Divorce Law in Arizona: Everything You Need to Know

If you are living in the state of Arizona and are considering filing for a divorce, then this article will provide you with useful information. It is important to understand the laws, processes, and requirements for getting a divorce.  

We will walk you through some of the most common questions that people have including requirements, timeline, what happens to the kids and property, and more. In the state of Arizona, divorce laws can be quite complex, so it is critical to hire an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. 

Divorce Law in Arizona
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    If you are living in the state of Arizona and are considering filing for a divorce, then this article will provide you with useful information. It is important to understand the laws, processes and requirements for getting a divorce.  

    We will walk you through some of the most common questions that people have including requirements, timeline, what happens to the kids and property, and more. In the state of Arizona, divorce laws can be quite complex, so it is critical to hire an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.  

    Requirements 

    Several stringent requirements are set forth by the Arizona Revised Statute as stated under Section 25. Section 312 of this act requires that you or your spouse must have lived in Arizona for a minimum of 90 days to file for a divorce in this state. This is a residency requirement to ensure that those who use the court system in Arizona reside within the state on at least a semi-permanent basis.   

    In Arizona, the courts must divide communal assets and debts, enter child custody and support orders, and essentially divide the estate of the married couple. This is different from some states where the courts are allowed to push a bifurcated divorce through the system.  

    A bifurcated divorce is a divorce decree in which the assets, debts, and custody are not dealt with and this kind of divorce is not performed in Arizona. The court must deal with communal assets, child custody, and debts if it is to proceed with a divorce.    

    The same Section 25 381.09 of the Arizona Revised Statute deals with reconciliatory requirements. In other words, the state requires that both parties use free marital counseling to try and save the marriage. This is required within the first sixty days after a divorce petition has been served, however, marital counseling is not required under one circumstance. 

    This counseling is legally not necessary if both parties agree that the use of said marital counseling will not help to save the marriage. If this is the case then both parties will be free to proceed with the divorce.  

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    Process, Costs & Timeline 

    To ensure a simple process, both parties should come to an understanding before proceeding. In this section, we will define the main steps that constitute a divorce procession in Arizona.  

    First Court Papers 

    It is always best to speak with an attorney for legal advice before determining your course of action. In Arizona, the colloquial term divorce is legally known as a Dissolution of Marriage. To begin the process, you must complete a form called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and it must be filed with the court. 

    Once the petition for dissolution is filed, the court will give you a case number. Depending on whether or not there are children involved, the number will either start with an FC if children are involved or FN if children are not.  

    As with any important legal documents, it is critical to fill out the petition for dissolution of marriage very carefully. You should include all of the information you have for each issue that the petition brings up. It is incredibly important that the form is filled out correctly as the courts cannot grant anything that is not rightly requested.  

    Other court papers need to be filed with the petition for dissolution of marriage as well. These can include Summons, Family Court Cover Sheets, Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance, Affidavit of Minor Children, and more.  

    As there are many necessary documents, it is strongly advised that you consult an experienced attorney who can help you gather everything. Once all of these documents are in order, it is time to serve your spouse.  

    Serving Papers to a Spouse 

    The notification of the spouse to the documents being filed must be handled and prepared appropriately. This is known as service, and laws are governing exactly how this is handled. Most people use a professional service or process server to deliver the divorce papers to their spouse.  

    It is also possible to use the Sheriff's office to deliver the papers. Legally, the most important piece of the service is that an Affidavit of Service is filed into the divorce case. The person or party that is responsible for serving the papers to a spouse is responsible for completing the Affidavit of Service. Many people ask if they can personally give the papers, and the answer is no.  

    While you cant personally hand over the papers, it is possible to have your spouse sign a document that is called an Acceptance of Service. This must be witnessed by a 3rd party notary to be legal.   

    Contested and Uncontested Divorce 

    Generally speaking, an uncontested divorce, one in which both parties agree to the process, can run from 60 to 120 days. Of course, this is where things can get sticky and no two cases are the same. While some divorces may be simple to complete, the deciding factor on timelines is how much conflict there is between the two parties.  

    As every case is different, and every financial situation is different, the cost is unique to every case. With that said, an uncontested divorce in which the two parties settle typically costs around $3000. Of course, as with the time it takes to complete the divorce, the conflict will draw this number out.  

    In cases where there are high levels of conflict and contesting on various issues, the case can take one to two years and can cost over $30, 000. Several reigning factors are often points of contention in these cases.  

    In cases where children are involved and custody is contested – especially if there are allegations of abuse, then the cost will increase dramatically. This is due to the courts will requiring  3rd party specialists to come in and evaluate the situation.  

    A psychologist, social worker, mental health specialist, or other specialists will be called into these cases. They often charge around $5 – 10 K to assess these situations. This is where divorce hearings can become very expensive. 

    This isn’t only true where children are involved, but where significant assets such as property, estates, and businesses are contested. Just as an expert may be called in to assess the needs of a child, an expert may be called in to appraise a business. This can be just as or more expensive, ranging from a few thousand dollars to $15,000. 

    Completing the Divorce Process and Decree  

    Coming to a settlement and completing a divorce is a much more simple process when both parties are in agreement. Once the divorce has been completed, whether it be by trial or by settlement, the courts will issue a divorce decree at the end of the proceedings, also known as the final judgment of the divorce. The completion of a divorce decree is the legal completion of the divorce.  

    In Arizona, there is no post-divorce waiting period before either party can remarry, but a divorce decree will be required to apply for a marriage license. This is for the state to see that you are divorced and not simply separated before remarrying. Your divorce decree is accessible through public records, but it is prudent to keep a copy for your records if you do want to remarry.  

    A divorce decree is also required if you wish to refinance the marital residence, or if you wish to resume your maiden name after the marriage has been dissolved. While this is the end of the legal pathway, there are often more factors to be considered before reaching this point, starting with the often most contentious subject.  

    What Happens to the Children? 

    As parents, both you and your spouse have parental rights to your children. These rights are the right to care for your children, have custody of your children, as well as the right to have control of your children. When filing for a divorce or dissolution of marriage, no single parent’s right is greater than the other. That means that even if you have filed for a divorce and are seeking custody - even with allegations of abuse, you have not yet been granted any superior rights, no matter how justified.  

    The judge must consider many factors before a child custody order is granted. This is where specialists are called in to help determine factors such as the relationship between the children and the parent and siblings, adjustment to living situations, mental and physical health, and more.  

    Interim agreements can be reached to hash out a parenting schedule that best suits the needs of the children and both parents until the divorce can be completed. It is worth noting that even the smoothest of divorces in a legal sense will have a profound impact on children, and both parents need to understand the effects that a divorce has on children.   

    Child Support and Alimony 

    Child support is decided using the Arizona Child Support Guidelines and is calculated based on the income of the parents as well as other factors. In some cases, a spouse may qualify for alimony and be awarded either alimony or spousal maintenance. This is decided by the court and is based on many factors including the standard of living, the duration of the marriage, earning ability, and condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.  

    Property, Debts, and Capital 

    When it comes to the division of communal property, the Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-318 requires that the court equitably makes the decision. All property that is purchased during the marriage is considered communal property. That means that it doesn’t matter if one or both spouses purchased it. If it was procured during the marriage: it is defined as communal and will be divided as such.  

    The courts will go through a 3 step process that includes identifying communal property, assessing its value, and finally dividing it. It is a good idea to create an inventory or list of all of the property that both parties acquired during the marriage. For certain assets like retirement accounts, there will be tax consequences for the withdrawal of the money that is required to divide them.  

    Trust Experience to Navigate Your Divorce 

    A good, experienced, and knowledgeable attorney is essential to completing your divorce and circumnavigating the many potential pitfalls that come with added scrutiny to your life. 

    Trust Rideout Law to help you through this challenging time. Headed by a former criminal prosecutor with decades of experience in many facets of law, we are more than well-equipped to help make a rough road ahead as smooth as it can be.  

    Rideout Law Group