How is a Divorce Finalized in Arizona?
A judge finalizes a divorce by signing a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage and filing that document with the clerk of the court. A spouse is not actually divorced until that Decree is signed by the judge and that Decree is filed with the clerk’s office.
A court may not, correspondingly, sign a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage until all issues in the case are either settled or ruled upon by the court and included in the final Divorce Decree. In other words, the court cannot grant a divorce by entering a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage before issues such as child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and division of debts and assets are resolved by an agreement of the parties or decided by the judge.
If you do not settle your case, you will need to set your case for trial. After all of the evidence is submitted, the court will issue a Divorce Decree resolving all of the remaining issues.
Although it is unusual for there to be a change of judge during the middle of your trial, it has occurred. Fortunately, you may proceed with your trial before a new judge without having to start your case over in some circumstances. If you want more information on this subject, you should read our article about the Arizona Court of Appeals’ decision in the case of Gersten v. Gersten.