Divorce Q&A

What is a divorce?

A divorce, legally called a “dissolution of marriage,” is a court procedure to end a marriage. The party who starts the divorce is the “Petitioner” and the other party is the “Respondent.”

When can I file a petition for divorce?

You or your spouse must have been a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days before you can file for a divorce. If you have not been a resident for 90 days, you must wait until 90 days goes by to file the petition.

What reasons must I give to get a divorce?

Arizona is a no-fault state, so neither spouse needs to give a reason for the divorce. One party needs to assert that he or she believes the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

If the parties have a “covenant marriage”, the party seeking the divorce must prove specific grounds including adultery, abandonment for at least one year, physical or sexual abuse of the spouse, a child, a relative of either spouse living with them, domestic violence or emotional abuse, and there are others.  

How does the procedure work?

One spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and related initial documents. After the Petition is filed, copies of all of the papers must be served on the other unless service is waived in writing and filed with the court. The other spouse has 20 days, if served in Arizona, or 30 days if served outside of Arizona, to respond to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  These documents require court filing fees.

If the served spouse fails to file a Response within those time periods, the other spouse can apply for a default. After a request for default is filed, the served spouse has 10 days to file a Response. If no Response is filed, the divorce will be granted on all of the terms of the petitioning spouse.  In some cases, the matter may proceed without a hearing, in others a hearing will be required.  The hearing is set a minimum of 61 days after service of the Respondent.  A judge will expect you to know all the rules of court and procedure and for this reason, it is wise to retain an attorney to represent you.

If a Response is filed but both parties reach an agreement as to all issues, a Consent Decree of Dissolution of Marriage can be filed, avoiding a court appearance.    

What happens if my spouse and I do not agree on an issue during the divorce proceedings?

If you and your spouse do not agree on a particular issue, such as custody of children, spousal maintenance, or division of property, a judge will decide these issues for you at a trial. It may take six to nine months to get a trial date and then have the trial.

Can I get temporary orders while the case is pending?

Yes. A party may apply for temporary orders regarding custody, parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, attorney fees, and other matters.

What is a preliminary injunction?

A Preliminary Injunction is a form of restraining order which is issued at the beginning of every divorce case. The Preliminary Injunction is issued to both parties and requires that neither party harass the other, that no community property is sold, that existing insurance is maintained and that minor children not be removed from the state without court permission or the other parent’s written consent.

Is there a mandatory parent education program?

If the parties have a minor child or children together, both parties must attend a court-mandated education program about the impact of divorce on children. Both parents must attend, even if there is no disagreement regarding custody and parenting time. If one party does not attend, he or she may not be able to obtain custody and/or parenting time with the child or children. The parties may not attend the same class at the same time.