What Is the Difference Between a Default Divorce & No Fault in Arizona?

By Dennis Masino

Arizona’s no-fault divorce laws make it easier to obtain a divorce than in other states where you must prove wrongful conduct on the part of your spouse. Even though Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, your spouse has the right to challenge your request to end the marriage by filing opposing papers with the court. If your spouse does not file the papers in time, the court may grant you a divorce by default.

No-Fault Divorce

So-called "fault" states have laws that require you to prove wrongdoing on the part of your spouse to obtain a divorce. Common grounds, or reasons, these laws recognize as the basis for terminating a marriage are abandonment, cruelty and adultery. Arizona is a no-fault state because it does not require you to prove wrongdoing by your spouse in order to dissolve the marriage. All you need to prove is the marriage is "irretrievably broken." If the court agrees, it will issue a decree dissolving the marriage.


A default divorce decree may be granted to you if your spouse fails to respond to your petition for dissolution of the marriage within the time allowed by law. If your spouse lives in Arizona, the law gives him 20 days from the date a copy of the petition you filed in court is served on him. If your spouse lives outside of Arizona, he has 30 days to file a response. Service by publication in a newspaper increases your spouse’s time to respond to 60 days.

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Application for Default

If your spouse does not file a response to your petition for dissolution of the marriage within the time specified by law, you must file an application and affidavit of default form with the clerk of the court. The clerk will stamp a copy of the form with the date it was filed and return the copy to you. The stamped copy of the application and default form must be mailed or hand-delivered to your spouse who has 10 days from the date of receipt to file a response to the dissolution petition. If he does not, you may ask the court to schedule a default hearing.

Default Hearing

A default hearing is an informal court session in which a judge will hear evidence from you to establish you are entitled to dissolution of the marriage. If there are children involved or other issues that must be resolved, such as division of property, the court will hear testimony and consider written evidence on those issues. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge, if satisfied the evidence presented at the hearing establishes your right to dissolution of the marriage, will sign a decree.

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How to Get an Annulment in Arizona


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How to File for an Annulment on the Grounds of Mental Disability

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Is the Absence of Sexual Relations Grounds for Divorce?

Sexual behavior outside the marriage and the lack of sexual relations within the marriage can serve as grounds for divorce in states that continue to allow "fault" divorces. But all fifty states now authorize no-fault divorces, allowing either spouse to dissolve a marriage citing irreconcilable differences. However, you still have the option of filing for divorce on "fault" grounds in many states.

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