Grounds for Divorce in Arizona

Learn more about the various options for divorce for couples in Arizona.

Divorcing couples in Arizona have a few different options if they want to end their marriage. If you're facing this emotional legal process, continue reading to learn more about the different legal avenues that may be available to you.

What Are Grounds for Divorce?

Before a court can grant your petition for a divorce, you must state a legally acceptable reason—or grounds—for your request. Each state's grounds vary, but usually, if you and your spouse have tried to work things out without success, it's usually enough reason for a judge to sign your divorce petition.

Courts refer to this as a "no-fault" divorce, which simply means that neither spouse is responsible for the breakdown of their marriage. In Arizona, couples only need to state to the court that their marriage has suffered an "irretrievable breakdown" and neither spouse can repair the damage.

The only defense to a dissolution of marriage petition is that the marriage is not irretrievably broken, but, unless your spouse can convince a judge that you both want to remain married, even though you filed for divorce, a judge will grant your request for a divorce.

Arizona and Fault-Based Divorce

Over the past 50 years, each state has adopted some form of no-fault divorce, but there are still some states that continue to allow parties to choose to allege specific grounds as a reason for divorce. Arizona only allows fault-based divorce if the couple has a legally binding "covenant" marriage.

Covenant marriages are rare, and only three states—Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas—continue to allow this option. Unlike a traditional marriage, which allows couples to marry and divorce with few restrictions, couples who wish to enter a covenant marriage must:

  • participate in premarital counseling
  • when applying for a marriage license, decide how they will deal with divorce, and
  • agree to attend predivorce counseling.

If the couple demonstrates a valid covenant marriage to the court, a judge can only grant the divorce if the filing spouse proves any of the following fault-based grounds:

  • the at-fault spouse committed adultery during the marriage
  • the at-fault spouse committed a felony and a court sentenced the spouse to death or imprisonment
  • either spouse abandoned the marital home for a period of at least 1 years before the petitioning spouse filed for divorce
  • the at-fault spouse physically or sexually abused the petitioning spouse, a child, or relative of either spouse, or
  • the at-fault spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.

What if My Spouse and I Agree to Divorce?

Divorce is emotional and can be complicated, but it doesn't have to be. If you and your spouse can begin the divorce process agreeing on the major legal issues, like child custody, alimony, and property division, you can ask the court for an uncontested divorce.

Uncontested divorces don't require a trial, so it usually means less time and significantly less money, even if both spouses hire an attorney.

Before a court can grant your petition, both spouses will need to agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Additionally, you will need to present a mutual settlement agreement to the court that explains how you will divide your marital property and debt, and whether either spouse will provide the other with alimony.

If you have children, you will need to address which spouse will care for the children (custody), how you will divide visitation time, and who will pay child support.

Uncontested divorce only works if both spouses agree on every issue, so if you disagree on anything during the process, the court will proceed as though it's a contested divorce. Contested divorce usually requires a long divorce trial where the judge will decide the major issues. A divorce trial typically results in increased legal fees and time in court.

What Are the Requirements for Divorce?

Like most states, Arizona has a residency requirement that you must meet before you file for dissolution of marriage. Couples must show that at least one spouse lived in the state for a minimum of 90 days prior to filing for divorce. Additionally, there is a waiting period of at least 60 days from the time you file your petition to the time when the judge can approve your divorce. These requirements help prevent spouses from shopping around for states or judges they believe will award a better custody arrangement or property settlement.

What Happens After Divorce?

After you (or a judge) decide on the final terms of your divorce, the judge will issue a signed copy of the judgment of divorce. This legal document permanently ends your marriage, and will include provisions addressing the following issues:

  • custody, parenting time, and child support
  • alimony
  • division of marital property and debt
  • each spouse's responsibility for attorney fees, and
  • name change(s).

This final judgment is important, so keep it in a safe location and refer to it anytime you have questions about the specifics of your divorce.

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