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What Are the Grounds for Filing for Divorce in Arizona, and How Do They Affect the Outcome?

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What Are Grounds for Filing for Divorce in Arizona?

When filing for divorce (called the dissolution of marriage in Arizona), it’s important to understand that Arizona is a no-fault state. That means that in most cases, neither spouse needs to be designated at fault for the marriage’s breakdown; it’s enough to say that the marriage is irretrievably broken to file for divorce.

However, there is one type of marriage in Arizona that requires fault to file for divorce: A covenant marriage.

What Is a Covenant Marriage?

Arizona is one of only three states in the U.S. (along with Arkansas and Louisiana) to offer covenant marriages, which are believed to make up only 1% or less of all marriages in the state. In a covenant marriage, the couple agrees to undergo premarital counseling, which can be handled by a marriage counselor or a clergy member. The counselor must inform them that it’s expected to last for life. The counselor must also go over the limited options for filing for divorce once they’ve entered into a covenant marriage.

When the couple fills out their marriage license application, they must both sign a declaration stating that they expect to be married for life and will agree to participate in marital counseling if the marriage becomes troubled. They must sign a statement confirming they attended premarital counseling. They’ll then receive a premarital counseling pamphlet created by the Arizona Supreme Court.

Generally, this type of marriage is undertaken for religious reasons. Some couples choose it because they want to demonstrate their commitment to maintaining the marriage for good, even if that involves counseling or other ways of working through difficult times in the years to come.

What Happens When a Couple in a Covenant Marriage Wants to Divorce?

No-fault doesn’t apply to a covenant marriage, so it’s not enough to simply claim the marriage is irretrievably broken. Instead, the spouses in a covenant marriage can only legally separate due to one or more grounds.

  • Adultery. The non-filing spouse is guilty of having an extramarital affair.
  • Abandonment. The non-filing spouse left the marital home at least a year earlier and shows no sign of returning.
  • Abuse. The non-filing spouse has committed child or spousal abuse (or both), whether physical, sexual, or emotional.
  • Chemical abuse. The non-filing spouse abuses drugs or alcohol, which is viewed as causing a potentially harmful environment to the spouse and any children.
  • Crime conviction. The non-filing spouse received a prison or death sentence.
  • Separation. The couple has lived apart for at least two years.
  • Legal separation. The court granted the couple a legal separation, and has lived apart for at least one year.
  • Agreement. Both spouses agree to the divorce. If one spouse does not agree, the divorce will take longer.

Does Arizona Require a Legal Separation Before a Couple Can Divorce?

Technically, no. A couple can file directly for divorce in Arizona without going through a legal separation. However, Arizona does have a mandatory waiting period. The state requires a minimum of 60 days from the divorce filing to the earliest point when the marriage can be legally dissolved.

That’s the minimum, but Arizona also requires that all outstanding issues be resolved before the dissolution can be finalized. That includes the division of assets and debts and agreed-upon arrangements for spousal support (alimony), child support, and custody (the latter is also known as parenting time), if applicable. It’s not uncommon for couples to take much longer than 60 days to finalize these decisions if they’re having trouble agreeing on the terms of the divorce, which is referred to as a contested divorce. An experienced divorce attorney is always highly recommended, especially in contested cases.

What Does the Divorce Process Involve in Arizona?

While each marriage and divorce is unique, there are several steps that most couples will need to take to finalize their divorce in Arizona.

  • As noted above, the couple must have developed an agreement for dividing assets and debts, spousal support, and how matters regarding children will be handled after the divorce. That includes compiling all relevant documents, including bank statements and other financial paperwork.
  • Fill out the related divorce forms. There is a separate form for people in covenant marriages. The forms must be filed with the court, which marks the official starting point of the divorce process. There are three copies: one for the court, one for the filing spouse, and one to serve the non-filing spouse. Filing fees must be paid at this time.
  • The non-filing spouse has 20 days to respond once served with the divorce papers. This is part of the 60-day waiting period during which the couple must begin agreeing on the terms of the divorce. The petitioner can file for a default divorce if the non-filing spouse doesn’t respond within 20 days. The non-filing spouse has another ten days to respond. The court can grant the petitioner the default divorce if they don’t.
  • Hearing(s). The final step is when the court approves the agreement the couple developed or determines the outcome itself.

What Should I Do if I Need Help Filing for Divorce

Call the Turner Law Firm as soon as possible at 480-618-1221 to set up a consultation. Divorce is widely considered to be one of life’s most stressful situations. Our team of experienced divorce attorneys understands that, and we’re here to provide compassionate, knowledgeable legal guidance. We’ll work diligently to achieve the best possible outcomes in your divorce for you.

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