Going through a 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 perhaps 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 decide the issues on which you and your spouse can't agree. You and your spouse will need your own attorneys, you'll have to go to court several 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. If you and your spouse can resolve all of your issues, you won't require a divorce 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.
To obtain an uncontested divorce in Arizona, you and your spouse must meet the following requirements:
If you and your spouse have children together under age 18, you and your spouse also have to agree on the following issues:
To file for divorce in Arizona, either you or your spouse must be a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 25-312 (1).) If you have children with your spouse, at least one spouse 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. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 25-311.) 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 regarding dividing your property and debts, alimony, child custody and visitation, and child support. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 25-314.)
Filing for divorce isn't free, and you must prepare to pay the cost to file. Once you pay the filing fees and submit your paperwork, there are two ways in which you and your spouse can proceed with your uncontested divorce: by default or by consent decree. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 22-281.)
To proceed with your divorce through default, after you've filed your petition, you must "serve" your spouse with copies of the papers—meaning 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 hearing by completing the "Application and Affidavit of Default" and file it with your local court clerk. Before you request a default hearing, it's essential that you've properly served your spouse with the paperwork. If you don't meet the service requirements, the court will deny your request for a default decree.
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 the judge will issue a divorce order 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. If you have additional questions on how the default process works, you can visit the Judicial Branch of Arizona, Maricopa County website.
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: 60 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 the 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 court clerk's office. You can mail your consent decree, or you can request an "on-demand" hearing through the court's website. 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 must attend and complete a parent education class before the judge will finalize the decree. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 25-351.)