Arizona divorce Law and Legal Definition

Residency requirement, venue and procedures

Q: How long must I have lived in Arizona prior to filing for divorce in an Arizona court?
A: At least one of the parties to the action for divorce must have resided in the State of Arizona for at least ninety (90) days prior the filing of the action.

Q: What is "venue," and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?
A: "Venue" refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. In Arizona, proper venue for the divorce action is the Superior Court in the jurisdiction where the defendant resides.

Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce?
A: The title of the action initiating the divorce is a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, while the title of the action granting the dissolution of marriage is a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.

Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?
A: The party who files the action for divorce is called the Petitioner, while the other party is referred to as the Respondent.

Q: Are there any waiting periods associated with a divorce action?
A: Yes. There is a sixty day (60) day waiting period from the date the Respondent was served or accepted service of process before the court will grant a dissolution of marriage decree.

Grounds for divorce

Q: What is meant by "grounds for divorce"?
A: A "ground" for divorce is a "reason" for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Arizona. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.

Q: What is a covenant marriage and can it be dissolved?
A: The State of Arizona recognizes a covenant marriage, which is a marriage that is much harder to get out of than a normal marriage. A covenant marriage entered into in Arizona may only be dissolved on the following grounds:

  • 1. The respondent spouse has committed adultery.
  • 2. The respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment.
  • 3. The respondent spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage.
  • 4. The respondent spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the dissolution of marriage, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the matrimonial domicile or has committed acts of domestic violence or emotional abuse.
  • 5. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage.
  • 6. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least one year from the date the decree of legal separation was entered.
  • 7. The respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.
  • 8. The husband and wife both agree to a dissolution of marriage.
  • Q: What is the ground for divorce from a non covenant (normal) marriage?
    A: The one ground for dissolution of a non covenant marriage is: an "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage." This is a "No-Fault" ground, unlike the grounds for divorce from a covenant marriage which are "Fault" grounds.

    Q: What is the difference between "fault" and "no-fault" grounds for divorce, and how does this relate to "contested" and "uncontested" divorces?
    A. "No-fault" means that the fault of one or both of the parties in destroying the marriage is not an issue in the divorce. Spouses obtaining a no-fault divorce usually agree on all terms of the divorce (property division, child custody, etc.). This is known as an uncontested divorce. However, if the parties cannot agree on terms, the divorce is a "contested divorce." It is possible to agree to "no-fault" grounds, but still end up in a contested divorce due to disagreement about terms.

    Q: How are disagreements in a contested divorce resolved?
    A: The judge decides all issues on which the parties cannot agree. Normally the judge must also approve agreements between the parties to make sure they are not fundamentally unfair to one party.

    Q: Can I use a USLF divorce package to fully resolve a contested divorce?
    A: A contested divorce is beyond the scope of USLF's divorce packages. We highly recommend you obtain a local attorney to represent you in a contested divorce. However, the USLF divorce package may get you started and save you time and money (especially me of your attorney's fees) if your divorce ends up being a contested divorce.

    Spousal support/alimony

    Q: What does the term "spousal support" (or, "alimony") mean?
    A: "Spousal support" (sometimes called "alimony") is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse's loss of the benefit of the payor spouse's income due to the divorce.

    Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
    A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.

    Q: What factors will the court consider when determining whether to award alimony to a party? When determining how much alimony to award to a party? Is a party's degree of fault considered?
    A: Alimony may be granted to either spouse upon a finding by the court that the party seeking alimony:

    • 1. Lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs;
    • 2. Is unable to support himself/herself through appropriate employment or lacks earning ability in the market adequate to support himself or herself;
    • 3. Is the caretaker of a child whose age or condition is such that it would be unreasonable to seek outside employment;
    • 4. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse;
    • 5. Had a marriage of long duration or is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining adequate employment.

    Alimony may be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital fault, after consideration of the following factors:
    • 1. The standard of living established during the marriage;
    • 2. The duration of the marriage;
    • 3. The age, employment history, earning capacity, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking alimony;
    • 4. The ability of the payor spouse to meet his/her own needs while meeting the needs of the spouse seeking alimony;
    • 5. The comparative financial resources of each spouse;
    • 6. The contribution of the spouse seeking alimony to the earning capacity of the other spouse;
    • 7. The extent to which the spouse seeking alimony has reduced his or her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;
    • 8. The ability of each spouse to contribute to the educational needs of any children of the marriage after dissolution;
    • 9. The time necessary for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire sufficient education or training to enable that spouse to find appropriate employment;
    • 10. Any excessive or abnormal expenditures, or the destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community property.

    Division of Property

    Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
    A: Arizona is a so-called "equitable distribution" state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. There is no fixed standard to divide property, each case will be decided on its facts, and the trial court's discretion will not be disturbed on appeal without a showing of clear abuse.

    Q: Is the "separate property" of one spouse subject to being divided up?
    A: The question here is whether property "belonging to" one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.

    Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
    A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for he common benefit of the parties, it is available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.

    Child custody and visitation

    Q: What is child custody and visitation?
    A: "Child custody" refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. "Visitation" is the topic of the non custodial parent's ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).

    Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
    A: The court shall determine custody based upon the best interests of the child. Standard, legally recognized factors will be considered (see, Arizona Divorce Info on the Arizona Divorce Main Page).

    Child support

    Q: What is "child support"?
    A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).

    Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
    A: Arizona has established Child Support Guidelines which set the presumptive correct amount of child support. Deviation from these guidelines require a showing that application of the guidelines would result in an injustice.

    Q: What is "retroactive child support" and is it applicable in Arizona?
    A: Retroactive child support refers to the courts ability to order back child support to the date of separation, but not to exceed three years.