Divorce is a state matter, just like marriage. Each state is in charge of regulating laws and guidelines surrounding marriage and divorce, legal separation, and other family matters. To handle these matters, each state has two main systems in place: the probate courts (which handle marriage and divorce, adoption, etc.) and the family courts (which handle custody, legal decision-making, and other family matters). Although the family courts technically operate within the parameters of the probate court, they are sometimes seen as their own entity.
Since each state is in charge of its own divorce laws and regulations, it’s important to understand specifically what your state requires and what the laws surrounding divorce have to say. Arizona has similar laws to a lot of other states and they have changed over the years, but it’s also different than some states out there.
Here’s what you need to know.
Arizona Is a No-Fault State
Arizona is one of many states that consider divorce a “no-fault” event. Essentially, that means that anyone can file for divorce for any just cause, and nothing needs to be proven. In at-fault divorce states, a divorce will typically only be granted if it can be proven that one spouse broke the rules of the marital agreement, such as by cheating with another person.
If two people determine that they can no longer be married, or that they should no longer be together, even if they technically “can”, then they can file for divorce in Arizona. Also, one spouse can file for divorce and have the other served—it doesn’t have to be an agreed-upon filing.
Community Property Rules in Arizona
The state of Arizona also practices what is known as “community property” designation—that is, any property that was acquired during the marriage automatically becomes community property unless it is otherwise declared or specifically excluded from the rule. That means that if one spouse has a business before the marriage, it is theirs solely and will remain theirs in the event of divorce.
However, if one spouse starts a business during the marriage, that business becomes the express property of both spouses unless there is documentation that states otherwise. This is designed to ensure that divorce is fair for all parties involved and to make it easy for judges to handle the various cases that come their way.
Arizona Offers Legal Separation
In addition to, or perhaps instead of, divorce, Arizona also offers couples the option to file for a legal separation. This will be a legally-binding agreement much like a divorce, with the exception that the marriage will remain intact. Legal separation provides a legal path for reconciliation or the ultimate divorce, putting rules in place and making sure that everything is fair on all sides.
Legal separation is also ideal for those who have religious reasons for staying married, or for those who need insurance benefits and may not be ready for divorce yet, for example. There’s a lot of cause to consider legal separation before (or instead of) divorce, and that’s why Arizona promotes it to the people who live in the state.
A legal separation can be a “trial run” for divorce or it can be a time for people to be apart and figure out how to make it work to get back together. In any case, it’s more secure for a lot of people than an informal separation because of the legal documents and decisions that can be involved.
Reasons for Divorce in Arizona
Unlike states where certain faults have to be proven to divorce or separate, Arizona simply requires that one of the two people no longer wants to be in the relationship. If there is agreement, it goes much more smoothly. However, if one party wants to legally separate and another doesn’t, they don’t really have much of a choice once the papers are filed and the decree has been served.
Arizona allows several personal and other reasons for legal separation, including:
- Alcohol or drug abuse problems
- Physical, mental, or emotional abuse
- Adultery or abandonment
- Living separate lives
- Growing apart
- Lack of attention/relationship issues
- Disagreements about parenting
- Financial troubles or disagreements
- Infidelity or perceived infidelity
How to File for Divorce in Arizona
The person who wants to file for divorce must file a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage with the courts. There are rules and steps that take place in this process, but your attorney can help you with those. Of course, no law in Arizona says you have to have a divorce lawyer for your case—and yet it’s still recommended. Lawyers know the laws and they will be able to ensure that your Arizona divorce comes out in your favor.
The first thing that you should do if you are considering divorce or legal separation, in Arizona or in any state, is to contact a qualified attorney who can help you understand the process and figure out where to start. That way, you’ll enjoy more peace of mind, less confusion, and be able to have someone there to answer questions whenever they arise.
Your lawyer will help you fill out the forms and they will be served to your spouse—you can do this or you can have a process server do the work, depending on the relationship that you have at the time of the divorce. They have 20 days to respond, which is basically just a waiting period, and then the divorce process can move forward.
Mediation is suggested for couples in Arizona and many courts will even require it to be part of the divorce process before allowing a full court hearing to handle the various matters of the divorce. Judges may also require mediation or some kind of closed-door meeting to determine custody matters, but again those could ultimately be left up to the court.
It’s a lot, and it’s a lot to handle on your own. If you’re facing divorce in Arizona, or ready to file, contact the Modern Law team now.