The amount of time it takes to get a divorce in Arizona varies case by case. However, each divorce will go through basic steps, and some of these steps have time requirements. The following article provides basic timelines to file for a divorce in Arizona.
Day 1: Filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The first step is for the Petitioner (the spouse who is seeking the divorce) to fill out and file a form asking the court the dissolve his or her marriage.
The Petitioner must state the reason for the divorce. Arizona Revised Statute §25-314 requires that the petition state that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one or both of the parties desire to live separate and apart. If the marriage is a covenant marriage, then the petition must state any of the grounds for dissolution as prescribed in §25-903 or §25-904. The petition will also state the details of any children of the marriage, the length of residence in Arizona and any relief that the Petitioner wants to ask from the court.
The necessary forms for seeking the dissolution of marriage will be filled out by your lawyer, but you can also obtain them directly from the court. For example, the Maricopa County Superior Court Law Library Resource Center has forms and instructions that you can pick up or get online.
Day 2+: Serving the Petition to your Spouse
The Petitioner will then arrange with the court to serve the divorce papers to the Respondent. “Service” means giving legally required notice to other parties that you have filed papers that may result in a court order affecting them. The court papers can only be delivered in a manner permitted by law, and proof of proper delivery must be filed with the court.
Service can be arranged through a Registered Process Server, so that the court can verify that the person has received the petition. You can also use the Sheriff’s Office for service. Both of these options have fees.
If you serve the divorce papers on your spouse yourself, then you must obtain his or her signature on a Family Court Acceptance of Service Form to ensure that the service meets the legal requirements.
Day 22: Deadline for filing a Response to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The Respondent (the one who is served the divorce papers) must then then file a response. If the Respondent lives in Arizona, he or she must file a response within 20 days of being served the form. If the Respondent lives outside of Arizona, they must file a response within 30 days. The time to file the response starts counting from the day after the service was done.
When you receive the copy of the divorce petition, it is very important to file a response. If the court does not receive any response from the Respondent, the Petitioner can apply for a default hearing for the court to grant the divorce. At a default hearing, the Respondent’s legal rights may be affected adversely, even if he or she is not present in the court.
Day 62: Cooling off period ends
In Arizona, state law §25-329 requires that you wait 60 days from the date of service of the divorce papers before the court can grant a divorce. This is a “cooling-off” period for the parties to reflect on whether they really want the divorce.
At the end of the cooling off period, it is usually apparent to everyone whether the divorce will be uncontested or contested. Either the parties can agree on the terms of the divorce, or they cannot agree. Some potential issues may crop up, including how to share property, who gets custody of the children, and other matters involving the marriage.
Either way, the court will have to hear the issues between the parties, and both parties have to appear at the court on a date that is assigned to them by the court clerk.
Day 63: Uncontested Divorce
If you and your partner are able to come to an agreement about your divorce, then you can file a consent decree 60 days after the divorce papers were first served. If you and your partner do not agree, then you will need go to court for trial to determine the issues between you (see option 2 below for contested divorce).
The best way that you and your spouse can speed up the divorce process is by pursuing an uncontested divorce. As opposed to a contested separation that can potentially take many months to years, consensual divorce agreements can be completed from start to finish in as little as 90 days.
If you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement regarding the terms of your separation, you can file a consent decree and potentially have your divorce finalized before your first court date.
However, it should be mentioned that if you and your spouse do not agree on even one term the divorce is no longer uncontested. In this case you can expect the length of your divorce process to increase by a minimum of one month.
Day 90: Court date for uncontested divorce
If you have filed the consent decree, then the court will likely grant a divorce at a hearing scheduled for that purpose. Assignment of court dates are based on usual procedures at the court, and the earliest dates are usually set for about 90 days after the divorce papers were served.
At the divorce hearing, the court will make a decree of dissolution of marriage or legal separation per §25-325, for the divorce to be finalized.
Day 63+: Contested Divorce
After the court has received the petition and response from the two spouses, it will determine whether it can grant the divorce, or if there are still issues to be resolved.
The complexity of these issues between the parties may stretch the time it takes to complete the divorce. Factors that add complexity include:
- the length of time you have been married
- the presence of children of the marriage, which will include hearings on both child custody and child support
- marital property and/or marital debt is to be divided
While it is recommended to have a lawyer regardless of whether or not your divorce is contested, these factors are what make it almost mandatory. Determining these very sensitive topics demands someone who is thoroughly knowledgeable in Arizona family laws.
Day 90+: Trial date for contested divorce
At your trial, the judge will ask for evidence to be presented to determine the matters between the parties. It is important that you have strong legal representation in your corner so that you can put your best case forward.
After hearing both sides and considering all the circumstances, the court will determine the contested issues between the parties and make a decree for the divorce to be finalized. The court will also make orders for custody, sharing of property or debt, maintenance (alimony), and other matters.
How JacksonWhite Can Help
At JacksonWhite we have over 25 years of combined experience helping Arizona families with divorce matters. Our skilled team treats all of our clients with respect, understanding, and compassion.
We thoroughly understand what needs to be done in each unique situation and will do everything in our power to ensure that your family makes it through this difficult period, while also setting you up with a positive future.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.