Divorce can seem like a daunting process. In addition to the emotional and practical upheavals, you'll need to navigate the legal system. But you can find answers here to your questions about Arizona's divorce laws and procedures, as well as information on how to get help.
If you want a divorce in Arizona (where it's known as "dissolution of marriage"), you must meet its residency requirement: You or your spouse must have lived in the state (or been stationed there in the military) for at least 90 days up until you file your divorce papers. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-312 (2023).) (Learn more about how to file for divorce in Arizona.)
Note that gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights in divorce as opposite-sex couples. But same-sex divorce sometimes involves extra complications, particularly for couples who lived together before same-sex marriage was legal.
All states require a legally acceptable reason (ground) for divorce. For the vast majority of divorces, Arizona has only one no-fault ground. When you file for divorce, you'll simply state that your marriage is "irretrievably broken." Basically, that means that there's no reasonable chance that you and your spouse will be able to save the marriage.
However, the divorce grounds are different if you're one of the rare couples who got a covenant marriage in Arizona. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-903 (2023).) Other requirements and procedures are also different, so you should speak with a lawyer if you want to end a covenant marriage.
No. Arizona law doesn't require that you live separately from your spouse before you can end your marriage. However, if you're thinking of separating, you'll want to consider whether you should move out of the family home during your divorce.
Although it's not required, you may choose to get a legal separation in Arizona.
When you file your divorce papers with the court, you'll need to pay a filing fee unless you apply and qualify for a waiver or deferral. Divorce filing fees in Arizona vary from county to county, usually between $200 and $300. The fee will be higher when you file jointly for an uncontested divorce (more on that below), but you and your spouse will typically split that amount rather than paying separate fees for a petition and a response. You can usually find the filing fee on the website of the court clerk's office in your county, or by calling the office.
Beyond the filing fee, the cost of divorce will depend on the specifics of your case, especially:
Once you've filed for a summary consent divorce in Arizona, there's a 60-day waiting period before the court may enter your final consent decree. As long as you've met all the requirements and filed all of the proper paperwork, you should usually be able to get your final divorce soon after the two-month wait.
It could take several months to get through the steps involved in a contested divorce—and even longer if you eventually need a trial to resolve any remaining disputes in your case.
Arizona is a community property state, which means that spouses jointly own most of the income and other assets that either or both of them acquire during their marriage.However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the judge will divide their community property equally when they divorce. Instead, Arizona law says that judges must equitably divide community and joint tenancy property—which means the property division should be fair under the circumstances. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-318 (2023).)
In practice, however, Arizona judges will generally aim for something close to a 50/50 split of a couple's community property in the divorce.
As in all states, decisions about child custody in Arizona divorces must be based on the children's best interests. Unless the parents have agreed on their custody arrangements, the judge will decide what would be best for the kids after considering a number of factors, including the preferences of a child who's mature enough to form an intelligent opinion on the issue.
Like all states, Arizona has child support guidelines with detailed rules for determining which parent will pay support and how much those payments will be. The child support amount is largely based on both parents' income and the number of children, with adjustments for things like parenting time and certain child-related costs. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-320 (2023).)
In a divorce, the judge may order alimony (known as spousal maintenance in Arizona) if the requesting spouse needs it (for one of the reasons listed in the law), and the other spouse can afford to pay. But even when a spouse meets one of those basic eligibility requirements, the judge may award maintenance only for a period of time and in an amount that the supported spouse needs in order to become self-sufficient. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-319 (2023).)
In all divorces filed on or after September 24, 2022, judges must use Arizona's spousal maintenance guidelines and calculator to determine the appropriate amount and duration of maintenance (within an allowed range). Judges may award an amount of maintenance that falls outside of the range, but only after considering a long list of factors and finding that applying the guidelines would be injust or inappropriate.
Yes, you always have the option of agreeing with your spouse about how to handle the issues in your dissolution of marriage. You can reach an agreement at any point during the process, from before you've filed the divorce papers right up to just before a trial.
If you and your spouse have signed a complete divorce settlement agreement before you file for a summary consent decree divorce, you usually won't have to attend a court hearing to finalize your divorce. A judge will review your paperwork and sign the consent decree as long as everything is in order. (Ariz. Rules Fam. Law Proc., rule 45 (2023).)
When you aren't able to agree with your spouse about any of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the disputes for you. Anytime you need a trial, your divorce will take longer and cost more. So if at all possible, it's always in your best interests to do everything you can to come to a settlement agreement that's fair for both you and your ex.
If you want to annul your marriage, you'll need to convince a judge that you meet one of the legal reasons allowed for an annulment in Arizona.
You can find more information about the divorce process in Arizona on the AZCourtHelp website. Also, the "Self-Service Guide for Divorce Cases," from the Arizona courts, has detailed information about representing yourself in a divorce case.
If you and your spouse are having trouble reaching a settlement agreement, mediation could be a good way of finding solutions and resolving your differences. But when mediation doesn't work or isn't appropriate (such as in cases involving domestic abuse), you may need to speak with a qualified family law attorney who can explain how best to proceed.