What You Need to Know About the Divorce Process in Arizona
Do I Qualify for Divorce in the State of Arizona?
To file for divorce (Dissolution of Marriage) in Arizona, you must meet these initial requirements:
- You or your spouse must have resided in Arizona for 90 days prior to filing your divorce case (or one of the parties was stationed in Arizona for 90 days while a member of the armed services).
- The marriage is irretrievably broken without a reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
How to Initiate the Divorce Process
- A Petition for Dissolution (with or without minor children) is filed with the Superior Court.
- The Petition must be lawfully served on the Respondent (the other party).
- The Respondent has 20 days file an “Answer” to the Petition (or 30 days if the Respondent was served outside the state);
- If the Respondent fails to file a Response, the Petitioner may apply for default and proceed without the other party.
First Court Hearing
Resolution Management Conference (RMC) or Early Resolution Conference (ERC), if the both parties are self-represented.
Each party must file a Resolution Management Statement at least five (5) business days prior to the RMC or ERC. The statement will outline the parties’ position and proposed solutions.
Discovery and Disclosure
The parties are required to exchange, at a minimum, the documents listed below (for a period of 6 months prior to filing your divorce case). Either party may request additional documents as long as they are relevant to the divorce.
- Financial statements, including, but not limited to bank account, credit card, investment and retirement account statements
- Proof of ownership and/or value concerning community or separate property
- Proof of income and financial related information (e.g. W2, tax returns)
- Proof of health care premiums and other child related expenses
- Proof of any other relevant evidence intended to prove a claim
- Witnesses and Expert Witnesses
Methods to Reaching Resolution in Your Divorce Case
- Informal agreements reached by the parties
- Private Mediation
- Arbitration (less formal than trial, binding decision by arbitrator)
- Litigation (conducting a trial, including presenting testimony, documentary evidence and witnesses)
Finalizing Your Divorce Case
A divorce action is final when a fully completed Decree of Dissolution is signed by the judge and filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court. The original is filed by the Clerk of Court and each party receives a copy of the court approved Decree.
What is the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce?
Uncontested divorce refers to an amicable divorce process where parties reach agreements concerning all divorce related issues through mediation or another collaborative process.
Contested divorce generally indicates litigation. Litigation refers to the collective legal process which contains many procedural components and concludes with an evidentiary hearing (trial) before a judge. Often, extensive discovery of financial documents and deposing witnesses is part of the litigation process. The divorce is finalized after the judge makes a ruling concerning the division of property, debt, custody and other related matters.
How do I Finalize My Divorce in Arizona?
Informal Agreements – The parties resolve their financial and custody related matters privately. The parties craft their own agreements and maintain complete authority of the process. They parties only need file the appropriate documents in court to initiate and finalize the divorce. They can utilize the forms available from the court (for free) or hire an attorney, mediator or document preparer to complete the documents on their behalf.
Mediation– The parties use a divorce mediation service to resolve their property and debt and child custody related matters. The parties rely on the mediator for assistance to reach agreements and for guidance concerning the divorce process and rule of law. The mediator educates the parties about the law and divorce process, but does not provide tailored legal advice to either party. The parties may attend the mediation alone or with an attorney. The parties craft their own agreements and maintain complete authority of the process.
Arbitration- The parties utilize the services of an arbitrator (typically retired judge or attorney) to resolve their financial and custody matters. They can also submit partial issues to the arbitrator and mediate other issues. The parties may attend arbitration alone or with an attorney. The arbitration process is a simplified, fast paced version of a trial. It is more cost effective than a trial. The arbitrator decides the outcome and the parties no longer maintain authority. Arbitration rulings are binding.
Litigation– Each party presents their divorce case (arguments, evidence, witnesses) before a judge during a trial. The parties or their attorneys present testimony and other evidence during the trial. The judge decides the outcome and the parties no longer maintain authority. The judge’s ruling is final and binding (subject to appeal). Litigation is the most costly divorce process.