Divorce in Arizona: what you need to know

If you’re thinking of getting a divorce in Arizona, make sure you have all the facts.

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Michael Albee is an Arizona-licensed attorney. This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

If you’re considering a divorce in Arizona, it’s important to understand the state’s rules and regulations for filing for divorce so you know your options and what’s required of you. 

Whether you’re looking for the cost of filing fees or the process of filing for an uncontested divorce in AZ, this article covers key information so you can start the process with confidence.

What types of divorce are there in Arizona?

There are two types of divorce recognized in Arizona: contested and uncontested. 

Contested divorce

A contested divorce is where the parties are unable to come to an agreement regarding the terms and conditions of their separation. When this happens, they must take their issues before the court and have a judge decide how to divide their assets and any other matters related to the dissolution of the marriage.

In order for a divorce in AZ to be contested, there must be disagreement on some major aspect of the divorce. This could include custody of children, alimony, division of property or even legal fees. The judge will look at all aspects of the divorce to make a decision that best serves the interests of both parties.

Uncontested divorce

An uncontested divorce is where both parties agree on the terms of the divorce and are willing to end their marriage without the need for a trial. This type of divorce usually involves filing an application for divorce, which can be done either through a lawyer or through the court.

In most cases, the application includes the agreements of both parties regarding the division of assets and debts, alimony, child support, parenting plans and other issues relating to their divorce.

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What are the residency requirements for divorce In Arizona?

For a marriage to be dissolved in the state of Arizona, at least one of the parties must have been an Arizona resident for at least 90 days before filing the divorce papers. 

Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, which means that grounds for divorce include:

  • Irreconcilable differences: One spouse alleges that the couple has experienced major conflicts that have caused the marriage to break down, and there’s no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. Common causes of irreconcilable differences include incompatibility, domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse.
  • Living separate and apart: One spouse alleges that the couple has been living separate and apart for at least two years, and there’s no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.

The only exception to these grounds is when a couple wants to terminate their covenant marriage. In Arizona, a covenant marriage is a type of marriage in which the couple agrees to be bound by stricter rules and requirements for divorce.

In order to obtain a covenant marriage in Arizona, the couple must undergo premarital counseling and sign a declaration of intent stating that they’re entering into the marriage willingly and with full knowledge of its obligations.

Under Arizona law, a couple in a covenant marriage has the same rights and responsibilities as any other married couple. However, in order to obtain a divorce in a covenant marriage, one spouse must file for a fault divorce, alleging and proving that the other spouse has committed a serious act of wrongdoing, such as adultery, cruelty or abandonment. 

Can I get spousal support? What factors will a judge consider?

In Arizona, the court may award spousal maintenance (also called alimony) to one spouse as part of a divorce decree. However, there’s no automatic right to spousal support—the court only awards it in certain circumstances.

When making their decision, the judge considers certain factors, such as:

  • The length of the marriage (generally, longer marriages have more potential for spousal support)
  • Each spouse’s age, health and current and future earning capacity
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • Each spouse’s financial resource
  • Each spouse’s educational level and employment history
  • Whether one spouse entered into the marriage with significantly more assets or debts than the other
  • Any economic or non-economic contributions made by either spouse during the marriage (including contributions to the household, such as childcare, caring for elderly family members or starting a business)

If the court determines that one spouse is in need of spousal maintenance and the other spouse has the ability to pay it, it decides the amount and duration of the support based on these and other factors. The court may also review and modify the alimony if circumstances change in the future.

How is marital property divided in Arizona?

When getting a divorce in AZ, marital property is divided equitably between the two spouses. Marital property is generally defined as property acquired by either spouse during the marriage, regardless of which spouse’s name is on the title or deed. This can include assets such as real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, investments and household goods, as well as debts such as mortgages, credit card balances and loans.

When determining how to divide marital property, courts consider a variety of factors, such as each spouse’s vocational skills, incomes and any domestic violence that may have occurred during the marriage.

The court may divide the property evenly, or it may give one spouse a larger share if the court determines that it’s fair and reasonable to do so. The court may also award spousal maintenance (alimony) to one spouse as part of the property division.

How is child custody determined in Arizona?

Arizona courts consider a variety of factors to determine what custody arrangement will be most beneficial for any child’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being. The factors include:

  • The child’s relationship with each parent and any other significant people in the child’s life
  • The child’s wishes (if the child is old enough and mature enough to express them)
  • The child’s physical, emotional and psychological needs
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school and community
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child’s physical, emotional and psychological needs
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse

Child custody arrangements may involve sole custody (one parent has primary custody of the child) or joint custody (both parents have legal and physical custody of the child). The court may also award visitation rights to the noncustodial parent, as well as child support to ensure that the child’s needs are met.

How is child support determined in Arizona?

In Arizona, the court uses specific guidelines to determine the appropriate level of child support payments. The calculations are based on a number of factors, such as: 

  • Each parent’s income
  • The number of children the parents have together
  • The amount of time each parent spends with the child (known as the “parenting time percentage”)
  • The cost of health insurance, child care and medical expenses for the child
  • The best interests of the child
  • Any spousal maintenance payments that have been entered into between the parties

How to file for divorce in Arizona

The general process to file for divorce in Arizona is as follows.

1. Determine eligibility

In order to be eligible to file for divorce in AZ, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce.

2. Gather the necessary documents

Fill out the appropriate paperwork and file it with the court. This paperwork includes:

  • A petition for dissolution of marriage, which provides the court with information about your marriage, your grounds for divorce and your requests for property division, child custody and support and alimony.
  • A summons form, used to notify your spouse that you’ve filed for divorce and that they’re required to respond to the petition.

3. File the papers

File the completed petition and summons forms with the court. This can typically be done in person at the courthouse or by mail. The cost of filing for divorce in Arizona varies depending on the complexity of the case and other factors. Generally, filing fees range from $200 to $250, with additional costs for court-related services. 

4. Serve the papers

You can serve the petition and summons to your spouse by delivering a copy of each to them in person or by having someone else deliver them on your behalf. Your spouse must be served within 120 days of filing the petition with the court.

If you’re unable to locate your spouse, you can consider several options. One is to submit an affidavit of attempted service. This form is typically used if you’ve made a thorough effort to locate your spouse but are unsuccessful. After you complete the form, you can serve the divorce papers to your spouse with alternative service if the court approves an alternative method of service. The most common methods of alternative service are:

  • Publication: the court publishes a notice in a local newspaper announcing your intention to divorce your spouse 
  • Substituted service: another person, such as a friend or family member, is entrusted with delivering the documents to your spouse

If you’ve served your spouse but they don’t respond within the required time period, you may be able to obtain a default judgment from the court. If your spouse does respond, you’ll need to negotiate and come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce or, if you can’t reach an agreement, go to court for a trial.

5. Reach a settlement agreement or…

In Arizona, a marital settlement agreement (MSA) is a written contract signed by both spouses that outlines the terms of their divorce such as property division, alimony and child custody and support. It’s designed to resolve any disputes or conflicts between the spouses.

The marital settlement agreement is often negotiated and drafted by the spouses and their attorneys, and it’s typically filed with the court as part of the divorce proceeding.

After filing, the court has 60 days to approve the marital agreement settlement, though couples usually know if their divorce is final within about two to three weeks.

On rare occasions, if the court finds the terms to be unfair or inequitable, the spouses will need to attend a hearing. In either case, once a judge issues an official decree of dissolution, the divorce is official.

6. …Go to trial

If you’re unable to reach an MSA, you may need to go to court for a trial. In a trial, a judge hears evidence and arguments from both sides and determines the terms of the divorce.

How long will it take to get divorced in Arizona?

The length of time it takes to get a divorce in Arizona depends on several factors, including whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. 

Because the state has a mandatory 60-day waiting period, it takes at least 60 days from the date that the petition for divorce is filed with the court to obtain a divorce (unless the spouses have a valid marital settlement agreement that’s approved by the court).

If you and your spouse disagree about any terms of the divorce, the process can take significantly longer. Arizona requires all divorcing couples to attempt to reach an agreement through mediation before going to court. This process may involve court-ordered mediation sessions, vocational skills tests or hearings before the court. In cases where domestic violence is involved, the process can be especially lengthy.

How much does divorce cost in Arizona?

The cost of divorce in Arizona varies depending on a number of factors, such as the complexity of the case, the need for legal representation and whether the spouses come to an agreement.

In general, the cost of a divorce in Arizona includes the filing fee, which varies depending on the county, as well as the cost of serving the petition on the other spouse, which ranges from $75 to $125. If your spouse is avoiding the process server, the cost is higher. 

If the spouses can reach a marital settlement agreement without going to court, the cost may be relatively low. However, if the case goes to trial, the cost may be much higher due to the need for legal representation and the time and expense of a trial.

Can we agree to a divorce settlement outside of court?

In Arizona, it’s possible to come to an agreement with your former spouse and settle your divorce without taking the case to trial. An amicable settlement can be reached if both parties are willing to negotiate in good faith and come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

This is known as a marital settlement agreement (MSA), and it can cover issues such as property division, child custody, child support and spousal support. In order to be legally binding, the settlement agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties. 

It’s a good idea to have a lawyer review the agreement to ensure it’s fair and protects each party’s rights. Once the agreement has been reached and signed, it can be presented to the court for approval.

When to speak to a divorce attorney

If you’re considering divorce in Arizona, it’s often beneficial to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer from the start. They can guide you through the process, from filing the proper AZ divorce papers to preparing for trial. They can also provide advice on a variety of topics including alimony, division of assets, domestic violence and child custody and support. 

Having a professional can ensure that your rights are protected and that your divorce is resolved fairly. And that can help make an often stressful process easier.

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Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

This page includes links to third party websites. The inclusion of third party websites is not an endorsement of their services.

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