Uncontested divorces in Arizona are sometimes known as divorce by consent decree. They are almost always cheaper and faster than a contested divorce since you avoid the time and expense of going to trial.
- What Is an Uncontested Divorce in Arizona?
- Steps in an Uncontested Divorce in Arizona
- Do You Need a Lawyer for Uncontested Divorce?
What Is an Uncontested Divorce in Arizona?
Divorce is often a painful process, but if you and your spouse can communicate, negotiate, and come to an agreement in a civil way, you can get an uncontested divorce in Arizona.
An uncontested divorce means you and your spouse have worked out all of your issues, including property division, spousal maintenance, child support, and a parenting plan.
In Arizona, you and your spouse must also agree that your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” meaning there is no reasonable hope of saving the marriage.
If you and your spouse can’t agree on every point on your own, you can still avoid the hassles of a contested divorce by attempting mediation.
Mediation involves retaining a neutral third party who listens to both sides and helps to facilitate a compromised agreement. When both parties can reach an agreement, lawyers generally do not need to be part of the process – though it’s typically wise to consult with an attorney to understand your legal rights.
Steps to an Uncontested Divorce in Arizona
Meet Residency Requirements
To get a divorce in Arizona, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 90 days before an initial case filing. Also, if you have minor children, your divorce generally may not address custody issues unless the children have lived with a parent in Arizona for six months before the filing date or since birth if they’re younger than six months old.
Prepare the Uncontested Divorce Forms
The first step is for one spouse to complete the petition for divorce. That person becomes the petitioner. The petition covers basic information about both parties such as names, date of marriage, date of separation, etc.
It will also have a section detailing how finances, property, debt, child custody, and other terms of the divorce should be handled.
The state has official forms you can use to file for dissolution. However, some divorce forms and procedures differ depending on where you live. You can download state and county divorce forms online or get forms from self-service centers for the county Superior Court where you live.
Many people complete these forms on their own. However, the forms can be complicated so you may want to consider working with a family law attorney or using an online divorce service.
File Your Divorce Papers with the Court
The petitioner must file completed documents with the county clerk’s office and pay a filing fee. Some counties also allow e-filing as well. The clerk’s office will stamp the forms and give the petitioner a case number, and issue them a summons to give to the other spouse.
Serve Your Spouse
The petitioner must serve the summons and divorce papers to the other spouse. That person is known as the respondent. Service can take place in person, by mail, through a county sheriff, or by publication. This step documents that both parties are aware of the intention to divorce.
Filing a Response
The respondent has 20 days in Arizona and 30 days out of state to respond to the initial service.
It’s generally advisable to file a response even if you are in complete agreement since this may preserve your legal rights.
Another option is not responding, which will create a default divorce situation.
Complete and Exchange Financial Disclosures
An important step in any divorce process is exchanging financial information. It’s important to be thorough and honest as you prepare documents associated with this step. Disclosures can include income sources, property and asset information, investment and retirement accounts, and
other support, expense, or debt obligations.
If you are involved in an uncontested divorce, it is essential to exchange complete and truthful information, or you will risk losing your spouse’s trust. That could lead to an ugly and costly court battle. The judge may view your actions in a poor light and that could lead to sanctions or penalties.
Negotiate an Agreement with Your Spouse
In an uncontested divorce, it’s possible that you and your spouse have quickly agreed to all the terms and conditions that will govern your settlement.
Keep in mind that finances are only part of the agreement. You will also need to determine property division, alimony, child support, and custody and visitation.
Once you and your spouse have resolved all issues, you can prepare a marital settlement agreement. This must be completed before appearing in front of a judge. Courts can only grant a divorce only after they review a signed and notarized settlement agreement.
Satisfy Arizona’s Mandatory Waiting Period
Arizona divorce laws require that you wait 60 days from the date of service before you can proceed with a divorce. This cooling-off period gives both parties time to consider their actions. At the end of the waiting period, the court will consider the petition for a final Dissolution of Marriage.
Attend a Final Court Hearing
After all of the paperwork has been completed and submitted, the parties will appear in front of a judge who may ask questions to clarify that both are satisfied with the agreement and believe it to be fair and equitable.
In a default divorce, one spouse may give up all rights related to appearing before a judge. When this happens, the judge will likely approve the agreement, binding both parties to the settlement without any discussion.
Do You Need a Lawyer for Uncontested Divorce?
If you have a degree of complexity to your situation, it’s a good idea to at least consult with an attorney to understand your legal rights and review the final agreement.
But you don’t need to hire an attorney for an uncontested divorce. In fact, there are online divorce services that can help you navigate the process and complete the forms through a guided questionnaire. This can save a ton of time and frustration.
How long does an uncontested divorce take in Arizona?1
That means an uncontested case could be finalized in as little as 70 days. But in most cases, an uncontested divorce will take between 90 and 120 days.
How much does an uncontested divorce cost in Arizona?1
Check with the county clerk or go online to your county government website to get a summary of fees you can expect to pay.
You may also incur costs if you retain an attorney, use a mediator, or work with an online service. The primary factor in the total cost of your divorce is how much you and your spouse fight – as that will influence how much professional support you need to reach agreements.
What is the difference between an uncontested divorce and a default divorce in Arizona?1
A default divorce is not recommended in any case involving a long-term marriage, significant assets, or minor children.
Do I have to go to court for an uncontested divorce in Arizona?1
The rules are different in Maricopa County, where you can file a consent decree stating you agree and your spouse agree to all terms of your divorce. However, couples in covenant marriages may not use special procedures for divorce by consent decree.
With a consent decree, typically, you won’t attend a court hearing. A judge will review your paperwork and, if everything is in order, will sign the consent decree, and you’ll receive the signed copy in the mail.