Divorce in Arizona

Family Law Practice Arizona

Residency and Filing Requirements:

In order to file for a dissolution of marriage in Arizona, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:

That one of the parties, at the time the action was commenced, was domiciled in this state, or was stationed in this state while a member of the armed services, and that in either case the domicile or military presence has been maintained for ninety days prior to filing the petition for dissolution of marriage. (Arizona Statutes – Title 12 – Chapters: 401 and Title 25 – Chapters: 312, 329)

Arizona is a no fault divorce state. No fault divorce means that the Petitioner has to state in their Petition that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The Petitioner does not need to state a reason for the divorce.

If the marriage is a covenant marriage, then the Petitioner must state the reason why the divorce is being sought.
A covenant marriage divorce requires one of the following grounds:

1. One of the parties has committed adultery.

2. The respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment in any federal, state, county or municipal correctional facility.

3. The respondent spouse has abandoned the marital home for at least one year prior to the Petition being filed and refuses to return.

4. The respondent spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the dissolution of marriage, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the marital home or has committed domestic violence.

5. The parties have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage.

6. The parties have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least one year from the date the decree of legal separation was entered.

7. The respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.

8. The husband and wife both agree to a dissolution of marriage. (Arizona Statutes – Title 25 – Chapters: 312, 901, 903)

Filing Spouse Title:

Petitioner. The Petitioner is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.

Non-Filing Spouse Title:

Respondent. The Respondent is the spouse who does not file the initial dissolution of marriage papers, but rather receives them by service.

Court Name:

In the Superior Court in and for the County of __________, Arizona. This is the Arizona court where the dissolution of marriage will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, legal decision-making and parenting time.

Primary Documents:

Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a dissolution of marriage according to Arizona law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process. A few other documents that are typically filed during the process are: Marital Settlement Agreement, Acceptance and Waiver of Service, Preliminary Injunction, Credit Notification Form , Affidavit Regarding Minor Children, and Request for Hearing and Notice of Hearing.

Court Clerk’s Title:

County Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court. The clerk or the clerk’s assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk’s office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.

More Arizona Divorce Law information can be found here at http://www.azleg.gov/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=25

Property Distribution:

Arizona is a “Community Property” state. Community property is all property that was acquired during the marriage. This property will be divided equitably by the court if the parties are not able to come to an agreement.

The court shall assign each spouse’s sole and separate property to such spouse. It shall also divide the community, joint tenancy and other property held in common equitably, though not necessarily in kind, without regard to marital misconduct. The property acquired by either spouse outside this state shall be deemed to be community property if the property would have been community property if acquired in this state. This section does not prevent the court from considering all actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim, excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.

In your property settlement agreement or decree of dissolution or legal separation, the court may assign responsibility for certain community debts to one spouse or the other. Please be aware that a court order that does this is binding on the spouses only and does not necessarily relieve either of you from your responsibility for these community debts. These debts are matters of contract between both of you and your creditors (such as banks, credit unions, credit card issuers, finance companies, utility companies, medical providers and retailers).

Since your creditors are not parties to this court case, they are not bound by court orders or any agreements you and your spouse reach in this case. On request, the court may impose a lien against the separate property of a spouse to secure payment of debts that the court orders that spouse to pay.

You may want to contact your creditors to discuss your debts as well as the possible effects of your court case on your debts. (Arizona Statutes – Title 25 – Chapters: 318)

Restoration or Name Change:

Upon request by a party at any time prior to the signing of the decree of dissolution or annulment by the court, the court shall order that party’s requested former name be restored. (Arizona Statutes – Title 25 – Chapters: 325)

Spousal Support:

Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court’s discretion.

In determining the appropriate maintenace award, the court will consider the following factors: 1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs. 2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient. 3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse. 4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.

The maintenance order shall be in an amount and for a period of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and after considering all relevant factors, including: 1. The standard of living established during the marriage. 2. The duration of the marriage. 3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance. 4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance. 5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market. 6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse. 7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse. 8. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children. 9. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently. 10. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available. 11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common. 12. The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved. 13. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.

If both parties agree, the maintenance order and a decree of dissolution of marriage or of legal separation may state that its maintenance terms shall not be modified. (Arizona Statutes – Title 25 – Chapters: 319, 322)

Counseling or Mediation Requirements:

If both of the parties by petition or otherwise state under oath or affirmation that the marriage is irretrievably broken or if one of the parties so states and the other does not deny it, the court shall make a finding as to whether or not the marriage is irretrievably broken.

If one of the parties denies under oath or affirmation that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court shall hold a hearing to consider all relevant factors as to the prospect of reconciliation and shall do either of the following: 1. Make a finding as to whether or not the marriage is irretrievably broken. 2. Continue the matter for further hearing, not more than sixty days later. At the request of either party or on its own motion, the court may order a conciliation conference. At the next hearing the court shall make a finding as to whether or not the marriage is irretrievably broken.

A finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken is a determination that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. (Arizona Statutes – Title 25 – Chapters: 312, 316, 329)

Child Custody:

When minor children are involved in a dissolution of marriage, the Arizona courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.

The court shall determine custody, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including: 1. The wishes of the child’s parent or parents as to custody. 2. The wishes of the child as to the custodian. 3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parent or parents, the child’s siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest. 4. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community. 5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved. 6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent. 7. Whether one parent, both parents or neither parent has provided primary care of the child. 8. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding custody. 9. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title. 10. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02.

In a contested custody case, the court shall make specific findings on the record about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the best interests of the child.

In awarding child custody, the court may order sole custody or joint custody. This section does not create a presumption in favor of one custody arrangement over another. The court in determining custody shall not prefer a parent as custodian because of that parent’s sex.

The court may issue an order for joint custody over the objection of one of the parents if the court makes specific written findings of why the order is in the child’s best interests. In determining whether joint custody is in the child’s best interests, the court shall consider the factors prescribed above as well as the following: 1. The agreement or lack of an agreement by the parents regarding joint custody. 2. Whether a parent’s lack of agreement is unreasonable or is influenced by an issue not related to the best interests of the child. 3. The past, present and future abilities of the parents to cooperate in decision-making about the child to the extent required by the order of joint custody. 4. Whether the joint custody arrangement is logistically possible.

The court may issue an order for joint custody of a child if both parents agree and submit a written parenting plan and the court finds such an order is in the best interests of the child. The court may order joint legal custody without ordering joint physical custody. (Arizona Statutes – Title 25 – Chapters: 401)

Child Support:

Arizona child support guidelines are based on the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. The monthly support amount determined by applying the guidelines is divided proportionally according to each parent’s income. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent for support of the child. All income is typically verified by examining past W-2’s and child support worksheets are available at the courthouse.

The Supreme Court shall establish guidelines for determining the amount of child support. The amount resulting from the application of these guidelines is the amount of child support ordered unless a written finding is made, based on criteria approved by the Supreme Court, that application of the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust in a particular case. The Supreme Court shall review the guidelines at least once every four years to ensure that their application results in the determination of appropriate child support amounts. The Supreme Court shall base the guidelines and criteria for deviation from them on all relevant factors, including: 1. The financial resources and needs of the child. 2. The financial resources and needs of the custodial parent. 3. The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved. 4. The physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child’s educational needs. 5. The financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent. 6. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common. 7. The duration of parenting time and related expenses.

Even if a child is over the age of majority when a petition is filed or at the time of the final decree, the court may order support to continue past the age of majority if all of the following are true: 1. The court has considered the factors prescribed in Subsection D of this section. 2. The child is severely mentally or physically disabled as demonstrated by the fact that the child is unable to live independently and be self-supporting. 3. The child’s disability began before the child reached the age of majority.

If a child reaches the age of majority while the child is attending high school or a certified high school equivalency program, support shall continue to be provided during the period in which the child is actually attending high school or the equivalency program but only until the child reaches nineteen years of age unless the court enters an order pursuant to Subsection E of this section. Not withstanding any other law, a parent paying support for a child over the age of majority pursuant to this section is entitled to obtain all records related to the attendance of the child in the high school or equivalency program. (Arizona Statutes – Title 25 – Chapters: 320, 322, 500)