Divorce is almost always painful. But it doesn't have to be a bitter, drawn-out, and expensive legal battle. If you and your spouse can communicate, negotiate, and come to an agreement on all the issues involved in ending your marriage, you can get an uncontested divorce in Arizona.
An uncontested divorce (sometimes known as divorce "by consent decree" in Arizona) is almost always far cheaper and quicker than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because you won't have to go to trial to have a judge resolve your disputes. Also, couples who reach a divorce settlement agreement (known as a "separation agreement" in Arizona) often can get through the divorce process without hiring lawyers to represent them.
But other kinds of assistance are available for an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse are having trouble agreeing about everything, divorce mediation might help you get through the sticking points. And once you have an agreement, an online divorce service can help with the paperwork.
Whether you handle the process all on your own or with some outside help, it helps to understand the basic requirements and steps for getting an uncontested divorce in Arizona.
Requirements for an Uncontested Divorce in Arizona
In order to get any kind of divorce (known as a "dissolution of marriage" in Arizona law), you or your spouse must have lived in the state (or be stationed there in the military) for at least 90 days before you file your initial divorce papers. Also, if you have any minor children with your spouse, your divorce generally may not address custody issues unless the children have lived with a parent in Arizona for six months before the filing date (or since birth if they're younger than six months old). There are exceptions to this six-month rule, but they might be difficult to prove. So you should speak to a family law attorney if your children haven't been in the state that long. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 25-312, 25-1002, 25-1031 (2022).)
For an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree that your marriage is "irretrievably broken," which basically means that you have no reasonable hope of saving the marriage. You must also agree about all of the provisions in the divorce, including:
(Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 25-316, 25-317 (2022).)
Arizona's Uncontested Divorce Process
Arizona has official forms to file for dissolution of marriage in the state. Depending on the county where you live, however, some of the forms and procedures for divorce by consent might be somewhat different.
You can download state and county divorce forms, along with instructions, from the AZCourtHelp website. You can also get forms from the self-service centers for the county Superior Court. (Or you can use an online divorce service that will provide you with the completed forms and instructions for filing.)
Some Arizona counties (such as Maricopa and Pinal counties) have a special procedure for getting a divorce "by consent decree." In other counties, couples who want an uncontested divorce must use the same process as for a default divorce.
Uncontested Divorce Through Consent Decree
Some of the steps for divorce by consent decree are the same across the counties that offer this way of getting an uncontested divorce. Other steps may be different from county to county.
- Completing the initial paperwork. If you live in Maricopa County, you can use a streamlined process known as "summary consent decree for divorce" and skip some steps in the normal divorce process. Both you and your spouse will complete and sign a Petition and Response for Dissolution of a Non-Covenant Marriage, attaching your written separation agreement in the form of a consent decree, as well as a Notice of Intent to File a Consent Decree for Dissolution of a Non-Covenant Marriage. You'll also complete a number of other standard divorce forms, including ones that are specific to parents with minor children (such as a Parenting Plan and Child Support Worksheet). Outside of Maricopa County (such as in Pinal County), one spouse (the "petitioner") will typically complete the Petition for Dissolution and other paperwork.
- Filing the divorce papers. You'll need to file the petition and other required forms with the court clerk in the county where you live. Some counties allow you to file by mail. Either way, you'll need to either pay the court's filing fees or—if you can't afford to pay—submit an application for have the fees deferred or waived. The filing fees for divorce vary from county to county in Arizona, because many courts tack on additional fees beyond the statewide one. The fees in Maricopa County for a dissolution petition are $349 (as of 2021). You can find the fees for other counties on their courts' websites.
- Serving the divorce papers. In Maricopa County, the petitioner doesn't need to serve the other spouse (the "respondent") with the divorce papers, since they filed the petition jointly. Elsewhere, however, the respondent must receive copies of all the paperwork, along with a summons, through "service of process." When the spouses are cooperating in an uncontested divorce, the easiest way to meet this requirement is to mail the documents, have the respondent sign an Acceptance of Service form (in front of a notary), and file the acceptance with the court. (Ariz. Rules Fam. Law Proc., rules 27, 40, 41 (2022).)
- No response needed. The respondent does not need to file a response to the petition in a divorce by consent decree. Depending on your county, however, you might have to pay a response fee in order to take advantage of the divorce by consent process (and avoid having to go to a court hearing).
- Financial disclosures and parenting classes. Arizona requires that divorcing spouses exchange certain financial information early in the divorce process, but you may both agree to skip this formal step. (You should have already shared this information as part of the process of working out your separation agreement.) However, all divorcing parents with minor children must attend a parenting education class unless the judge decides that it wouldn't be in the parents' or the children's best interests. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-352; Ariz. Rules Fam. Proc., rule 49 (2022).)
- Submit consent decree. After at least 60 days have passed since the respondent was served with the dissolution petition (or since the spouses filed a joint petition in Maricopa County), you will submit a consent decree, signed by both spouses in front of a notary or the court clerk. The consent decree should reflect the provisions in your separation agreement. (Ariz. Rules Fam. Law Proc., rule 45 (2022).)
- Judge's review. Typically, you won't have to attend a court hearing. A judge will review your paperwork and, if everything is in order, will sign the consent decree as your final divorce decree. You'll receive the signed decree in the mail. (Ariz. Rules Fam. Law Proc., rule 45(a) (2022).)
Uncontested Divorce Through Default
Typically, a default divorce happens after a spouse has failed to file an answer within the time set by law. In some parts of Arizona (like Pima County), courts recommend using the default process for getting an uncontested divorce.
Here's how this process works in those counties:
- Filing and serving the divorce petition. As with divorce by consent, you'll attach your separation agreement to the petition and file it, along with the other required forms. Then you must serve the paperwork on your spouse (under the same rules discussed above).
- Applying for the default divorce. You must then wait at least 20 days after service was completed (or 30 days if your spouse was served out of state). Assuming that your spouse doesn't file an answer in that time (the typical scenario in an uncontested default divorce), you may then file an Application and Affidavit for Default. Bring the original and two copies with you to file. The court clerk will keep the original, and you must mail one copy to your spouse. (Ariz. Rules Fam. Law Proc., rule 44 (2022).)
- When a default hearing is required. Depending on the rules in your county and the specifics of your case, you might or might not have to attend a court hearing to finalize your default divorce. In Yavapai County, for example, you may get your default divorce without a hearing if you and your spouse don't have minor children and neither of you requested alimony. In counties and situations where a default hearing is required, you may call the court to schedule the hearing. You'll want to fill out the Arizona court's Default Screening Checklist first, to make sure you meet all the requirements for a default divorce. Have it handy when you call. Your spouse doesn't have to appear at the hearing but may choose to do so.
- Getting your final default divorce. Typically, the judge will sign a default divorce decree that includes the provisions in your petition and separation agreement. However, the decree won't be entered before the end of Arizona's 60-day waiting period (following service of the petition). You must serve your spouse with the decree within three days after you receive it. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-329; Ariz. Rules Fam. Law Proc., rule 44.2 (2022).)