Divorce in Arizona is referred to as Dissolution of Marriage. 

Residency Requirement
In order to file for dissolution of marriage in Arizona, one of the parties must be domiciled in the state, or stationed in the state while a member of the armed forces, for at least 90 days prior to filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. 

Filing:
The Petitioner, (filing spouse), must file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Superior Court in the county where the person petitioning for the dissolution resides. One copy of all the paperwork must be served on the Respondent (non-filing spouse). 

Notice that a dissolution case has been initiated must be given to the Respondent. This is known as service or service of process. The paperwork must be served according to Rules 4.1 and 4.2 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. 

The Respondent may file a Response to the Petition, but only has 20 days from the date of service (if Respondent is in Arizona) or 30 days (if Respondent is outside the state) to file this response. 

A time limit applies to each dissolution case. Check with the Clerk of the Superior Court in your county to determine your county's case time limit. 

There is a 60-day waiting period after the service of court papers before the court may grant the dissolution. 

Default
If a Response is not filed within the imposed timeframe, the court may grant the requests made in the Petition by default. If the Respondent has not responded, the Petitioner must file an application form (Application for Default or Notice of Default), which must also be served on the Respondent, should his/her whereabouts be known. 

The default will not become effective for ten days after the application has been filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court. During that timeframe, the Respondent is, once again, given the opportunity to file a Response. If he/she files during this time period, the case will proceed as if there were no default. If not, the court may dissolve the marriage and issue orders. 

Before doing so, the court must hold a hearing before a judge, commissioner or hearing officer of the court, to hear evidence from the Petitioner. This hearing may not be held for at least 60 days after the date that the Summons and Petition have been served on the Respondent. As referenced earlier, there is also a case time limit that sets the latest time to act in a case. 

Consent Decree
A dissolution or legal separation can be finalized without a trial if both spouses agree to all the terms of the divorce or legal separation regarding child custody and child and spousal support, when applicable, and property and debt division. 

This is known as a Consent Divorce Process. A couple can avail themselves of this process if both spouses sign all necessary documents for a Consent Decree and the parents have attended the Parent Education Class, if children are involved 

A consent decree is an order of the court legally ending a marriage that is based on agreement of the spouses regarding any issues that were originally disputed. 

Conciliation Court
Conciliation Court is a branch of the Superior Court which offers counseling, mediation, education and other services for the purpose of preserving, promoting and protecting family life and the institution of marriage, to protect the rights of children, and to provide means for the reconciliation of spouses and the amicable settlement of domestic and family disagreements. 

The court may order a conciliation conference for the purpose of reconciling the marriage (in the case of a covenant marriage), or to reach an amicable settlement so as to avoid further litigation over the issues involved. 

Prior to or after the filing of any action for annulment, dissolution of marriage or legal separation, either spouse or both spouses may file a petition invoking the jurisdiction of the conciliation court to attempt to preserve the marriage, or to assist the spouses in reaching settlement agreements regarding issues relevant to the proposed or initiated action. 

Conciliation Court may not be available in all Arizona counties. 

Spouse's Name
Upon request by a party at any time prior to the signing of the decree of dissolution or annulment by the court, the court shall order that party's requested former name be restored. 

Covenant Marriage

Arizona created covenant marriage by statute August 21, 1998. This type of marriage does not replace the kind of marriage already available, but offers an additional option to couples who are going to marry. A covenant marriage places total emphasis on the belief and promise that this type of marriage is a commitment for life. 

To enter into a covenant marriage, the couple must first have premarital counseling from either a clergy member or a marriage counselor. When applying for a covenant license to marry, they must sign a special declaration on the application form. 

Couples who are already married in Arizona or any other state, may convert their marriage to a covenant marriage by paying a fee and presenting to the Clerk of the Superior court a special declaration like that on the license application, and a sworn statement listing the names and the date and place their marriage ceremony was performed 

For a covenant marriage, legal separation or dissolution of marriage can only be granted for certain, limited reasons. The law purposefully makes it more difficult to end a covenant marriage. 

The percentage of covenant marriage is quite low in Arizona. 

Legal Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage

Arizona is recognized as a no-fault state. This means that spouses do not have to prove blame or responsibility to end a marriage. This only applies to non-covenant marriages. 

"Regular" (Non-covenant) Marriage Dissolution Grounds
Arizona uses a no-fault divorce standard for "regular" marriages. It is only necessary to determine that the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning that there is no reasonable chance that the spouses want to keep the marriage together. 

Covenant Marriage Dissolution Grounds:

Annulment

Arizona superior courts may dissolve a marriage, declaring it to be null and void, when the alleged cause constitutes an impediment rendering the marriage void. The jurisdictional requirements and procedure for obtaining an annulment are the same as for dissolution. 

Void and prohibited marriages include the following:

  • Marriages between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren of every degree, brothers and sisters (half or whole), uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, and first cousins;
  • Marriages between persons of the same sex; and
  • One party is underage and married without the consent of a parent or guardian.

Voidable marriages are not limited to those specified in the statutes. 

The court will divide the property of the parties and determine matters concerning any children of the marriage when voiding a marriage. 

Property Division

Arizona is a community property state. Community property, joint tenancy and other property held in common will typically be divided 50/50 by the court if the parties are not able to come to an agreement. Marital misconduct will have no effect on property division, but the court can consider excessive or abnormal use of community property, including actions of fraud, concealment or destruction. 

Property acquired by either spouse outside of Arizona shall be deemed to be community property if the property would have been considered community property if it had been acquired in Arizona. 

Property owned prior to the marriage, and gifts and inheritances received during the marriage are generally considered separate property, as long as they haven't been comingled with marital property, and are typically awarded back to the owning spouse. A court may put a lien on these assets, however, to secure child or spousal support payments.

Spousal Maintenance, Support

Maintenance may be ordered for either spouse based on whether any of the following situations exists for the spouse requesting maintenance.The award of maintenance is also based on the other spouse's ability to pay. Spousal misconduct is not a factor. The amount of maintenance to be awarded and the length and number of payments are determined from reviewing the following factors.If both spouses agree, the maintenance order and decree may state that its maintenance agreement won't be modified. Maintenance awards are not permanent, and end at death of either party, or if/when the recipient spouse remarries, unless the decree states differently.

Child Custody and Support

Custody
Arizona courts base their child custody decisions on what is in the best interest and welfare of the child. The following factors are considered when deciding on custody.In a contested custody case, the court shall make specific findings on the record about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the best interest of the child. 

The court may award sole or joint custody. Before joint custody can be granted, the parents must first submit a proposed parenting plan, which includes specifics about each parent's rights and responsibilities for the care of the child and for decisions regarding education, healthcare and religious training; a visitation schedule; established procedures for handling changes, disputes, breaches and periodic reviews and statements that the parents understand the nature of joint custody as well as the relevant notification requirements. 

Support

Arizona uses the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. Either parent may be ordered to pay child support, without regard to marital misconduct. If child support was not ordered and the court deems that it is appropriate and necessary, retroactive child support may be ordered, to the date of filing of the dissolution of marriage or legal separation. 

The Supreme Court establishes the guidelines for determining the amount of child support to be awarded, and shall review these guidelines at least once every four years to ensure that their application results in the determination of appropriate amounts. The court bases these guidelines on all relevant factors, including the following.Child support may continue past the child's age of 18 when the child is severely mentally or physically disabled, such that he/she is unable to live independently and be self-supporting, and the disability began before the child reached the age of majority. 

Child support may also continue past the age of 18, if the child is still attending high school or a certified high school equivalency program, but only until the age of 19. 

Legal Separation

Arizona recognizes legal separation. At least one party must be a resident of the state and both parties must agree to the legal separation. If one party objects to a decree of legal separation, the court shall direct that the pleadings be amended to seek dissolution of the marriage. 

"Regular" (Non-covenant) Marriage Legal Separation Grounds
As in dissolution of marriage, for non-covenant marriages it is only necessary to determine that the marriage is irretrievably broken or one or both of the spouses want to live separate and apart, to file for a legal separation. 

Covenant Marriage Legal Separation Grounds
The grounds for obtaining a legal separation vary slightly from those for obtaining dissolution.

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