In addition to the requirements, here are some basic steps that act as a guide when filing for divorce in Arizona.
1. Preparing for Divorce
It is critical to be sure of your decision and be well prepared for the road ahead, considering the long-term consequences of divorce. As part of the divorce preparations, you need to decide whether or not you need the services of a lawyer. You also need to decide how to inform your
spouse, children, and other relevant parties about the divorce.
2. Filing Divorce Forms
After the initial preparations, the next step is filing the necessary divorce forms in the Superior Court. As the filing spouse, also known as the petitioner, the court requires you to fill out and file certain standard forms, some of which are mandatory.
The divorce forms provide necessary information about you and your spouse, including both full names, date of marriage, and information about any children you might have as a couple. Filing the divorce forms and paying a mandatory filing fee essentially marks the beginning of the divorce case.
3. Serving Your Spouse
After filing the divorce paperwork, the next step is to serve your non-filing spouse with a copy of the divorce papers. Under Arizona laws, you must serve your spouse within 120 days; otherwise, the court will automatically dismiss your case. If you still want a divorce, you will need to start
the process afresh after such a dismissal. The law requires a process server (a neutral party over 18) to directly deliver the divorce papers to the non-filing spouse, also known as the respondent. Serving the non-filing spouse ensures that they are aware of the divorce case while allowing them to respond. The respondent must sign an Acceptance of Service form for ‘service’ to be complete.
4. Your Spouse’s Response
Following ‘service,’ your spouse has 20 days to respond to the divorce petition; otherwise, it is a default divorce. A default divorce is where the court grants all of the petitioner’s requests without the input of the non-filing spouse. However, non-resident or out-of-state respondents have 30 days to respond. The Response allows the non-filing spouse to make their arguments, including agreeing or disagreeing with the contents of the divorce petition. For the Response to be complete, the respondent must file proof of their Response with the court.
5. Financial Disclosure
The law requires both spouses to disclose their respective financial information as part of the divorce process, including their income, assets, expenses, and debts. The court may also require other financial documents or information, including tax returns, credit card statements, and mortgage statements.
Financial disclosure allows for fairness in property division, child support, and other critical decisions as it ensures that neither of the spouses hides assets. You should endeavor to provide complete information to avoid court sanctions. Financial disclosure usually occurs when filing or responding to a divorce petition.
6. Out-of-Court Settlement
Depending on whether a divorce is contested or uncontested, the next step is for the spouses to have negotiations and an out-of-court settlement. While it is hard for divorcing couples to agree on everything, most Arizona divorces end in settlement. A settlement involves having an agreement favorable to all the divorce parties, including any children the couple might have. The agreed terms of the settlement subsequently form part of the divorce decree.
7. Trial and Final Judgment
Where a couple cannot agree in out-of-court negotiations, the divorce case goes to trial. Consequently, they have no control of the case outcome and must comply with the court’s decision. After an out-of-court settlement or a trial, there will be a final judgment where a judge issues a divorce decree. However, the judge will only sign an Order of Dissolution or issue a divorce decree if the divorce terms are acceptable and fair to all the parties involved.
8. Post-Divorce Issues
While the divorce decree is final and binding, some post-divorce issues may arise, including appeals and modification requests to change agreed divorce terms. Some of the post-divorce issues that may necessitate a modification request include re-marriage, job loss, abuse or neglect, and failure to meet alimony, child custody, and support obligations.
In case there are no post-divorce issues, the spouses will go ahead and start implementing the requirements of the divorce decree, including the transfer of assets.