Getting divorced in Arizona is a process—and it is a process that can be difficult and stressful if you don’t know what to expect along the way. Fortunately, help is available, and there are resources you can use to learn what to expect and what you need to do to prepare.
Knowing what comes next is essential if you are considering filing for divorce (or if your spouse has filed for divorce). With this in mind, we’ve prepared an Arizona divorce roadmap covering the critical steps to ending your marriage.
Our Arizona Divorce Roadmap: An Overview of the Divorce Process
In Arizona, getting divorced involves going through a series of steps. While individual circumstances vary, the major efforts in ending a marriage remain the same. Some of these steps are practical, and some are required under Arizona law. But all of them are essential for ensuring that you make informed decisions, do what is necessary, and feel confident in the outcome once your divorce is final.
With this in mind, here is an overview of the divorce process in Arizona:
1. Getting Ready for Your Divorce
Preparing for your divorce is key. The more you do to prepare, the smoother the process will go and the more confident you will feel in your decision-making. While you will want to work with an experienced divorce attorney to make sure you are preparing effectively, some of the basic steps involved in preparing for a divorce in Arizona include:
- Gathering copies of your financial records and tax returns
- Locating your property records (i.e., titles, deeds, and mortgages)
- Identifying your marital and separate assets
- Assessing your post-divorce property and financial needs
- Setting reasonable expectations
For more information about these steps (and many more), you can review our Arizona Divorce Checklist.
2. Hiring a Divorce Attorney
Regardless of your family and financial circumstances, there is no substitute for the advice of an experienced divorce attorney. The sooner you hire a divorce attorney, the sooner your attorney can advise you—and the sooner you can start making informed decisions. In most cases, each spouse must have his or her divorce attorney, although flat-fee mediation with a single attorney will make the most sense in some cases. When you contact a divorce attorney for a free initial consultation, he or she can explain your options and help you choose the best path forward.
3. Filing for Divorce (or Responding to Your Spouse’s Divorce Filing)
The divorce process formally begins when one spouse files a Petition for Dissolution. The Petition for Dissolution must be (i) accurate, (ii) complete, and (iii) filed in the appropriate Arizona court. Any issues with a Petition for Dissolution can lead to unnecessary delays and complications—and these are the last thing you want when you are trying to bring your marriage to an end.
Once the Petition for Dissolution is filed, the spouse who files the Petition must then serve a summons on the other spouse. The other spouse will then have 20 days (in most cases) to file an Answer. Like the Petition for Dissolution, the Answer is a formal legal document that requires careful preparation—and it is best to have an experienced divorce attorney prepare on your behalf.
4. Motions, Hearings, and Temporary Orders
At this stage, your divorce attorney may (or may not) recommend filing motions with the court. Motions are used to request things from the judge, such as a temporary order for alimony or child support. “Temporary orders” are in place while the divorce process is pending, and when a couple’s divorce becomes final, any temporary orders that are in business will expire.
While filing a motion for a temporary order can be an adversarial process in some cases, spouses can (and often will) agree to temporary arrangements during the divorce process. For example, they may decide that each spouse will continue to contribute equally to their child-related expenses during the divorce process (if equal contributions make sense), and they may agree that one spouse will remain in the family home. At the same time, the other finds a temporary residence.
5. Divorce Settlement Negotiations
In most cases, divorcing spouses can come to terms without going to court. This is another area where having an experienced divorce attorney is critical. With an experienced divorce attorney, you can make informed, rational, and confident decisions and rely on your attorney to negotiate effectively on your behalf. Divorcing spouses can (and often will) negotiate all aspects of their separations, including:
- Division of marital property
- Division of marital debts
- Financial support (alimony and child support)
- Parenting time (child custody and visitation)
- Parental decision-making authority
6. Divorce Mediation (if Necessary)
Mediation can be a highly effective tool when spouses cannot come to terms through negotiation. Mediation involves working with a neutral third party (a “mediator”) who helps the spouses see one another’s points of view. An experienced mediator will also be able to offer creative solutions to the spouses’ problems—and, even when spouses can’t agree on their own, they will often be able to reach an agreement through the mediation process.
7. Going to Court
The final step in the divorce process in Arizona is going to court. This is true regardless of whether the spouses reach an agreement or cannot come to terms. However, going to court is very different in each of these scenarios.
When divorcing spouses reach an agreement, going to court is (usually) just a matter of having a judge sign off on their agreement and formally end their marriage. When they can’t agree, they must present their arguments and ask the judge to decide. Due to the inherent uncertainty of this approach, divorcing spouses will share a mutual interest in reaching an agreement in most cases.
Discuss Your Divorce with an Attorney at Weingart Family Law in Tempe, AZ
If you are contemplating a divorce and would like to know more about the divorce process in Arizona, we invite you to get in touch. Please call 480-605-0074 or contact us online to arrange a free initial consultation at Weingart Family Law.