No matter what your situation entails, divorce is always a big decision. You might be able to handle your case if the issues involved are fairly simple. On the other hand, most divorces require the help of an experienced family law attorney. However, before filing for divorce in Arizona, either spouse must satisfy the residency requirement by living in the state for at least 90 days.
Arizona divorce law recognizes "no-fault" divorces where no specific reason (or ground) for the divorce is stated. The spouses seek a divorce because the marriage is "irretrievably broken." On the other hand, couples who entered into a "covenant marriage" must file a fault-based divorce, which requires the filing spouse to list the reason for the divorce. Fault-based grounds in Arizona include:
- One spouse has committed a felony resulting in imprisonment
- Habitual drug or alcohol abuse
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Abandonment for at least one year
- Living separately and apart for at least two years
- The parties have been granted a legal separation and have lived apart for at least one year
- The parties both agree to dissolve the marriage
How to Begin
In Arizona, one spouse must start the case in the Superior Court. The court case must begin in the county where the spouse requesting the divorce lives. The requesting spouse must file a "Petition" with the Clerk of Superior Court. There is a filing fee that must be paid to the Clerk of Superior Court, but if the Petitioner cannot pay the fee, he or she can request that the court defer or waive it. This request must be made it writing to the clerk's office.
In Arizona, if both parties agree on the most important terms of the divorce, they may file for an uncontested divorce. The parties can file an Arizona uncontested divorce when there are no children or when the parties agree that only one spouse will have custody of the children. They should also agree on how to divide all marital property and there should be no future retirement benefits to divide. An uncontested divorce is usually the quickest and cheapest option.
The Arizona Legal Aid Society, in collaboration with other efforts, offers a free divorce self-help guide.
- Any debts and obligations attached to the property
- The property's exempt status
- Whether either spouse was convicted of a crime that financially damaged the other person
Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is payment for the support and maintenance of the other spouse. When the court considers whether or not to award alimony, it considers four factors:
Whether or not a spouse lacks sufficient property (taking into consideration other marital property awarded in the divorce) to provide for his or her needs
Whether a spouse is unable to be self-sufficient because he or she lacks earning ability or has to take care of a child
- If one spouse contributed to the education of the other spouse
- If the marriage was a long one, or if the spouse is too old to gain the kind of employment to allow him or her to be self-sufficient
If the court decides to award alimony, they decide how much based on the following factors:
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- Each party's age and health, along with their earning abilities
- The paying spouse's ability to support himself and the recipient
- The paying spouse's resources as compared to the receiving spouse's resources
- Whether the recipient contributed to the paying spouse's earning ability
- Whether the recipient compromised her career to support the paying spouse's earning ability
- Both side's ability to support any children
- Other financial resources, including marital assets
- Any educational resources available to the recipient spouse
- Whether either side engaged in irresponsible spending
- Health insurance costs for each side
- Whether either spouse was convicted of a crime that resulted in financial damage to a spouse or their kids
Arizona courts award custody based on several considerations, including:
- The child's relationship with his or her parents, siblings or other people in the house
- The child's wishes
- The child's ability to adjust to home and school
- The mental and physical health of people involved
- Which parent is more willing to encourage frequent contact with the other parent
- Whether one parent was the primary caregiver
- Whether one parent used coercion to obtain custody
- Whether a parent complied with the requirements of Arizona custody law
- Whether either parent was convicted of false reporting of abuse under Arizona law
Arizona law expects that both parents will contribute to their children financially.
Before you file, it helps to familiarize yourself with state law and legal procedure. Knowing your legal rights in divorce will put you on equal footing with your spouse. Although you still might feel some level of anxiety, knowing what to expect can help ease the stress and frustration of divorce negotiations.