What are Arizona’s Divorce Laws?

by | Oct 1, 2021 | Divorce

Getting divorced isn’t easy. From dealing with the emotional aspects of your divorce to understanding how Arizona’s divorce laws apply to your situation, it can all quickly begin to feel overwhelming.

However, it is possible to get through the process; in many cases, getting divorced isn’t as messy or as complicated as people think. If you plan ahead and work with an attorney who can help you navigate Arizona’s divorce laws, you may find that your marriage is over sooner – and on much more favorable terms – than you initially expected.

Answers to FAQs about Arizona’s Divorce Laws

While it is important to work with an experienced family law attorney throughout the divorce process, it can be helpful to gain a basic understanding of Arizona’s divorce laws as well. With this in mind, here are answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the law in Arizona:

Does it Matter Which Spouse Files for Divorce in Arizona?

Arizona is a “no-fault” state when it comes to divorce. This means that either spouse can file for divorce based on the fact that their marriage has become “irretrievably broken,” and no proof of marital fault is necessary.

It also means that spouses in Arizona cannot file for divorce on the basis of marital fault even if they wish to do so. As a result, for most purposes, it does not matter which spouse files for divorce in Arizona. The filing does not give either spouse an advantage in the process, and it does not afford the opportunity to assert fault-based grounds as it does in some other states.

With that said, the procedures and forms used to file for divorce and to respond to a divorce filing differ. Thus, if your spouse files before you, you (or your attorney) will need to take some different steps. If your spouse files, you will also have a deadline to respond, and this is important to keep in mind as well.

Is Arizona a 50-50 State When it Comes to Divorce?

Arizona is a community property state, and this means that divorcing spouses must divide their marital assets equally in most cases. It doesn’t matter if one spouse contributed more financially, and the law specifically states that spouses must divide their community assets “without regard to marital misconduct.”

Is it ever possible not to have a 50-50 split? Yes, it is possible to have unequal distribution of property in some cases. For example, if one spouse has wasted community assets by gambling them away, then that spouse may be entitled to a lesser share of the couple’s remaining community assets during the divorce process. Additionally, if spouses have a legally enforceable prenuptial agreement that calls for an unequal distribution, then the terms of their agreement will govern instead of Arizona’s community property law.

Who Gets the House in a Divorce in Arizona?

It depends. Assuming the house is a community asset, it is subject to distribution during the divorce process. This means that it must be included in the spouses’ overall 50-50 split in most cases. When it comes to the house, the primary options include either (i) one spouse receiving the house in exchange for giving up other assets of equal value or (ii) selling the house and splitting the proceeds of the sale.

If you want the house, keep in mind that taking the house will likely also mean taking the mortgage. There are other possibilities—especially if you are entitled to spousal support—and you will want to walk through all of your options with your attorney’s advice and guidance.

Do You Have to Be Separated Before Filing for Divorce in Arizona?

Unless you entered into a covenant marriage, you do not have to be separated before filing for divorce in Arizona. The only time restraints that apply are: (i) at least one of you must have lived in Arizona for a minimum of 90 days, and (ii) once you or your spouse files for divorce, you cannot finalize the process for 60 days. This is referred to as a “waiting period” or “cooling-off period” and is intended to ensure that spouses are sure they want to get divorced.

How is Child Custody Determined in Arizona?

In Arizona, all child custody determinations must reflect the “best interests” of the children involved. The Arizona Revised Statutes establish a list of “best interests” factors, and divorcing spouses must consider these factors to the extent that they are relevant when developing their post-divorce parenting plan.

As with all aspects of the divorce process, divorcing spouses can – and typically do – reach an agreement regarding child custody. However, if you and your spouse cannot agree, you have other options available. Depending on your personal and family circumstances, pursuing a collaborative divorce may be an option, you can pursue mediation, or you can ask a judge to render a decision if necessary.

How is Child Support Determined in Arizona?

Child support is the area where spouses have the least amount of flexibility during the divorce process. The Arizona Child Support Guidelines establish a formula for calculating child support that takes into account income, employment, medical needs, child care expenses, insurance, and certain other factors.

During the divorce process, each spouse is entitled to full disclosure of the other spouse’s income and assets. One of the primary purposes of this disclosure is to allow for the accurate calculation of child support (and spousal support). If you believe that your spouse may be attempting to hide income or assets, there are various legal tools your attorney can use to ensure that you have the information you need in order to protect your rights under Arizona law.

Schedule a Free Initial Divorce Consultation in Phoenix, AZ

If you are considering a divorce and have more questions about Arizona’s divorce laws, we encourage you to contact us for a free initial consultation. To speak with a divorce attorney at Weingart Family Law in confidence at your convenience, please call 480-542-0099 or request an appointment online today.