How to Contest a Divorce in AZ

by Wayne Thomas

    Often, it seems that the only thing on which a divorcing couple can agree is that they want a divorce; however, sometimes only one spouse wants the marriage to end. In Arizona, while you can contest a divorce as well as object to specific aspects of the divorce, such as support and custody, you cannot force your spouse to stay married to you. The degree to which you can successfully stop or delay the Arizona divorce process depends greatly on how you respond to the divorce petition.

    Contesting Grounds

    Arizona has moved away from traditional fault grounds for divorce -- and is a pure no-fault state. The only no-fault ground is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. If one spouse wants out of the marriage, the court will eventually grant the divorce. However, if you want to contest that your marriage is irretrievably broken, you can request that the court order a conciliation meeting. This provides a period for a couple to attempt to resolve their differences with the assistance of a trained professional -- and will effectively delay the divorce. But, if after reconciliation, your spouse still wants out, there isn't much you can do to stop the divorce. You can delay, but not prevent, a divorce if you can show that neither you nor your spouse met Arizona's residency requirements at the time the dissolution petition was filed. Also, if you have children, the children generally have to reside in the state for six months before an Arizona judge can rule on custody and support.

    Contesting Awards

    In addition to contesting the grounds for divorce, a spouse might dispute issues related to property division. Arizona is a community property state, which means that all property acquired during the marriage is considered the joint property of both spouses. Instead of equitably distributing the property, marital property is typically divided on a 50/50 basis between the spouses.This reality limits your ability to contest the division, absent evidence of an incorrect valuation or mischaracterization of property as community rather than separate property or vice versa. In computing spousal support, the court looks at several factors, including the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage and the earning capacity of both parties. Absent a mistake in valuation or factors considered, it's tough to dispute the award amount as Arizona does not consider marital fault in making property or spousal support determinations.

    Contesting Custody and Support

    You might also dispute a proposed custody arrangement or matters related to child support. Like all states, an Arizona court bases child custody determinations on what is in the best interests of the child, but a judge will consider certain factors in making a determination. These factors include who was the primary caretaker of the child, the relationship the child has with each parent, and which parent is better able to care for the child's physical and emotional health. Because this determination is highly fact-based, you could offer testimony that a proposed custody arrangement is not in the best interests of the child. For child support, Arizona has a set of guidelines used for calculating support amounts. Unless you can show that a mistake occurred in the process, such as an undervaluing of your spouse's income, it's not likely that you can object to the support award.

    Procedures for Objection

    To object to the grounds for divorce, you simply have to check the appropriate box on the response form indicating your request for the court to deny the petition for dissolution. This is because the burden of proof to show that the marriage is irretrievably broken is on the filing spouse. For objections related to property division, custody and support, you must not only indicate your objection, but also give details as to which allegations or valuations are incorrect and provide correct information in the appropriate sections.

    About the Author

    Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."

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