Marriage is an intimate union and equal partnership between a man and a woman. It is a lifelong exclusive commitment to the person you chose to marry. It requires strong dedication, marital commitment, and endless efforts to make it work. Some marriages tend to fail due to factors such as adultery, irreconcilable differences, domestic violence, cruelty, abandonment, and desertion. How a couple handles these issues often determines whether their relationship collapses or holds firm. If your marriage is not going well, there are several ways to end it, either temporarily or permanently, based on the particular circumstance. You may choose to file a legal separation, an annulment, or a divorce.
Divorce is known as the legal process of ending a marriage. Divorce laws may differ from state to state. When you file for divorce, you and your spouse should decide on the terms of child custody, asset division, and alimony (spousal maintenance). A competent Phoenix family law attorney can help you understand the possible outcomes of financial and custody arrangements.
The article will focus on the divorce process in Arizona by explaining the following:
- Getting a Divorce Started in Arizona
- Filing a Dissolution Petition
- Serving and Answering the Petition
- Establishing Temporary Orders
- Resolving Child Custody Issues
- Finalizing the Divorce Process
Getting a Divorce Started in Arizona
In Arizona, the divorce procedure is called a dissolution of marriage. A dissolution for any married couple will accomplish two things: ending the marital relationship and dividing assets and debts. To file for dissolution of marriage in Arizona, either you or your spouse must have been domiciled in Arizona for at least 90 days. The process starts once the divorce paperwork is filed with the court. Your divorce attorney in Phoenix can help get you started on the process.
Filing a Dissolution Petition
The spouse that files the petition is called the “petitioner,” and the other spouse is called the “respondent.” A petition for dissolution of marriage includes the following information:
- Name, address, and contact information of the spouses and children
- Acknowledgment that the petitioner and/or his or her spouse have lived in the state or county for a certain amount of time before filing the petition
- Grounds for divorce
- Information regarding alimony or child support
- Child custody and visitation proposals
- Preferences for property division (within allowed state guidelines)
Serving and Answering the Petition
After a dissolution petition is filed with the court, the petitioner (usually through his or her lawyer) ensures that the petition is “served” on the other spouse (respondent). The respondent can either agree or oppose the terms of the petition. Answering a divorce petition acknowledges the respondent’s receipt of the petition and states agreement or disagreement with the petition. In Arizona, the respondent is given 20 days to file a response after being served.
If the respondent fails to answer the dissolution petition, a “default judgment” will be entered in the case. This means that the non-responsive spouse agrees to the terms of the petition set by the filing spouse. If a default is entered against a spouse who failed to answer a divorce petition, he or she may be able to ask the court to remove or “set aside” the default so that the divorce can be contested, but the respondent will need to show sound legal reasons that justify the request.
Establishing Temporary Orders
During the divorce process, the court may enter “pendente lite orders” or temporary orders in the divorce case. Spouses can mutually agree on temporary orders or allow the judge to make decisions. If approved, these orders usually stay in effect until the divorce becomes final. These temporary orders may pertain to issues such as:
- The spouse who will be chosen as the primary (physical) custodian of the child
- Child visitation schedule (for the non-custodial spouse)
- Payment of child support
- Payment of spousal support or alimony
- Payment of bills and other financial concerns
- The spouse who will live in the couple’s house or primary residence
Resolving Child Custody Issues
If you have any minor children, you and your spouse have to agree on the terms of child custody. Generally, one parent is awarded custody, and the other is granted visitation rights. You need to figure out how your children’s time will be divided between the parents and how decisions will be made for them. Talk to your child custody lawyer in Phoenix to resolve this.
Under the Arizona child custody laws, if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on decision-making, parenting time, legal custody, and physical custody, the judge will make a custody decision based on the child’s best interests. The judge will decide based on the following factors:
- The past, present, and future relationship between the parent and child
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
- Any domestic violence or child abuse
- The abilities of the parents to cooperate in joint legal decision-making
Finalizing the Divorce Process
After you’ve filed and served your divorce papers, you’ll need to gather sufficient evidence, resolve things at mediation, or prove your case at trial.
The discovery process in a divorce involves information being exchanged between the two parties involved in the case. It may seem tedious and complicated because of the need to obtain and to provide lots of detailed information. However, gathering evidence can clarify your issues and reach your goals in your divorce. A reliable Phoenix family law attorney can help you submit and gather information on your behalf during the discovery process. Various types of discovery that can be used in your divorce including:
- Interrogatories – written questions that must be answered under oath
- Requests for production of documents – request to give certain documents from you or your spouse
- Requests for admissions – asking that certain facts be admitted or denied
- Depositions – questions are asked and answered in the presence of a court reporter but outside the presence of a judge
A divorce trial will not be scheduled by a judge until the spouses have tried mediation. Divorce mediation is a process that allows divorcing couples to meet with a well-trained and neutral third-party mediator to discuss and resolve common divorce-related issues. Mediation is typically less stressful and less expensive than a divorce trial, and it usually proceeds much faster. Because you and your spouse have the final say over your divorce matters, mediation also allows couples to maintain power and control in their divorce.
When your divorce goes to trial, you will present your case to the judge at a formal trial in court. The judge will hear each spouse’s case and will make any necessary decisions regarding property division, spousal support, child custody, and other issues related to the divorce case. He or she will enter a final order that you and your spouse must follow. If either spouse is not satisfied with the outcome of the trial, he or she may appeal the decision in a higher court.
The Role of a Family Law Attorney
Getting a divorce can be stressful and emotionally exhausting. It is a complex, irretrievable, and difficult legal process. Both divorcing parties must participate willingly in negotiating the terms and conditions of the divorce agreement. You need to mutually decide on the provisions of your rights on the division of your marital property, child custody, child support, and alimony.
For legal help with filing your divorce case, do not hesitate to contact our experienced Phoenix family law attorneys. Our family law firm will help you ensure the fairness of the settlements and agreements between the two parties. We will support you every step of the way and guide you throughout the whole divorce process.