One of the questions commonly asked by those who are considering a divorce in Arizona is whether they will have to go to court or not. It depends on the type of divorce that takes place and whether there are any issues that you and your spouse can’t work out with one another. So the answer to “Can you get divorced without going to court?” can be answered with: it depends.
There are typically two types of divorces—uncontested and contested. Essentially, if the divorce is uncontested, it will not have to go to trial. If it’s contested, it may have to go to trial if things can’t be worked out and settled beforehand. It’s important to understand what each of these types of divorces means and entails.
The Types of Divorce
If the divorce is uncontested, it means that you and your spouse agree on all of the issues in your divorce case. You know how you are going to split property, you have a parenting plan that works for both of you, and you don’t have any issues and disagreements that would have to be settled by a judge.
If you are going through an uncontested divorce, you won’t have to go to court and go through a trial. These divorces are relatively simple and cheap. With an uncontested divorce, you could opt to work with a divorce attorney, or you could use a DIY method if you and your ex are comfortable with it.
These types of divorces are ideal because they can be done faster and with less stress and frustration. They’re also two instances in which you can get divorced without going to court. Of course, not all divorces will be quite so simple.
Often, even when spouses agree on most things, there may be a few areas where they disagree. Even if they don’t agree on just one thing, it would be considered a contested divorce. In these cases, the judge will have to hold a trial and will need to look at the evidence to determine how they will decide the outcome of the case. These divorces are far more complicated and they will take longer than an uncontested divorce.
Something to remember about contested divorces, though, is that they don’t have to remain that way. You and your spouse will have up until right before the start of the trial to try to negotiate and work out your differences, so you can settle your case. If you are able to settle, whether it’s through a mediator or you just hash out your differences on your own, you will not have to go to trial.
If you can get just a few more things settled before the trial, it’s still uncontested, but it will often be faster since the judge will have to rule on fewer things. You’ll find that most divorces in Arizona end up settling because people do not want to have to go to trial.
Getting an Uncontested Divorce in Arizona
In Arizona, you can proceed with an uncontested divorce in one of two different ways. After you file for divorce, the case could proceed by consent decree or by default. Let’s get a better look at each of these.
Even when both of you agree on the terms of the divorce, you still have to go through the regular channels of filing the paperwork and letting your spouse respond. You will still have to wait for 60 days after serving your spouse and you will then both file a joint Consent Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. This will have the terms of your divorce agreement for dividing the property and the debts you both owe, any spousal maintenance, child custody and visitation, and child support.
The decree needs to be signed in front of a notary. You can then file it at the court clerk’s office. After the decree is viewed by a judge, they will sign it and it will become a court order. Keep in mind that since it is a court order, anything that you agreed to is now enforceable.
In cases where you have children together, you will both need to complete a parent education class before the judge finalizes the decree.
This is another type of uncontested divorce. After you serve the divorce papers to the spouse, they will have 20 days to respond if they are also in Arizona. If they are out of state and the paperwork was served out of state, they will have 30 days to respond.
Starting with the first day after your spouse was served, if they do not respond within the timeframe indicated above, you can then proceed with getting a default divorce. You will file an Application and Affidavit for Default. 10 days after filing this paperwork, you can schedule a default hearing by contacting the court.
In these cases, you will likely have to go to a default hearing. Make sure you have all of the paperwork that’s needed when you go to the hearing. If the other party is not involved at all, the court may grant the petitioner what they have requested in the divorce. In some cases, the person who was served with papers may no longer be allowed to dispute the order.
Default divorces are not ideal because there are things that can go sideways and make them more complicated. Sometimes, a spouse might claim that not enough effort was made to locate them and serve the papers. This is an instance where you would not want to get divorced without going to court. If you are going through a default divorce, it might be in your best interest to speak with a lawyer, as noted below.
Talk with an Attorney
Unless you have a simple divorce, or you are sure you can do a good job representing yourself, you will likely want to consult with an attorney. Even if you are going to be handling most aspects of the divorce on your own, consulting with an attorney can help to give you some deeper insight into the law and how to proceed with your case. If you’re planning to get divorced without going to court, it’s still wise to discuss with a professional. This is true whether you have a complex contested divorce or you have a simple uncontested divorce.