Every state has its own way of handling divorce issues such as property division, custody and child support. Arizona's laws are progressive in some ways and more restrictive in others. If you're considering filing for divorce in this state, it helps to be aware of some of the jurisdiction's idiosyncrasies.
Arizona Residency Vs. Custody
Arizona's residency requirement for filing for divorce is relatively easy to meet -- it's only 90 days. However, if you move to the state and bring your children with you, the court can't rule on custody until your children have resided there for six months. Arizona has adopted the Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, which dictates what jurisdictions can decide custody matters. Although a few exceptions exist, under the terms of the UCCJEA, a child's home state for jurisdictional purposes is where she's lived for the past half year. If you want an Arizona court to rule on custody, you and your children must live there that long. If you already have a custody order from another state, that state has jurisdiction, so it might be easier to file for divorce there before relocating.
Grounds for Divorce
Arizona is a "pure" no-fault state, so your only option for divorce grounds is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. However, unlike most no-fault states, Arizona allows spouses to contest its no-fault ground. The court will hold a hearing and a judge will decide if the marriage is broken if one spouse objects to the grounds. The judge might also order spouses to attend counseling. If you want an Arizona divorce and your spouse doesn't, it's possible that he could delay the proceedings for up to two months by contesting it.
Property and Debt Division
Arizona is one of only nine states that observe community property laws when allocating marital assets and debts in a divorce. This means the court will equally divide everything you and your spouse acquired after the date you married. Arizona generally will not take any mitigating factors into consideration that might warrant giving one spouse slightly more than 50 percent of marital property. Under community property law, both spouses are equally responsible for debts as well, no matter which of them actually incurred the debts.
Although you can't file on fault grounds in Arizona, the court will take marital misconduct into consideration under some circumstances. When ordering alimony or spousal support, Arizona judges can weigh the effect of things like domestic violence or dissipation of marital assets, such as if one spouse lost a great deal of money gambling. The innocent spouse shouldn't have to pay for that, so a judge might order alimony to compensate. Arizona is also somewhat unique in that its judges can build health insurance costs into alimony awards in some cases, effectively obligating one spouse to pay for insurance on behalf of the other.
More than half of all states use the income shares formula to calculate child support, and Arizona is among them. This is generally considered to be the fairest way of calculating support because it takes into consideration both parents' incomes, as well as parenting time, childcare costs and the cost of the children's health insurance premiums.
Arizona is one of a handful of states that recognize covenant marriages. A covenant marriage involves signing a contract before your wedding, promising to stay together for life. If you did this, some of Arizona's divorce rules change a little. For example, you can terminate your marriage regardless of your contractual promise by filing for divorce on one of several available fault grounds. However, covenant marriage laws don't affect community property division or child support.