How To File For Divorce In Arizona

Selective focus of a table with a pair of discarded wedding rings lying atop signed divorce documents in the foreground; divorcing couple seated looking away from each other in the background.

How To File For Divorce In Arizona

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 0.27 percent of couples in Arizona file for divorce each year. Although each of these divorces may take years to finalize, the first few steps are often crucial. Spouses who wish to file for divorce must follow specific steps, and individuals wondering how to file for divorce may benefit from a discussion with a divorce lawyer in Arizona. Contact the Sullivan Law Office at (480) 719-2558 today to schedule your consultation. 

Is No-Fault Divorce the Right Choice in Arizona?

Before filing for divorce, the petitioning spouse must decide whether they wish to pursue a “fault-based” or “no-fault” divorce. Section 25-903 of the Arizona Legislature outlines eight acceptable reasons to dissolve a marriage. Spouses may also hear the term “covenant marriage divorce” applied to this situation. Acceptable reasons for a covenant marriage divorce include adultery, felony conviction of either spouse, abandonment, physical or sexual abuse, years of separation, or substance abuse. The final acceptable “grounds” for divorce in Arizona is if both spouses agree that the marriage is not working. Many of these potential issues may form the basis for a potential “fault-based” divorce. Although spouses are allowed to pursue this type of divorce in Arizona, they will need to prove that the relevant factors exist. In other words, a spouse filing for divorce on the grounds of substance abuse may need to provide medical records that illustrate the addiction in question. 

A popular choice for modern spouses is to simply file for divorce based on irreconcilable differences, as there is no burden of proof associated with this process. Under the SectiArizona Code of Marital and Domestic Relations, the family court may also dissolve a marriage if it is “irretrievably broken.” The absence of the burden of proof means that a no-fault divorce is almost always the easiest way to file for divorce, even if only one spouse believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Before filing for divorce, spouses may wish to learn more about these options during a discussion with the Sullivan Law Office. 

Who Files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Arizona?

When a spouse files for divorce in Arizona, they file a legal document called the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. Either spouse can file this document, and there is no advantage associated with filing first in a no-fault divorce. In this document, the spouse asks the court for permission to move forward with divorce proceedings. The petition may include several other documents of varying complexity, depending on the type of divorce. 

The petition must contain a clear statement that the marriage is irretrievably broken – although there is no requirement to explain why. Spouses may wish to detail the existence of various children, separate property, and community property in their petitions. In addition, a spouse can argue that their ex should pay all legal fees if there is an income or wealth disparity in the marriage. Note that when a spouse files their petition, they will be responsible for paying certain filing fees with the Clerk of the Superior Court. 

What Is a “Summons” in an Arizona Divorce?

A spouse who files for dissolution of marriage in Arizona is legally required to inform their soon-to-be ex of what is going on. Verbally informing them of the divorce is not enough; the petitioning spouse must instead (or also) use a legal document called a “Summons.” The spouse who receives such a summons is called a “respondent.” 

The summons constitutes a formal notification of the legal proceedings, which take the form of a civil lawsuit. After receiving the summons, the respondent must respond within a certain period of time. They also have the right, at this juncture, to insist upon certain counseling services in an attempt to save the marriage; however, not all responses will present an objection to the petition for divorce. If the spouse receiving the summons does not respond, the case can proceed without them. 

Who Needs a Preliminary Injunction When Filing for Divorce?

A Preliminary Injunction plays an important role in Arizona divorce proceedings. This injunction is mandatory, and it can prevent spouses from taking certain actions while the divorce is pending. Examples of actions the preliminary injunction is designed to prevent include concealing assets, wasting assets, leaving the state with children, altering estate planning documents, and other potentially problematic behavior. A spouse who violates this injunction, is technically committing a crime. In Arizona, spouses who file for divorce are required to provide or “serve” a copy of the injunction to their exes. 

How Do Parents File for Divorce in Arizona?

An important part of understanding how to file for divorce in Arizona is determining which legal requirements apply to a couple’s specific circumstances. Parents with children face different filing requirements compared to those without. Perhaps most notably, the official residence of the children must be located within Arizona. If this is not the case, then parents will need to live in Arizona with their children for six months before proceeding with a divorce. If both parents have lived in Arizona with their children for more than six months, they will both still need to undergo mandatory parenting classes before the divorce can proceed. 

The parent who files for divorce will also need to complete a “Sensitive Data Sheet” as part of their petition. This document will include various information about the children and both parents – including Social Security numbers, addresses, and phone numbers. Unlike other aspects of a divorce filing, this document does not go on public record. 

Are There Waiting Periods Before Filing for Divorce in Arizona?

Section 25-312 of the Code of the Arizona Statutes applies a mandatory, 60-day waiting period once either spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. During these two months, spouses cannot move forward with any other aspect of their divorce. Some refer to this as a “cooling off” period, and it provides spouses with an opportunity to rethink the divorce and potentially reconcile. 

For spouses who choose fault-based divorce, a trial will likely commence after this waiting period expires. For those who choose a no-fault divorce that is also uncontested, it may be possible to conclude the divorce shortly after the 60-day waiting period elapses and avoid litigation altogether by drafting a divorce settlement, which the divorcing spouses can then present for the court’s approval. Additional requirements may apply to covenant marriages – including mandatory counseling before the divorce process moves forward. 

Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer in Arizona

Although filing for divorce may seem like a complex process at first, it is possible to carry out all of the necessary steps in a relatively short period of time. For spouses who wish to move on with their lives as quickly as possible, it may be possible to expedite this process considerably alongside a qualified divorce lawyer. Contact the Sullivan Law Office at (480) 719-2558 to learn how to file for divorce in Arizona and get started with an action plan.