Deciding to get a divorce can be a very difficult (yet necessary) decision to make. For many, trying to navigate the divorce process and figure out next steps can be extremely stressful and overwhelming. Hopefully this will break it all down for you:
In Arizona, the first thing that needs to be filed with the court in the divorce process is the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (aka Petition for Divorce). Either spouse can file this Petition. The petition will include various information, including the names of the parties and the children, and what you are seeking in the divorce, such as custody (now called legal decision making authority and parenting time), child support, spousal support, division of property and debts, a request for attorney’s fees, etc., and why you are seeking a divorce. Regarding the “why” aspect, Arizona is a “no-fault” jurisdiction, which means that all that needs to be claimed is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and there is “no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.” Neither party needs to prove that the other is the cause of the breakup, unless the marriage was a “Covenant Marriage” (which is extremely rare and requires the parties to have agreed to that type of marriage in writing).
There are additional documents that are required to be filed with the Petition as well, including: a Summons, Preliminary Injunction, Notice Regarding Creditors, Notice Regarding Health Insurance, and an Order for Parent Information Class (if children are involved). The Petition must comply with all relevant state laws and court rules, so make sure to do your research before filing. A filing fee will also need to be paid to the court at the time of filing.
After one spouse has filed their Petition with the court, the divorce papers will need to be served on the non-filing spouse within 120 calendar days. This can be done by a Process Server, or by execution of an Acceptance of Service, which must be signed by the party receiving the Petition, and filed with the court. From the time the non-filing spouse (referred to as the “Respondent”) is served, they will have 20 calendar days to file a Response to the Petition if they live in Arizona. If the non-filing spouse lives out of state, they will have 30 calendar days to respond. Failure to file a Response within the applicable time period can lead to the divorce being obtained by Default.
The first hearing that is usually set in a divorce case following service of the Petition is a Resolution Management Conference (RMC). This hearing is basically what we like to refer to as a “meet and greet” with the judge, and the purpose is to explore ways to resolve the dispute and move the case along. The parties are required to confer prior to the date of the RMC and discuss what, if anything, they may be able to agree on. Then, during this short Resolution Management Conference, the parties will get to meet the judge and let her or him know if any agreements have been made. If no agreements have been made, the judge will see what can be done to allow the parties to reach a settlement (for example, they may order that the parties participate in mediation or a settlement conference). They may also set a temporary hearing or deadlines for disclosure of financial or other information. If it appears to the judge that the parties have already negotiated thoroughly and are unable to agree, they may just set the case for trial.
We recommend obtaining a legal consultation with an attorney prior to filing a divorce petition, in order for you to learn about your legal rights and determine your options and the best course of action.
by Logan Matura
At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., our Arizona Family Law Attorneys Gary Frank, Hanna Amar, and Logan Matura are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Phoenix Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator. He has also acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, and served on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Law firm Partner, Hanna Amar is a highly-skilled Arizona Family Law Attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. She has extensive courtroom experience, and is also a certified mediator. Hanna has also acted as the President of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Associate Attorney Logan Matura is an Arizona Family Law Attorney who received her Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in Manhattan, NY. While in law school, she served as an intern for a Family Court judge in the Bronx, NY, and was a member of the Family Attorneys Mobilizing club. Logan is passionate about children and families, and provides expert representation for her clients. Our firm handles Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification actions, enforcement actions, grandparent and step-parent and non-parent rights, as well as other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, call us today at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com. We look forward to hearing from you.