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Divorce is a big decision; it should be taken seriously and thought through very carefully.
You need to know what you are getting into and you need to be involved in the process. There are decisions to make for yourself and for your children. We urge you to become educated about this process, so you can make good decisions. Most likely, you have heard all sorts of wrong information about divorce, custody, property division and spousal maintenance. You need to know what attorneys and the courts know.
Remember to keep the ‘Big Picture’ in mind as you go through this process and focus on your goals.
Every Maricopa county divorce requires standard documentation to begin the legal process. A Petition for Dissolution must be filed with the court and whoever filed the Petition must legally serve the opposing party. The forms can be found on the Maricopa County Superior Court Website.
It’s important to know that the court does not favor either party in the divorce. It does not matter if you file for the divorce or if you respond.
Arizona is a no-fault state, which means that a person does not need a reason for seeking a divorce.
During the divorce proceedings, the person who filed for the divorce is referred to as “The Petitioner” and the person who responds to the divorce is referred to as “The Respondent”. The terms Petitioner and Respondent are only used to differentiate between the two people involved.
A legal separation is almost identical to a divorce, except at the end, you are separated and not divorced. The procedures are identical in terms of filing, costs, and final agreements regarding finances. Financial agreements in a legal separation will become the same financial agreements in a divorce. In other words, you cannot make a decision regarding finances in a legal separation and then change your mind about the same issues in a divorce, unless both parties agree. The financial agreements in a legal separation cannot be changed in a subsequent divorce action, except by agreement of the parties.
A common question spouses have is whether they should get a legal separation instead of a divorce. The answer depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you want some financial protection or you want to continue your health insurance, a legal separation will likely accomplish both. If you want to get remarried, you need to get divorced. It is also common for a spouse to file for a legal separation to stop the debts incurred by the other spouse from becoming a community debt. When a petition for a legal separation is filed and served, each party is then responsible for any debt incurred after that service date.
In Arizona, a divorce starts when one spouse files a Divorce Petition (called a Petition for Dissolution) with the court. There are filing fees for a Petition for Dissolution and for filing a Response. Filing Fees:
Petition for Dissolution of Divorce $338
If you cannot afford these fees, you can request that the court waive or defer them.
In an Arizona divorce, once a Petition has been filed, a copy of the Petition and the related documents must then be legally served on the other spouse.
Service can be accomplished in a few different ways, including by waiver, by personal service, or by a process server. The date of service is important; because it is the date the “marital community” is deemed separated.
From the date of service going forward, the parties will no longer accumulate “community” property or debt; that is, the property that each spouse has a claim to and debts that each party is deemed equally responsible for.
A Preliminary Injunction will be served along with the Petition. This stops both parties from selling community property, making changes to existing insurance coverage, and removing minor children from the state without court permission or the other parent’s written consent.
The court typically starts by scheduling a Resolution Management Conference (RMC) where the parties and their attorneys, if they are represented, go before the court for the first time. At the RMC, the court will attempt to determine if the parties have reached any agreements.
Rule 69 Aggrement
If there are agreements, the court may have them recorded as a formal and binding agreement. The court will also determine what, if any, services and/or orders the parties need to help conclude the matter. Those services and/or orders could include drug testing of one or both parents, mental health evaluations, vocational evaluations and business evaluations.
Next, the Court will generally schedule a settlement conference with the court’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services. A settlement conference involves the help of a neutral mediator who attempts to help the parties resolve the remaining issues without going to trial.
Last, the court will set a trial date to hear any disputed issues; if the parties are able to settle all issues before the trial date, they can notify the Court to cancel or “vacate” the trial. If the matter does proceed to trial, the court will issue a divorce decree within 60 days of the trial.
According to Arizona Revised Statute, section 25-329 and Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure 4.1(c), you must wait at least 60 days from the date your spouse was served before going to Court and having the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage entered. This assumes you and your spouse have agreed on the terms or your spouse is in default. When the spouses cannot agree on how to settle issues such as assets and debts, the length of time to get divorced can be longer. If you litigate the issues, it can take a year or longer.