Divorce, Separation & Paternity
Our AZ Divorce Attorneys can help you in all family law cases, in all courts of the State of Arizona and Maricopa County.
The Arizona Divorce Process
The Leather Law Firm provides this page on Arizona divorce process intended as a general guide to getting a divorce in the State of Arizona. Feel free to contact Leather Law Office for a free consultation as we are Arizona Divorce Attorneys and can provide you with the proper information you need.
When two people are married, their legal status changes: two single persons become a marital community. This creates several new legal rights and obligations between the married couple which were not applicable before (when they were single). A “marital community” in Arizona is treated by the law very similarly to a “business partnership.” Essentially, both spouses share equally in the fiscal profits and losses of their joint marriage regardless of which spouse created the fiscal profit or which spouse created the fiscal loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do divorces happen under Arizona law?
A divorce is generally referred to as a dissolution of marriage in most states. Judges of the Superior Court are the only authorities who may legally dissolve a couple’s legal marital status and return them to the status of single people. In conjunction with a dissolution of marriage, Judges also have the authority to do the following:
- To determine how to divide assets and debts
- To issue judgements concerning the care, custody and control of any involved children
- To determine financial support of any involved children
- To issue orders for the support of a spouse (or ex-spouse)
- Case incurred fee’s and representation costs to be determined which spouse (or ex-spouse) is responsible for paying
Under Arizona law, spouses are permitted to reach agreements regarding all issues pertaining to the divorce which can include the custody of children, child support, spousal alimony, and the division of the assets and debts.
A settlement agreement negotiated and drafted by an experienced family law attorney is almost always more comprehensive and complete than any order a court may issue. This is due to the fact that parties have the ability to customize all of the terms of their settlement agreement to meet any unique needs. Bear in mind, there might also be a large number of other important issues the court may not have the authority to otherwise order but could be included as an enforceable portion of a marital settlement agreement.
Additionally, a judge simply may not have the time to issue an order covering all of the numerous intricate aspects of the marital relationship as he or she hears and decides your case. At Leather Law Office we carefully draft divorce settlement agreements to prevent these problems.
What does it mean to get a divorce?
A divorce in Arizona is a court proceeding to break up the marital community and return the spouses to the legal status of single persons. When the court dissolves a marriage, it is also required to enter orders providing for the custody of any children common to the parties, providing for the support of those children, providing for the support of either spouse by an award of spousal maintenance, if that spouse meets the requirements for support, and providing for the division of the spouses’ assets and debts. The court may also order one of the parties to pay some or all of the other spouse’s attorney fees and costs incurred in the proceeding.
What is the difference between a divorce and a legal separation?
A divorce completely dissolves a marital relationship and restores both parties to the status of single persons. A legal separation, however, does not dissolve the legal status of the marital relationship. Instead, it terminates the marital community such that all assets and debts incurred by either party subsequent to the decree of legal separation remains the sole and separate property and debts of the spouse who acquired the property and/or debt.
There are 3 reasons why you may wish to file for a legal separation rather than dissolution:
- You have been married less than 10 years and wish to receive social security benefits
- You need to remain married to receive health and medical benefits under your spouse’s insurance plan
- Your religion prohibits you from seeking divorce
You may petition the court at any time to convert a Petition for Legal Separation to a Petition for Dissolution.
What do I do if I am served with papers for divorce or separation?
Do not ignore the papers that have been served to you. The summons that was served will inform you of deadlines you must meet to protect your legal rights in Arizona. One such right is the opportunity to file a written response to the petition within a certain number of days from the date you were served. The court may proceed with your divorce without your involvement if you do not file a correct written response with the court within the time allotted.
If you have been served with divorce or separation papers, it’s imperative that you call the Leather Law Office at (602) 283-1596. We are an experienced Phoenix family law attorney specializing in Arizona divorce law who can help your case.
Where do I get a divorce?
The various counties in Arizona all have a trial division referred to as the Superior Court. The Superior Court is the highest level trial court in Arizona and is the only court that has the authority in Arizona to grant a divorce.
If both spouses and their children reside in the same county in Arizona, the divorce proceeding may be filed in that same county. Complicated issues arise, however, as to which court should preside over a divorce when the spouses and/or their children reside in different counties and/or different states. The Leather Law Office would represent your case and file in the appropriate court, so you would not have to worry about the jurisdiction aspect of filing a divorce in Arizona.
How do I start a divorce case?
A divorce is started by filing a divorce petition, as well as numerous other documents which are required by statute to be filed with the initial divorce petition. The necessary documents are filed with the clerk of the court. The filing party is required to pay a filing fee at the time the initial divorce paperwork is submitted which may, upon application, be waived if the spouse meets the financial requirements. Each county court has specific rules that must be followed when the petition is filed. You must, therefore, check all appropriate rules to ensure you are filing the correct paperwork in your county. As one of Arizona’s Top Divorce Attorneys, Leather Law Office offers experienced divorce attorney representation and we are knowledgeable about the various procedural rules in your particular county. We are located in Phoenix, AZ however we welcome clients from Mesa, Chandler, Moon Valley, Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe and Peoria.
Is it better to be the first to file for divorce?
In terms of the dissolution of the marital relationship itself, there is no advantage to either party in being the first to file for the dissolution of marriage simply because a divorce is technically not granted to either spouse but is, instead, considered a termination of the legal marital relationship between both spouses regardless of who filed first.
There are certain procedural advantages to filing first if your case proceeds to a trial. For example, the person who initially files for the divorce is called the Petitioner, while the other spouse is referred to as the Respondent. The Petitioner is permitted to present his or her entire case after which the Respondent is permitted to present his or her entire case. Essentially, the Petitioner can have the last word before the judge makes his or her decision.
When can I start a divorce case?
Arizona is considered a “no fault divorce state” which means you do not have to establish any specific reason for the divorce other than that the marital relationship is irretrievably broken.
How is the divorce finalized?
An Arizona Judge finalizes a divorce by signing a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage and filing that document with the clerk of the court. Spouses are not actually divorced until that decree is signed by the judge and filed with the clerk’s office. A court may not, correspondingly, sign a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage until all issues in the case (i.e. child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, debts and assets) are either settled or ruled upon by the court.
When will my divorce be finalized?
Arizona law requires a judge to wait for at least 60 days to pass between the date the original divorce papers were served upon the other spouse and signing the final divorce decree. You can think of this 60 day time period as a required “cooling off” period during which either spouse may seek mandatory court-ordered free marital counseling through the Conciliation Services division of the court.