Most people who are ready to file for divorce want the process to be over with as quickly as possible. The good news is that Arizona does have a fairly efficient process. The bad news is that divorce still usually takes a minimum of 90 to 120 days to be finalized.
If you file for divorce first, you are the “Petitioner.” Filing first doesn’t give you any specific advantages. Arizona is a “no-fault” state. The court generally does not inquire as to why the marriage is ending or who did what to end the relationship. For child custody matters, however, your actions as a parent can be very closely considered.
It costs $349 to file a petition for dissolution of marriage. The best way to file it is to go to the Superior Court and personally give copies to the clerk of the court. The clerk then marks the copies and one of those needs to be delivered to the other party. However, it isn’t as simple as just throwing the copy in the mail. The “Respondent” must be served a copy or sign an acceptance and waiver of service affidavit. That waiver has to be notarized and sent back to the Petitioner.
The Respondent then has 20 days to file a written response. A fee of $274 needs to be paid at that time. The Response isn’t designed to contest the idea that the Petitioner wants a divorce. The purpose of the Response is to contest requests made in the Petition. Keep in mind that parties to a divorce have a great deal of latitude to decide how property is to be divided. The interests of the children will always be taken into consideration, but judges tend to allow a married couple to come to terms that they think are fair. If the couple cannot reach an agreement, that’s when the judge needs to step in.
Should the Respondent agree with everything in the petition, they may not elect to do anything at all. The Petitioner can file a default judgment. The Court will then allow the Respondent another 10 days to consider whether or not they want to move forward without filing a pleading of their own. After that period of time, then the Petitioner can ask the court for a “default judgment.”
The other option in these uncontested situations is to file a “consent decree.” Instead of filing a response, both parties file a document outlining that they are in agreement with the plan to divide the community property and care for the children. There are a number of forms that need to be filed that formalize the process. Those forms are the Parenting Plan, Child Support and Property Settlement Agreement.
From there, assuming that there are no legal issues that would prevent the court from accepting the decree, it is signed by the court and the divorce is finalized in a manner that is “uncontested.”
Should the parties not agree to the terms, the process involves a number of conferences with the judge. The judge will be interested to know what the issues in dispute are. That first Resolution Management Conference is set about 45 days after the Response is filed. From there, the court will generally require mediation to occur so that the parties can work out their differences. Mediation can be through a private provider or court. Keep in mind that because of Covid-19, all hearings are conducted telephonically. Before trial, you can request a temporary order hearing to help determine temporary child custody and support issues.
If the parties can’t reach an agreement, then a trial usually is a half-day affair. However, a contested divorce can take well over a year, not a couple of months.
Here comes the legal part. Keep in mind that every case is different and sometimes simple disputes can spiral out of control. If you have any questions about family law matters in Arizona, we offer a free telephonic consultation to answer your specific questions. Just call 602-989-5000.
Here at Alcock and Associates our team and staff are dedicated to helping and representing YOU. The first step is to understand your case. We will take the time to get to know you and your legal situation so that we are best able to answer all of your questions. After your initial consultation with our attorneys, you will know what you are facing and what can happen to your case.
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