Divorce Process in Arizona
In the State of Arizona the legal name for a divorce is Dissolution of Marriage. The amount of time the divorce or dissolution process takes varies from case to case. A quick divorce will take approximately six (6) months. Factors that can prolong the divorce process include how long the parties have been married, if there are minor children and if there are significant assets or debt to be divided. The single most important factor that will prolong a divorce is if the parties are in disagreement regarding any one of the issues.
The person filing for the divorce is called the Petitioner. The person responding to the divorce is called the Respondent.
After the Petitioner, files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, they must serve the Respondent with a copy of the petition within 120 days. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage includes what you are asking for such as, child custody (now called legal decision making), parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, property division, debt allocation and attorney's fees and costs. With every divorce case state law requires that you wait 90 days from the date of service before the divorce can be finalized. This is called the "cooling off" period. If the parties are in agreement, the 60 days can be used to draft the final documents. If there is no agreement, the steps necessary to obtain a divorce will greatly depend on your situation.
After service of the petition, the Respondent must file a Response to the Petition for Dissolution within 20 days if he or she was served in the State of Arizona or 30 days if the respondent was served in a different state.
3. Temporary Orders
Temporary orders are orders from the court that stay in effect while the case is pending and those orders last until trial or an agreed upon resolution of the case. Either spouse can ask the court to enter temporary orders, such as who lives in the house, does either spouse pay spousal maintenance, who pays what bills and who is responsible for the child(ren) during what days and time.
Discovery is the legal procedure for obtaining information from the other party.
There are four main types of discovery procedures:
- Interrogatories are a written list of questions sent to your spouse and they must response with a formal written answers.
- Requests for production are when you request specific documents from your spouse.
- Depositions are when your lawyer is able to ask your spouse certain questions, under oath, pertaining to your divorce, while a court reporter transcribes the entire process. Depositions are taken outside of the courtroom, usually at a lawyer's office, but have the same effect as if the person was testifying in a court room.
- Subpoenas are orders issued by the Clerk of the Court compelling a third party to disclose documents in their possession to the person that issued the subpoena. These can be bank records, employment records, business records, etc.
5. Negotiated Settlement
A negotiated settlement is when both parties create their own divorce agreement without going to trial and having a judge deicide their outcome. This can between the two parties, but more typically it is done through mediation. In Arizona, a mediation or settlement conference will typically be ordered by the judge, prior to trial, as an attempt to settle some or all of the issues in the divorce.
When the two parties are not able to come to an agreement they will go to trial. At trial both parties explain their story though testimony, the testimony of other witnesses, and documents called exhibits. After the judge has listened to both sides, the judge will then make a decision regarding all issues pertaining to your divorce such as, dividing your income and assets (including retirement accounts), allocating debts, spousal maintenance, child support, parenting time, child custody (now called legal decision making) and attorney's fees.
If either spouse is unhappy with the outcome of the trial, they may appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals. If you enter into a negotiated settlement, it cannot be appealed and you are free to move on with your life.
If you or someone you know is contemplating a divorce or if you have been served with divorce papers, contact the Scottsdale office of, Owens & Perkins, at 480.630.2464 to schedule a complimentary ½ hour consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.