Arizona Divorce Laws
Arizona divorce laws are in Title 25 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. Those statutes are the subject of hundreds of Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court decisions. It is a lot to digest even for divorce attorneys with many years of experience. We are going to break down the Arizona divorce laws that apply to almost every divorce in Arizona.
Laws of Divorce in Arizona
Perhaps the easiest to resolve is that the actual dissolution of the marriage is the easiest issue to resolve. Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-312 outlines four requirements to get a divorce. Specifically, that statute requires proof of the following to allow a judge to issue a divorce decree:
- One of the spouses was a resident of Arizona for at least ninety days prior to the date the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was filed;
- The conciliation provisions of A.R.S. 25-381.09 either do not apply or have been met ;
- The marriage is irretrievably broken;
- To the extent it has jurisdiction to do so, the court has made provisions for child custody, child support, the maintenance of either spouse and the disposition of property;
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Residency to File for Divorce
The first point about Arizona residency rules is pretty easy to understand. You or your spouse must be an Arizona resident to file for divorce in Arizona. On a related note, you do not have to be a resident of Arizona for ninety days to file for legal separation instead of filing for divorce.
The second point needs a bit more of an explanation. The conciliation provisions of Arizona law allows either spouse to request marriage counseling through the court within sixty days of the date the divorce petition was served on the other spouse. If neither party believes the marriage can be saved or one party requested conciliation counseling that failed, the conciliation provisions of the law have been met.
Irretrievably Broken Marriage
The third requirement of the law is that the marriage is irretrievably broken; which is easily established by one spouse testifying the marriage is irretrievably broken with no prospect of reconciliation. This particular legal requirement is rarely disputed.
However, Arizona divorce laws found in A.R.S. 25-316 require a judge to either hold a hearing to determine if the marriage can be saved or refer the parties to conciliation counseling if one of the spouses denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
Arizona is a “no-fault” divorce state. This is one of the first Arizona divorce laws you’ll have to deal with if you plan on filing for a divorce. Some states allow for spouses to file for divorce based on the wrongful actions of one spouse. In Arizona, spouses cannot detail their spouse’s wrongdoing in their divorce petition. Many couples find that this is not an issue since the majority of marriages end based on irreconcilable differences.
Child Custody, Support Orders, and Division of Property
Lastly, the fourth requirement for a divorce is that the court must enter child custody orders, child support orders, orders for alimony, and divide the property and debts. What may not be so apparent by this fourth requirement is that a judge cannot actually divorce a couple before entering these other orders. In other words, the law in Arizona does not allow the court to bifurcate the divorce by entering a divorce decree and then later enter child custody, support, and division of property orders.
Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
All divorce cases must start with one spouse filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The law in Arizona is very clear on what needs to included in that Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-314 provides the following information must be included in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
- A verified Petition alleging the marriage is irretrievably broken;
- The birth date, occupation, and address of each party and the length of domicile in this state;
- The date of the marriage, the place at which it was performed and whether the marriage is a covenant marriage;
- The names, birth dates, and addresses of all living children, natural or adopted, common to the parties and whether the wife is pregnant;
- The details of any agreements between the parties as to support, custody and parenting time of the children and maintenance of a spouse;
- The relief sought;
Required Cooling Off Period
The Arizona legislature passed a law creating a sixty-day cooling off period. That divorce law is found in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-329. The law prohibits a judge from issuing a divorce decree until at least sixty days have passed since the divorce petition was served on the other spouse.
You should take notice that this sixty-day cooling off period coincides with the conciliation laws discussed above wherein either spouse can request mandatory marriage counseling within sixty days the divorce petition was served.
Divorce With Children
As discussed above, the law in Arizona requires a judge to issue child custody orders before it may issue a divorce decree. This requires the court to decide whether one parent will be ordered to make all of the major decisions for the children or whether both parents will share the authority to make those decisions together. The court must then decide a parenting time schedule that permits the parents to spend time with their children.
Child Custody Decisions
The law on child custody issues in a divorce is found in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-401 through 25.417. Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-403 sets forth the requirements the court must consider before making child custody decisions in a divorce. The factors contained in that statute are as follows:
- The past, present and potential future relationship between the parent and the child;
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest;
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- If the child is of suitable age and maturity, the wishes of the child as to legal decision-making and parenting time;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with the other parent. This paragraph does not apply if the court determines that a parent is acting in good faith to protect the child from witnessing an act of domestic violence or being a victim of domestic violence or child abuse;
- Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent;
- Whether there has been domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to section 25-403.03;
- The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time;
- Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title;
- Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02;
Child Support Decisions
The law on child support in a divorce is found in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-500 through 25-685. Those statutes contain the law on a parents duty to support his or her children and how child support is determined and, if necessary, enforced. The Arizona Supreme Court is authorized by statute to create the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, which is used to actually calculate child support.
Arizona Alimony Laws
The next thing a judge needs to consider is whether it is going to order one spouse to pay the other spouse alimony. The divorce law regarding alimony is set forth in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-319. The law on alimony requires the court to first find that the spouse seeking alimony meets one of the following five requirements:
- Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs;
- Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient;
- Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability of the other spouse;
- Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient;
- Has significantly reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;
Dividing Community Property
The last thing the law requires a judge to do before that judge can divorce a couple is the requirement that the parties’ property is divided. The legislature in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-318 generally requires the court to “equitably” divide the parties property. Equitable is generally understood to be synonymous with a “fair” division of property and debts.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about Arizona divorce laws to ensure everyone has access to information about divorce in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona divorce 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.
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