Divorce is a challenging process on nearly every level one can imagine – especially on emotional, mental and financial levels. It’s also extremely important to follow the legal process “to the letter” to minimize frustration with the process and avoid having “redos” – refilings, corrections, missed deadlines.
Filing for a divorce in Arizona requires a number of steps, and it’s important to be prepared for each of them. If you’re in the process of considering a divorce, here’s what you need to know to be granted a dissolution of your marriage.
Step 1: Check the Requirements
Before filing for divorce, you will want to be sure you understand the requirements involving:
- Your grounds for divorce
- Residency requirements
- Waiting periods
- Child custody and visitation processes
Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, which means one spouse can choose to end the marriage if it is irretrievably broken. It does not require the agreement of both spouses to make this assertion. If one party wants it, then you have the grounds to file. Please note that the exception to this is a covenant marriage, which are very rare – a case where a party has to prove fault by the spouse seeking the divorce.
There are also various waiting periods involving separation, filing, and final dissolution. Once the initial petition is served on the other party, they the 60 day waiting period “the cooling off period” begins and no final judgment can be entered until that period has passed. If you have questions about timeframes or other requirements, McMurdie Law and Mediation has nearly 3 decades of family law experience at their disposal to help you with your divorce.
Also, before you file your Petition, either you or your spouse must have lived in Arizona for at least 90 days prior to filing for divorce. This gives the State of Arizona the right to assert jurisdiction over this case. If you have minor children, they must have lived in Arizona for six months before Arizona has the jurisdictional right to assert jurisdiction over decision regarding the Children such as parenting time, legal decision-making and visitation.
Step 2: File the Appropriate Documents
After you determine how you’ll file, contested or uncontested, and have ensured you meet all the requirements, you will complete all the necessary forms to begin the divorce process. There are two different collections of paperwork depending on whether you and your spouse have minor children or not, but you can expect some or all of the following to be required:
- Preliminary injunction
- Notice to creditors
- Domestic relations cover sheet (Sensitive Data Sheet)
- Affidavit regarding minor children (which can be included within the Petition itself)
- COBRA notice about medical insurance
- Parent information program
Additional copies, one for you and one for your spouse, will be needed. McMurdie Law Office used to generate 4 sets before the court moved to all digital filings in 2022. Now the court provides the above documents when just the Sensitive Data Sheet and the Petition are filed. The Court generates the other documents as a matter of course when the Attorney files the Petiton and Sensitive Data Sheet.
With each filing there is a filing fee, and now there are digital processing fees in addition to the original filing fee. The Petition filing fee is $349.00 and with each filing there is an additional $6.70 processing fee as well. The Respondent filing fee is currently $274.00 along with any additional $6.70 processing fees. The digital filing fee system commenced this year and the kinks are still being worked out. Overall the court are less burdened with paper and it appears that we are moving into the next digital millennium.
Step 3: Work Out Immediate Details
You and your spouse must reach agreements on the division of your assets and debts and upon the parenting time, legal decision-making and child support for the children. At the beginning of your case, many people benefit for interim terms to help them during the pendency of their case often called “temporary orders” and they can be reached by agreement or have a hearing to have the Court issues orders that you would follow during your divorce case. If you have an early hearing requiring court testimony and offering evidence, it is best to turn this over to your attorney to ensure the best outcome.
Step 4: Discovery and Disclosure
Once your case is underway, it is common to have to exchange documents for the purpose of ascertaining exactly what is in your marital estate and it values. Through the discovery and disclosure process, you’ll gather and share information about your finances and other relevant aspects of your case. In Arizona, couples are required by law to make certain disclosures to each other, including income from any source, support obligations, debts, property information and investments, securities, or other assets. Your attorney will help you through the process of discovery, both to provide your answers to discovery requests, and to request information about your spouse as well. The deadline in answering discovery requests is 40 days which tends to extend the process and is often necessary when people have not been part of their spouse’s financial estate.
Step 5: Resolutions
In Arizona, couples can resolve their divorces through out-of-court at every stage of your case right up until you are standing on the court-house steps and sometime even during trial during a break. A good family lawyer should attempt to settle issues all along the way even while preparing for trial.
Out of Court: Settlement
Arizona state law dictates that divorcing couples have at least good-faith discussions about settlement before and during the divorce process. This results in many divorces ending in out of court settlement. In fact, at McMurdie Law and Mediation, we are accustomed to resolving most of our cases through settlement prior to trial, once the case is filed and has been well prepared. If you and your spouse can agree on a settlement, it’s often easier and faster to reach an agreement yourselves than to take your case before a judge.
In Court: Final Hearing
In the event that you and your spouse cannot reach terms of agreement on all issues related to your marital estate and family, your divorce case may likely go to trial or be postured to go to trial even while you are still attempting to negotiate your terms. At the trial, you and your spouse will give witness testimony and “put on” evidence that supports your positions. You and your spouse may have to testify in court, and the opposing side’s lawyer will ask you questions. Finally, the judge (the “Court”) will decide how your divorce case should be settled and will issue written orders.
Divorce trials can be risky, as the judge will not know you or your spouse, and has the task of ordering parenting issues and the division of your assets and debts that must be determined in a very short period of time usually allocated for trial. The court’s decision will have a profound impact on your life—and often your children’s lives.
Post-Trial Motions and Appeals
After a court hearing, both parties or their lawyers may file post-trial motions and appeals. These are used to address issues like unfair practices at trial, new information that was not available at the time of the hearing, and how the court may have addressed various evidence. You must then wait for the judge’s ruling. If you are unhappy with the judge’s decision, you may appeal the order in some situations. Your spouse also has the same option. The entire process of post-trial motions and appeals may take as little as a few weeks, or as much as several months. At McMurdie Law and Mediation we take your through the trial process and we refer out any requests for appeals to firms that specialize in appellate work. It is extremely rare that divorce cases go through the appeals process because the trial court process is exhausting and folk want to go about building their new lives after trial.
McMurdie Law and Mediation can help you navigate the process of divorce by scheduling a no-obligation, no-cost initial consultation and case evaluation. Call us today at 480-777-5500.