both during the divorce process and after your divorce is finalized.
We want to talk to you about the seven steps in the Arizona divorce process, including:
- Filing for Divorce in Arizona
- Discovery and Disclosure Phase of the Divorce Process
- Temporary Orders Hearings
- Resolution Management Conference and Mediation
- Pretrial Procedures
- Divorce Trials
- Post-Trial Motions and Appeals
Our experience has taught us that one of the most important aspects of speaking to our clients about divorce is making sure they understand what will happen at each stage of the divorce process.
Many people are overwhelmed and confused about what will happen to their children, their property, and their lives during a divorce in Arizona. Our experience has shown time and time again that explaining the process of a divorce and the options a person has in a divorce provides clients with a sense of control over their divorce and their lives.
So, we are going to break down the process of divorce in Arizona for you to ensure you have more control over your divorce, your life, and the life of your children.
Step #1: Filing for Divorce is the First Step of the Divorce Process in Arizona
The first step in the divorce process is the filing of the Petition for Dissolution and related documents.
The individual who “starts” the divorce is referred to as the Petitioner.
The person responding to the divorce petition in the divorce is referred to as the Respondent.
Although either spouse may start a divorce, at least one of the spouses must be a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days before filing for divorce. To file for divorce, you must submit the following documents with the court:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage;
- Preliminary Injunction;
- Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance;
- 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. Generally, a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage contains the following information:
- A statement 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 where 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 and debts;
- A statement regarding who should pay attorney fees for the divorce;
Some people are very specific in the allegations they include in their Petition for Dissolution or Marriage regarding how the assets and debts should be divided, who should have custody of the children, and who should pay child support and alimony and how much that support should be.
In our practice, we are not specific in the allegations we include in our clients’ Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. We do this because a person including specific requests in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage can be locked into whatever he or she put in their Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
By not being specific in the allegations included in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, our clients have much more flexibility in negotiating a settlement of their case or adapting the position they take in the divorce based upon information they learn about during the divorce.
The following represents some of the non-specific allegations we would include in a client’s Petition for Dissolution of Marriage:
- The court should equitably divide the parties’ assets and debts;
- The court should enter child custody orders that are in the best interests of the children;
- The court should order the payment of child support as the court determines to be in the best interests of the children;
- The court should award spousal maintenance in such amount and duration as the court deems reasonable;
As you can see, we do not request a specific distribution of assets, specific child custody or visitation schedule, or specific awards of child support or spousal maintenance. This provides our clients with the maximum amount of flexibility in the divorce process in Arizona.
The Preliminary Injunction in Arizona
When you file for a divorce in Arizona, you are also required to file a Preliminary Injunction. The Clerk of the Court issues the preliminary injunction when the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed.
The Preliminary Injunction is immediately effective upon the person submitting the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and is valid on the other spouse when that spouse is served with the Preliminary Injunction. We will talk about serving divorce documents a little later in this article.
We want you to know that the Preliminary Injunction is the equivalent of a court order that prevents either party from concealing assets, transferring ownership of assets, or your children from Arizona, among other things.
It is very important you read and understand the orders contained in the Preliminary Injunction. You may be held in contempt if you violate the orders in the Preliminary Injunction. We tell our clients that violating the orders in the Preliminary Injunction is a very bad way to start a divorce.
The Summons in Arizona
You are also required to file a Summons when you file for divorce in Arizona. The Summons is a document that is served on your 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
You are also required to file a Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance when filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
The law in Arizona allows a spouse going through a divorce who is covered by his or her spouse’s health insurance plan the right to retain that plan by converting that health insurance plan to an individual health insurance plan.
Health insurance can be a very important consideration in a divorce. So, we talk to our clients about their past and current health conditions to determine whether they should convert their spouse’s plan to a private plan or whether they should consider obtaining their own separate health insurance plan.
You will want to consider whether you have preexisting conditions and whether those conditions will be covered or excluded if you either convert your spouse’s health insurance to an individual plan or you simply secure a new health insurance plan.
Sensitive Data Sheet in an Arizona divorce
The court needs a lot of information from the parties in a divorce. The court needs to know the dates of birth, social security numbers, and the like for you, your spouse, and your children. You must disclose all of that information in what is called a Sensitive Date Sheet.
Since this information could be used by people committing identity theft, the Sensitive Data Sheet is not available for the public to view. So, this important information is kept confidential by the court.
Notice to Creditors in an Arizona divorce
Another document you are required to file with your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is a Notice to Creditors.
Arizona law requires creditors to provide information to a spouse regarding the debts of 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.
However, that only works if you know where your spouse has taken credit, such as credit card. It is our experience that a better way to identify all of your spouse’s creditors is to obtain a copy of his or her credit report. In almost all of our client’s cases, we mail a request to a credit bureau to obtain our client’s spouse’s credit history to identify all current and past debts of that spouse.
This is important because the law in Arizona is that each spouse will be responsible for 50% of all debts not identified and divided in the divorce decree. Imagine how damaging it could be to get divorced and later discover previously undisclosed debts for which you are 50% responsible. Obtain your spouse’s credit report can identify those otherwise undisclosed debts.
Parenting Class Notice in an Arizona Divorce
You are also required to file a Notice About the Required Parenting Class when you file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona.
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.
We explain to our clients that the parenting class is not designed to teach you how to raise or take care of your children. The required parenting class is, instead, designed to teach you how to insulate your children from the negative impacts divorce can have on children. It is also designed to teach you how to effectively co-parent with your spouse after the divorce.
One of the goals we have with our clients is to reach an agreement regarding a parenting time schedule as quickly as possible after the divorce is filed. We do this because we know how important it is to get the children stabilized with a consistent parenting time schedule as quickly as possible after a divorce is filed.
What Happens After You File for Divorce in Arizona
Since Arizona is a no-fault state, neither spouse needs to give a reason why they want a divorce other than to allege the marriage is irretrievably broken. However, Arizona law recognizes the validity of what is referred to as a “covenant marriage”, which is a fault-based divorce. The discussion of covenant marriages is outside the scope of this article, but you can learn more about a covenant marriage here.
After you file all of the required divorce documents with the court, you must serve the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and related documents our your spouse.
Although almost every spouse served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage files a response to that divorce petition, there is a small percentage of spouses who do not and, therefore, result in the entry of a default.
A discussion of the default divorce is beyond the scope of this article, but you can learn more about a default divorce in Arizona here.
After the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and related documents are served on your spouse, you will enter the “discovery and disclosure” phase of the divorce process in Arizona, which we discuss below. This is also the time during which either spouse may ask the court to issue Temporary Orders for the court to issue parenting time, child support, and spousal maintenance orders, among other things.
After the “discover and disclosure” phase of your divorce, you will then enter the settlement phase of your divorce and attend a Resolution Management Conference and/or be scheduled for a mediation, which we also discuss below.
If you are unable to settle your case at the Resolution Management Conference and/or mediation, your case will be set for a final divorce trial. If you believe you judge made mistakes in the final divorce trial, you will have the opportunity to file post-trial motions to correct those mistakes or file an appeal of your case to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Step #2: Discovery and Disclosure Phase of an Arizona Divorce
If the divorce is not settled early in the divorce process, the case enters what is called 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;
- A spouse’s attorney conducting the deposition of the other spouse;
The “discovery and disclosure” phase of the divorce process enables you or your attorney to obtain the necessary information to prepare to settle your case or present that information and documentation to the court at the final divorce trial.
It has been our experience with our own clients that obtaining information and documentation quickly and efficiently during the “discovery and disclosure” phase of the divorce process will have a significant impact on how long our own clients’ divorce cases last and how much those cases cost.
We suggest you carefully review all of the information you obtain from your spouse and that you outline all of the important information in a master case memorandum. This way, you will have all of the information at your fingertips in one document. This process enables our divorce attorneys to easily identify what we have, what we still need, and how we will obtain any missing information of documentation.
Step #3: Temporary Orders Hearings in an Arizona Divorce
Either spouse may file a Motion for a Temporary Orders Hearing. The purpose of the temporary orders 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, use of community assets, payment of community bills, and even attorney fees.
We suggest you try to reach agreements with your spouse before deciding to ask the court to conduct a Temporary Orders Hearing. Although the issuance of temporary orders may be necessary in many cases, the problem we see with the issuance of temporary orders is that those orders tend to polarize the spouses in the divorce making it more difficult for spouses to compromise with each other for purposes of settlement.
The other problem with temporary orders are that many judges will only give you thirty minutes to one hour to present evidence at a Temporary Orders Hearing whereas you likely have either a half-day or full-day to present evidence at the final trial.
Our experience has been that polarizing positions after a brief hearing where all of the available evidence was not available can, at times, cause more problems than they solve; although this is very specific to the details of each specific case.
Step #4: Resolution Management Conference in an Arizona Divorce
Most judges will schedule the parties to attend a mandatory Dispute Resolution Conference. A Dispute Resolution Conference is scheduled for the purpose of allowing your judge to get more information about the disputed issues in your case.
We use this opportunity in front of our clients’ judges to influence the judge as to why our client’s position is reasonable and the reason we believe the other spouse’s position should not be accepted by the judge.
Even though the judge cannot rule on those contested issues at the Resolution Management Conference, it helps our clients settle their divorce case if the judge informs the opposing party that he or she agrees our clients’ positions are the more reasonable of the two positions. In other words, it is hard to argue with our clients when the judge assigned to the case is indicating he or she is likely to rule in our client’s favor if the case goes to trial.
Step #5: 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 may take to complete.
The judge will also issue orders dictating what needs to be done by both parties before the day of trial.
Joint Pretrial Statement in an Arizona Divorce
If the parties do 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;
It is important you do not forget to list all the issues in your case. If you fail to include an issue in the pretrial statement, you may be prevented from raising that issue at your final divorce trial. It is our experience that the more detail you include in the Joint Pretrial Statement the better. In our clients’ cases, we provide detailed facts of the case, the law that applies to our clients’ cases, and the outcome we believe should occur.
In many of our clients’ cases, the judge asks to see both attorneys in the judge’s chambers prior to actually starting the trial. The judge then proceeds to tell the opposing counsel that he or she has read the Joint Pretrial Statement and how he or she is likely to rule if the trial is conducted. This usually results in the opposing party having to concede to our clients’ positions without the need to have a final trial.
Step #6: Divorce Trial in Arizona
In those cases that still do not settle, the spouses will present their evidence to the court at the final divorce trial.
The judge has up to sixty days to issue a decision after the final divorce trial is completed. The divorce case is then over.
Well, the situation is almost over. Let’s talk about what can happen after the final divorce trial; the filing of post-trial motions and appeals.
Step #7: 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.
If you need information about the Arizona divorce process, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona divorce attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in divorce cases in Arizona.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona divorce case around today.
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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 the information on this page 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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