Divorce Process

Who Can File for Divorce in Arizona

Before a divorce can be entered in Arizona, at least one of the parties must have been domiciled in Arizona for at least ninety (90) days prior to filing the petition for dissolution. As Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, the only justification needed for a divorce is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or irreconcilable differences.

Petition for Dissolution & Response

The petition for dissolution is the first document filed with the court and the beginning of the formal dissolution process. The petition must be properly served on your partner, which is usually done by a private process server. Your partner will have 20 days to respond to the petition.  Your partner may choose to ignore the petition, in which case the court can enter a default judgment dissolving the marriage. You may also be contacted to enter a consent decree or settlement agreement without a legal fight. If your partner files a response, the divorce will be contested. Although contested divorces often end with the parties entering into a consent decree and marriage settlement agreement, contested divorces are always more costly.

Preliminary Injunction

Once the petition for dissolution is filed, the court will enter a preliminary injunction to protect the parties during the divorce. ?The preliminary injunction prevents the parties from disposing of community assets; it protects the parties from post-petition debts incurred by the other; and it prevents one parent from taking the minor children without the written consent of the other parent.  It also prevents the parties from disturbing or harassing one another. If your partner is abusive, you should inform your attorney so additional steps can be taken to protect you. This may include keeping your residential address secret and filing for a protective order.

Temporary Orders

At the beginning of a divorce, parties are often unable to decide who the minor children will reside with, which spouse will stay in the marital residence, which spouse will drive which vehicle, and who will be responsible for paying the bills.  An unemployed spouse may also need financial support during the process or money to assist with that spouses attorney’s fees.  Early in the process, either party may move the court to enter temporary orders to govern the parties’ relationship during the dissolution process.

Discovery

Although discovery can be costly, it is imperative that your attorney fully prepare for trial if the divorce is contested. At the beginning of the dissolution process, both parties will submit an affidavit of financial information with the court. Because parties to a divorce are not always honest about their assets, it is important to verify the veracity of the other party’s affidavit. This is also another reason why you should gather all relevant financial information prior to filing for divorce.
Successful discovery not only locates hidden assets. It is also a tool to help the parties better understand the full picture, which can make settlement discussions more meaningful. The nature and extent of discovery engaged in will be driven by the contested issues and assets and debts held by the parties. If child custody is disputed, the children can be interviewed by the court. Professionals can also be retained to issue reports as to the mental and physical health and welfare of the children. Where financial assets are involved, experts are necessary to establish the value of property, including homes and businesses.
If the other party has retained experts, you should do so as well as the other party’s expert may have significantly inflated or deflated the value of property or a business. Do not count on the other party to play fair.

Trial

Where the parties are unable to resolve all issues through negotiation or alternative forms of dispute resolution, all unresolved issues will be decided by a judge after a trial. At trial, the parties will present evidence and witness testimony to support their positions on the disputed issues. The judge, considering that evidence and the relevant law, will then issue an order resolving all issues. Because trials are expensive, the parties should work to limit the issues to be tried through negotiation. To discuss your issue with a family law attorney, us for a free consultation.