Going through divorce is a difficult process. No one enjoys it, but divorce does not have to mean endless arguing with your spouse, multiple trips to court, and a lot of money spent on fees and costs. When you and your spouse can agree on all of the issues required to end your marriage, you can file for an “uncontested divorce” in Arizona.
This article explains what an uncontested divorce is and how to get one in Arizona. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should speak with an Arizona divorce lawyer for further assistance.
In most states, there are two kinds of divorce: contested and uncontested. A “contested” divorce means that you and your spouse don’t agree on something required to obtain a divorce. For example, maybe your spouse doesn’t want to end your marriage, or maybe you and your spouse don’t agree on how to divide your property. If you and your spouse disagree about even one issue, then you have a contested divorce.
A contested divorce ultimately requires a trial for the judge to make a decision about the issues you can’t agree on. You and your spouse will need your own attorneys, you’ll have to go to court a number of times, and the process will usually take a long time and cost a lot of money.
In contrast, an "uncontested" divorce means that you and your spouse agree to end your marriage. You also agree about how to divide property and debt, and whether one of you will pay spousal support and how much.
If you have children, you and your spouse must also agree about child custody, visitation, and support. Because you and your spouse agree, there is no adversarial trial and you might be able to represent yourself throughout the proceedings.
Uncontested divorces also take much less time and usually cost significantly less than a contested divorce, even if you decide to hire an attorney.
In order to obtain an uncontested divorce in Arizona, you and your spouse must agree on the following issues:
If you and your spouse have children together under age 18, you and your spouse also have to come to an agreement on the following issues:
In order to file for divorce in Arizona, either you or your spouse must be a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days. If you have children with your spouse, the children must have lived in Arizona for at least the last six months and currently live in Arizona.
For general information about filing for divorce in Arizona, check out the Arizona State Bar Association’s website.
The first step in obtaining an uncontested divorce is to file a petition for divorce. The forms you must include with your petition differ by county, so you should check with the Superior Court where you plan to file (the county where either you or your spouse lives) for the appropriate forms.
The spouse that files the petition is called the “petitioner” and the other spouse is called the “respondent.” In the petition you include basic information about yourself, your spouse, and your children, if any. You also include the terms of any agreements you and your spouse have come to in regard to dividing your property and debts, alimony, child custody and visitation, and child support.
After you file your petition and pay the filing fees, there are two ways in which you and your spouse can proceed with your uncontested divorce: by default or by consent decree.
To proceed with your divorce through default, after you’ve filed your petition, you must “serve” your spouse with copies of the papers. This means that you have to deliver the papers to your spouse.
Once served with the necessary paperwork, your spouse has 20 days (if served in Arizona) or 30 days (if served outside of Arizona) to respond to your petition. If your spouse doesn’t file a response within the time limit, then you can request a default.
Since you and your spouse have already agreed to the terms of your divorce, which were included in your petition, your agreement will be ratified, and a divorce order will be issued by the judge after a 60-day waiting period. The court order granting the divorce by default is called a Default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. You have to serve your spouse with the decree within three days of receipt.
To proceed with your divorce through a consent decree, after you’ve filed your petition, you must still serve your spouse with copies of the papers in the same manner described above. Sixty days after serving your spouse, you and your spouse must then file a joint Consent Decree of Dissolution of Marriage that sets out the terms of your agreement regarding division of property and debts, spousal maintenance, child custody, visitation and child support.
Both you and your spouse must sign the consent decree in front of a notary and file it at the clerk’s office. After reviewing the consent decree, the judge will sign it and the Consent Decree of Dissolution of Marriage will become an order of the court.
If you have children together, both you and your spouse also have to attend a parent education class after the petition is filed, but before the decree is entered.