Under Arizona law, there is no such thing as an automatic divorce. Being separated, no matter how long, will not automatically dissolve your marriage. What does this mean for you? Let us take a look.
Legal separation vs. divorce
Legal separation and divorce are two different things. A legal separation does not end the marriage. You are still legally married, just living apart. On the other hand, divorce completely dissolves the marriage, allowing you to remarry if you wish.
No-fault divorce in Arizona
Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, so you do not have to prove any “wrongdoing” by your spouse to get a divorce. There is no need for a specific period of separation before you can file the papers.
Voluntary separation period
This period is not mandated by Arizona law, but many couples who choose to eventually part ways find it a useful step. It is a time when you and your partner can see what life might be like financially if you were to divorce. If there are kids involved, this period can be a trial run to see how shared custody might work and how the children react to the new living arrangements.
Waiting period for no-fault divorce
Arizona has a 60-day waiting period after filing the initial divorce papers. So, once the divorce papers are served to the other spouse, you have to wait at least 60 days before the court finalizes the divorce. Some couples decide to reconcile or seek mediation during this period, while some use it to get their documents together and consult with lawyers.
Petitioning for divorce
To start the proceedings, you will need to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This document outlines what you are asking for, such as property division, child custody, and alimony. You then take the completed petition to the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county where you or your spouse lives.
Next, you have to “serve” the papers to your spouse, which means officially giving them a copy. They have 20 to 30 days to respond. If they agree with everything, the process moves faster. If not, they will file a “Response,” and you have to negotiate or go to court. If you have kids, Arizona law requires both parents to attend a parenting class. You cannot finalize the divorce without this.
Property and asset division
First, both parties need to list all their assets: property, bank accounts, investments, and debts. Arizona is a community property state, so in most cases, assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered owned by both spouses. Anything you had before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance is your own.
You will need to figure out how much everything is worth. For this, we recommend getting appraisals for your home, business, artwork, and other substantial assets.
Child Custody and Support Considerations
From the start, you need to talk about who will have custody of the kids. This can be a sensitive topic and may require a lot of back-and-forth between both parents. If immediate decisions about custody and support are needed, you can request temporary orders from the court.
Both parents also need to submit a detailed parenting plan outlining custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and decision-making responsibilities. If you can’t agree, the court will decide for you.
Spousal Support (alimony)
Early in the divorce process, both parties have to disclose their financial situations. This is to determine if spousal support is needed and how much should be paid. If one spouse needs immediate financial support, the court can issue a temporary support order. To calculate the amount, the court considers many factors, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions.
Role of Legal Representation
Filling out divorce forms alone is a complicated task. A single mistake can set you back weeks. Lawyers handle this paperwork daily and can complete it accurately and quickly. A good one can quickly identify what is relevant to your case, saving you the time and stress of figuring it out yourself.
They can negotiate on your behalf in the most effective way since they know what is reasonable to ask for and can help you get a fair deal. If the case goes to trial, an experienced divorce attorney can make a key difference in the outcome.
Get an Experienced Arizona Divorce Attorney on Your Side
If you think divorce becomes automatic after some time apart, think again. Arizona has its own set of divorce laws and timelines you need to follow, in addition to knowing when to hire a divorce lawyer in Phoenix. Hiring a lawyer early can make a world of difference in how smoothly things go. Call us at 602-265-5200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.