Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. If either you or your spouse decides that you want to get a divorce, neither party has to blame the other. The law only requires you to state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken. ” Although that sounds simple, it can be a complicated process if you don’t know how to file for divorce.
Note: To file for divorce in Arizona, at least one spouse must live in Arizona for at least the past 90 days.
Step 1: Hire an Attorney
The first step in filing for divorce is to consult with an attorney. They can help explain how to file for divorce. In addition, your attorney can discuss different options to help make the process easier and to help you achieve your objectives.
The attorney you choose will depend on many factors, including the type of divorce you want. A collaborative divorce attorney will guide you through the process outside of a courtroom. In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has their attorney, and they help you and your spouse to brainstorm solutions and find mutually agreeable outcomes. If you and your spouse are willing to keep the focus on your family and the result, rather than fighting over every little detail, this may be a good option for you.
Step 2: File for Divorce
Either spouse can file for divorce. Whoever does is referred to as the “Petitioner.” The other spouse is the “Respondent.”
Once you’ve hired your attorney, they’ll prepare a Petition for Dissolution and with your approval, they will with the Clerk of Court. This will include filing a:
- Summons: notifies the other spouse that the case has commenced and when/where they can take action to move forward
- Preliminary Injunction: stops you and your spouse from making changes to insurance, from taking certain actions with your property/accounts and from taking your children out of the state while the divorce is pending
- Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance: provides information about a spouse’s health insurance rights and option to elect COBRA
- Notice to Creditors – provides information about your credit rights and how a divorce may impact your debt
Each of the documents is a mandatory part of the package. Talk to your attorney if you’re unsure of what the documents mean.
Step 3: Service and Waiting Period
After you file your documents with the court, the documents must be “served” to your spouse. This can be done by hiring a process server to deliver the papers to your spouse, but in a low-conflict situation, the spouse (or their attorney) can sign a document in front of a notary or a clerk of the court called an Acceptance of Service that acknowledges receipt of the paperwork and avoids the need for hiring a process server. Most likely, your attorney will take care of this. If you’re not sure whether your spouse has been served, talk to your attorney.
Once your spouse is served (whether by Acceptance of Service or by a process server), a sixty-day mandatory “cooling off” period begins. This gives you time to work with your spouse and your group of collaborative divorce professionals to agree on terms. If you reach an agreement, you can submit your Divorce Decree to be finalized as soon as “Day 61” after service.
On the other hand, if you aren’t able to reach full agreements within that time frame, the process continues. You may schedule and participate in additional collaborative divorce meetings. Your attorneys, communication specialist(s) and financial neutral are all there to help you and your spouse reach agreements so you can finalize your divorce.
If you choose a traditional courtroom divorce, a judge will schedule a series of hearings. During those hearings, a judge will listen to arguments, evidence, and testimony and determine the outcome of your divorce based on their interpretation of the law and the facts of your case.
Step 4: Decree of Dissolution
Whether you’re creating your own agreement during collaborative divorce meetings or a judge determines your outcome, the final step of your divorce process is to receive a Decree of Dissolution. This gives the legal framework for your divorce. It describes how you and your ex-spouse will share assets, debts, and property and how you will share parenting time and more. It will also set forth any support obligations owed by one spouse to the other.
Your Decree of Dissolution is a legally binding document. If you make mistakes along the way, you may have difficulty changing the Decree later. You need to make sure every form is correct, and every detail of what you want is precise. It’s in your best interest to work with an experienced attorney to make sure all of the details are fully included in your divorce.
Advantages of Collaborative Divorce
There are different approaches to how to file for divorce. A collaborative divorce can help reduce some of the headaches from a traditional divorce. If you work together from the beginning, you will each have more control over the final outcome. Collaborative divorce also gives you a way to plan together not only for the divorce itself but for life after it’s final.
In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse work together to reach common goals. For many, this can help make the whole process more manageable and less costly. If you’re ready to discuss how to file for divorce, contact a collaborative divorce professional at Best Legal Choices.