If you’ve lived in your Arizona county for at least 90 days, you can file for divorce there even if your spouse lives elsewhere. Unless you have a covenant marriage, Arizona allows you to file on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” and does not require you to prove your spouse was at fault to get a divorce. However, the earliest a judge can sign your final divorce decree, if you and your spouse both agree on the divorce, is 60 days after the divorce paperwork is delivered to your spouse since Arizona has a mandatory 60-day waiting period.
Once you qualify to file in your county by living there for 90 days, you can begin your divorce process by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the clerk of court. This petition must include certain basic information about your marriage, including your marriage date, names of your children, and what you are asking for on all issues in your divorce. For example, if you are asking for alimony, you can include that request in your petition. You must also pay a filing fee to the court, but the court can waive this fee if you meet certain income requirements.
You must file other forms with the court clerk at the same time as your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. These forms include a Family Court Cover Sheet which provides the contact information for you and your spouse and a Summons to tell your spouse when he is required to come to court or provide a response to the court paperwork. You must complete a Notice Regarding Creditors and Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance to notify your spouse about his rights and responsibilities regarding debts and health insurance while the divorce is pending. You will also obtain a Preliminary Injunction that applies to both you and your spouse, limiting your ability to transfer assets, incur new debts or remove your children from the state. You must serve these forms, along with certain notices, on your spouse within 120 days of filing, then file proof of service with the court clerk.
When Your Spouse Files a Response
Under most circumstances, your spouse has 20 days to respond to the divorce paperwork if he lives in Arizona, or 30 days if he lives outside Arizona. If your spouse files a response and you both can agree on all the terms of your divorce, the court can grant your divorce after you submit a settlement agreement and a proposed divorce decree. A settlement agreement addresses issues like child custody, property division and alimony. Arizona offers the option of a “consent decree,” which gives spouses the option of submitting their decree for signature by mail, without the need to attend a hearing, or attend a brief hearing to have their decree signed in person. If your spouse files a response but you can’t agree on certain issues, the court proceeds to trial on these issues. At trial, each spouse has the opportunity to present evidence and arguments showing why the judge should decide in his favor.
If your spouse does not file a response within the required time period, you can request a default judgment by filing an application with the court clerk. This form varies between counties, but it tells the court when your spouse was served and that he has not responded. You must serve your spouse with a copy of this form, typically by mail, and then your spouse has another 10 days to respond. If he still does not respond, you must attend a brief court hearing to finalize your divorce, at which the court will either grant some or all of the requests made in your petition or render its own decision on such matters.