Steps of a Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona
A dissolution of marriage in Arizona is a legal process to end a marriage.
You are returned to the legal status as a single person when your marriage is dissolved.
Well, that sounds simple enough.
However, you need to understand there are many issues that must be resolved before you will 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.
Before we take a deep dive into the subject of dissolution of marriage, 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.
Either party may request these counseling services in the first sixty (60) days after the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed and served on the other spouse.
First Step in a Dissolution of Marriage Case in Arizona
The first step in pursuing the dissolution of marriage in Arizona is to file your Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage in the Superior Court.
You must allege your marriage is irretrievably broken in your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
You must also either affirm or deny if your marriage is a covenant marriage in your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
Each county in Arizona has its own Superior Court.
Each Superior Court, likewise, has its own family court division.
You would file your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the county where either you or your spouse lives.
You will be required to pay a filing fee; although you may apply for the court to waive the filing fee.
In addition to the divorce petition, you are required to file other associated paperwork including:
- 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 when they are filed.
You need multiple copies of the documents because the clerk of the court will file one copy with the court and will date stamp (referred to as “conforming copies”) at least two additional copies.
The clerk of the court will return the “conformed copies” to you.
One copy is for you to keep and the other copy will be served by a process server on your spouse.
Your spouse has a limited period of time to file a written Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage after he or she is served with the divorce petition.
If a response is not filed by your spouse within the time stated in the Summons, you may apply for a “default” against your spouse.
You may be able to proceed to a default hearing to obtain a court order dissolving your marriage.
The court, in a default hearing, will also divide your assets and debts, enter child custody orders, enter spousal support orders, and may award attorneys fees.
If your spouse does not default, it will be up to you to pursue your dissolution of marriage case with the court.
Let’s talk about that process next.
Getting Your Dissolution of Marriage on the Court’s Active Calendar
The court will not do anything after you filed your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona unless you prompt the court to do so.
When you filed your dissolution of marriage 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”.
This means your case has not been set for trial.
Once your case is set for trial, you are on the court’s “active calendar”.
You will receive a notice in the mail informing you of the dismissal of your case if you do not move your case from the inactive calendar to the court’s active calendar.
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 may file a Motion for Temporary Orders or you may file a Motion to Set and Certificate of Readiness.
Filing a Motion for Temporary Orders
A Motion for Temporary Orders is a written request for a short trial for the court to issue orders that will be in place until the dissolution of marriage is completed.
Examples of temporary orders include:
- Temporary orders for the custody and parenting time of your minor children;
- Temporary orders for child support;
- Temporary spousal maintenance award;
- Temporary use of certain property during the case (such as who will have possession and use of the family home);
- Temporary orders for the payment of community bills;
- Temporary orders for the payment of attorney fees for the divorce;
Filing a Motion to Set and Certificate of Readiness
A Motion to Set and Certificate of Readiness is a document indicating you are ready for your dissolution of marriage trial.
You must swear under oath you and your spouse have exchanged all necessary documents and information needed for that final trial.
Lastly, the Motion to Set and Certificate of readiness contains your request for the court to set your case for a final trial.
Your judge will then schedule a Resolution Management Conference.
The Dissolution of Marriage Resolution Management Conference
The court will schedule a Resolution Management Conference after it receives either the Motion for Temporary Orders or a Motion to Set and Certificate of Readiness.
The court will send a notice to you containing the location, the date and the time for you and your spouse to appear for that Resolution Management Conference.
Evidence is not usually required to be presented at that conference.
However, some judges will indicate that evidence may be presented at the Resolution Management Conference, so read your notice from the court very carefully.
The last thing you want to happen in your dissolution of marriage case is for the judge to begin taking evidence and ruling on issues in your case when you are not prepared to present your case.
The Purpose of the Resolution Management Conference
So, what is the purpose of a Resolution Management Conference in a Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona?
These conferences are scheduled because the judge knows very little about your case.
Your judge may not know if your case is complicated or simple.
Your judge does not know if mediation will help settle the issues or whether mediation will not be helpful.
Your judge does not know if only the two spouses will testify at trial or whether there will be a lot of witnesses.
The Resolution Management Conference allows your judge to order mediation of the case, set your case for trial, or discuss disagreements in an attempt to settle those disagreements.
Settling Your Dissolution of Marriage Case
Although a judge needs to approve any settlement agreement, it is 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 to get your marriage dissolved if you settle all the issues in your case.
If you settle everything, you will sign and deliver a settlement agreement in the proper form, along with a divorce decree (i.e., Consent Decree”), to the judge assigned to your case.
If approved, the judge will then sign the Consent Decree for Dissolution of Marriage.
Your marriage is then deemed to be dissolved when the judge files that signed Consent Decree with the Clerk of the Court.
A judge typically signs the Consent Decree within a couple of weeks.
The court will mail your final divorce decree to you and your spouse in the self-addressed and stamped envelopes you are required to provide when you submitted your Consent Decree to the Court.
Taking Your Dissolution of Marriage Case to Trial
If you do not settle your case, you will have to proceed to a final dissolution of marriage trial.
The court will issue a set of pretrial orders.
Pretrial orders require you to file a written Pretrial Statement in which you provide the following information:
- A statement of the contested issues to be decided by the judge;
- A statement of your position on the contested issues;
- A statement of all uncontested or settled issues in the case;
- A list of all witnesses who will be testifying at trial;
- A list of all exhibits that will be introduced into evidence at trial;
The pretrial orders will also include a date you are required to provide all of your exhibits to the judge’s judicial assistant before trial.
You are required to provide your trial exhibits to the court in advance of your trial date to give him or her time to “mark” all exhibits.
The marking of exhibits allows the court to keep track of all exhibits.
The marking of exhibits also allows the judge to identify which exhibits were allowed and which were not allowed to be used in the trial.
You will then arrive at the time the court scheduled for your trial.
Both spouses will be allowed to testify, the elicit the testimony of witnesses, and to move your exhibits into evidence during your trial.
Once that trial is completed, the court can issue his or her decisions on the same day.
Alternatively, the judge may tell you he or she will take some time to review all of the evidence and issue rulings at a later date.
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Chris Hildebrand wrote the information on this page about a dissolution of marriage in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about a dissolution of marriage 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.