Arizona Divorce Laws (What You Need To Know)

No two divorces are exactly the same, but the one thing they have in common is the complicated emotions that go along with the process. 

It makes it even harder during this difficult time dealing with issues relating to your marital finances and protecting yourself from the person you were planning on spending the rest of your life with. 

You may be forced to move because of the separation, and if you have children, you also need to meet their emotional and physical needs at this difficult time.

Speaking to a divorce attorney as early as possible can help make sure your rights are protected and you are treated fairly during the divorce. 

Many people who are separating feel hurt and betrayed, and they turn the divorce process into a war, arguing about every issue and trying to score points in an effort to win battles in the ongoing war. 

An all-out legal battle is not only unnecessary but counterproductive, and can cause you to spend years in expensive litigation, which is also incredibly stressful. 

Divorcing a narcissist is difficult because a narcissist doesn’t have empathy or compassion for your feelings, and divorce is already difficult and emotional enough. A narcissist may be hard to work with when it comes to reaching an agreement on anything.

You can even get a divorce if you were abandoned and your spouse left and abandoned all his responsibilities to the marriage without just cause. 

The divorce lawyers at BTL have seen all the different possibilities and can help you find points of commonality and negotiate for a fair divorce settlement. You may be able to file an agreement and never set foot in the courtroom. 

Why Couples Divorce

Very few people enter into a marriage thinking about what will happen when the marriage is over. You pool your resources and live with your new partner, trusting them with everything. 

Most spouses have access to bank accounts, homes, and all of your other possessions. Divorce is still common, with between 40 and 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, with the Arizona divorce rate higher than the national average at 3.5 out of every 1,000 people.

Unfortunately, the reason divorce is so common may simply be because divorce is so common. 

There used to be a stigma attached to divorce, especially for women, but now it is common for individuals to have multiple marriages. Some people even joke about their first spouse as being “the starter wife” or “the starter husband.” 

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing — couples used to stay together no matter the impact on their families, leading to lifetimes of unhappiness and unhealthy relationships. Now people can recognize when they are in a relationship that isn’t working and learn from their mistakes. 

According to Huffpost, these are the 10 most common reasons people get divorced:

  1. Getting married for the wrong reasons, such as marrying for money or marrying someone because your friends and family expect you to is a recipe for disaster.
  2. Codependency is when people don’t have their own identity and feel as though they can’t have their own identity or express their own interests outside of a relationship.
  3. Some people become so lost in their married roles that they grow apart from each other, eventually realizing they are married to people who feel like strangers.
  4. You need to discuss your short and long term goals before you get married, instead of finding out years down the road that you and your spouse have completely different plans for the future. Important discussions include topics like when and if to have children and how you want to spend and save your money.
  5. Sometimes as individuals are in a relationship over a period of time, the sense of intimacy disappears, leaving them feeling unloved and unwanted.
  6. It is said that an expectation is nothing but a premeditated resentment. When married couples expect certain things of each other, they may react badly when their expectations aren’t fulfilled. Instead of asking for help, many complain, nag, and even punish their partners. When your relationship is healthy, you can communicate what you need, but after a period of unmet expectations, you need to stop depending on someone else to meet your expectations.
  7. Money is a problem people can usually identify quickly as a problem. Most people have money problems at some time or another, but as long as the relationship is healthy, you can often work through financial difficulties. he biggest problems come when there is an incompatibility in regard to finances. Often people get married who turn out to have completely different spending and saving habits, and unless they change, they may not be able to move past that.
  8. It seems simple, but some couples grow apart simply because they don’t touch each other enough. A kiss goodbye, holding hands, and other occasional impulsive gestures of affection will help strengthen a marriage.
  9. Sometimes people get married but don’t have anything in common. They don’t enjoy the same entertainment or do anything else the same as their partners.
  10. If individuals don’t know how to work out disagreements, their relationship will fail. A neutral party may be able to help them work things out with individual conflicts, but they need to learn to work things out together. Conflict is a part of life, and married couples have to learn to deal with it together.

Couple sleeping opposite directios

The Divorce Process

How long does it take? What are the steps? How will I know what to do next? The divorce process will usually take at least three months, especially if it’s contested. 

An uncontested divorce can be completed in a little over two months, in theory, but it means getting the parties to agree on every aspect of the divorce. If both parties agree on everything, they can fill out a consent decree and say that all the issues in the divorce have already been addressed.

There are some other rules if you have entered into a covenant marriage, which is only possible in a few states, one of them being Arizona. 

If you are in a covenant marriage, you are allowed fewer grounds for seeking a divorce, and you are required to go through marriage counseling before getting a divorce. You can discuss with your divorce attorney the extra rules and limitations.

When couples want to try to work things out but have some serious disagreements, they can take advantage of mediators to help them navigate the issues toward a solution. Mediation attorneys are unbiased parties who can give the parties all their options and offer guidance on how to get the best result for both parties.

First Step: Make the Decision

This is one of the most important decisions of your life, and you won’t make it lightly. If you are unsure, you can discuss it with your partner and try to work out your problems. 

Couples counseling or individual therapy might help you deal with the issues that are causing problems in your marriage. Once you have made the decision, you also need to decide on the right timing. 

Some couples try out legal separation instead of divorce, where married couples live apart from each other and are legally separated without the finality of divorce. 

A legal separation must be agreed to by both parties, and couples can file after only being a resident of Arizona for a certain length of time, while the residency requirements for divorce are stricter. 

The marital estate will still be split, and the individuals will now have separate property. Any minor children will be accounted for, and there will be an agreement about child support and visitation.

Couples may choose legal separation instead of divorce, at least in the beginning, because they are not ready for the relationship to be completely over. 

They may also have religious reasons for being unable to divorce, or one spouse may need health insurance or social security benefits that would terminate upon ending the marriage. A separation agreement can codify those decisions the same way a divorce decree does.

Being separated but living together has its own challenges, but could be a temporary solution or even a deliberate way to save money during the divorce process. 

Couples that are fighting won’t be able to stay together while divorcing, because it would be very emotional and confusing. On the other hand, creative couples who still get along can more easily meet childcare needs with both parents available.

Find a Divorce Attorney

As soon as you are sure that a divorce is a serious option, you should find a divorce attorney. The earlier you start getting legal advice, the more quickly you can start taking positive action and feeling stronger about your decision. 

Your family law attorney will understand the issues you are going through and will understand your emotional condition during this stressful time, helping to guide you from the first steps all the way through the final divorce decree.

The First Court Filing

The first step to let the court know that there is a new divorce case is to file a petition for dissolution of marriage. The person who files the first paperwork is the Petitioner, and the other spouse is the Respondent. 

In the petition, you will explain the grounds for divorce, which is usually just that the marriage is irretrievably broken. You may also try early to get temporary orders for important issues.

Arizona divorce laws allow for no-fault divorce, so you can get divorced without proving that your partner did something bad. 

If there was domestic violence in your marriage, though, you might want to discuss with your family law attorney if there is a way to get a protective order, so you no longer have to fear violence from your spouse. 

That is especially important when there are children involved who may have witnessed the violence or been victims themselves.

Division of Property and Debt

Gather your information together. You will need documents for your income, expenses, debts, and all of your other financial assets. One of the important things the divorce court does is to separate the marital property. 

Divorce concept

Arizona is a community property state, so property division between spouses will follow the community property rules. Basically, anything accumulated during the marriage becomes community property, and you and your spouse will have to figure out the value of the property so it can be divided fairly. 

For instance, if you own a house together and there is $30,000 equity in the house, you are each due approximately $15,000 in equity, but if one spouse wants to live in the house, that spouse can pay for that portion.

It becomes trickier when you have other kinds of assets, such as an inheritance that you received from a relative. You can protect these assets during a divorce by putting them into a trust with certain conditions while still keeping control of the money.

When there is already substantial property, or if one party expects there to be an imbalance in the future, couples may enter into a prenuptial agreement before getting married. 

Arizona law permits the use of prenuptial agreements as long as they are reasonably fair, voluntary, and as long as the parties were honest with each other. You cannot use a prenuptial agreement to hide assets or to trick your spouse.

Children: Custody, Support, and Visitation

The courts prefer for families to try to agree about child custody matters as much as possible. While few things are as personal as how we raise our children, when we get divorced, we sometimes have to make some compromises with someone we don’t always get along with. 

However the parties feel about each other, they are now raising the children together, so they have to find a middle ground.

When parties can’t get along, the courts may have to decide which parent is the one who makes the important decisions, but it is better if they can share responsibility. If one parent has primary physical custody, the other will have parenting time. 

The court looks at many issues when making the decision, such as what the children want, where they go to school, whether there was violence in the marriage, etc. Child support is also decided based on many factors, including where the child spends the most time.

Alimony

Not every state offers alimony, but Arizona allows for spousal maintenance in certain circumstances. You may be eligible for alimony whether you are getting divorced or legally separated, in order to offset an economic disadvantage your spouse has at that time. 

The most common reason people think of, for requiring spousal support, is that one party spent so much time taking care of the home and children that that party was out of the workforce and will need help getting back. 

In fact, an award for spousal maintenance might be ordered for a certain time period, or it might be permanent, depending on the circumstances. Someone who has never worked might take some classes before finding appropriate employment, while someone else might just need help for a short time. 

One party may never have enough financial resources to qualify for independence, while the other has more than enough earning ability to continue to support the other. Sometimes the order is stopped when the party receiving alimony gets married again. The court order will be specific as to how much is ordered and how long the order should last.

Your Final Divorce Decree

Once all the issues are decided and the court makes its final decisions, there will be a decree of dissolution wherein all the issues are determined. The decree from the domestic relations superior court will either honor your settlement agreement if you have one or codify the final rulings on your contested issues. 

Divorce decree

After that point, you may still have issues that need to be changed, but you will probably have to wait until you can say that enough time has passed that circumstances are significantly different than during the original divorce.

If you live in the area of Phoenix or Maricopa County, our divorce lawyers can help you with all family law matters, including child support, alimony, and property division.a

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