Understanding the elements of divorce cases in Arizona

There are a number of elements, including property division and spousal maintenance awards, that must be addressed in order to settle Arizona divorce cases.



Each year, numerous couples in Maricopa County and throughout Arizona make the difficult decision to divorce. According to the state's Department of Health Services, there were more than 26,000 marriage dissolutions across the state in 2013 alone. While couples may enter into a legal union with little more than signing a marriage license, there is much more to ending a marriage. In order to ensure they are prepared, it is helpful for people to understand what is involved with a divorce in Arizona.

Waiting period

Divorce in Arizona is not like a runaway train after the papers are filed with the court. The Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County points out that there is a waiting period that people must abide after serving the divorce papers to their partners. If the service is completed by publication, they must wait 60 days before proceeding with their cases. However, the waiting period is 30 days if the respondent lives out of the state and 20 days if the respondent lives in Arizona. The waiting period allows time for the non-filing spouse to respond.

Dividing marital property

The state of Arizona is a community property state. Thus, both partners have an equal right to the assets and property they acquired over the course of their marriage. Under state law, divorcing couples' common property is divided equitably. However, this does not necessarily mean that each spouse will receive equal shares. Instead, the court will consider a number of factors in order to determine a fair division of the couple's assets.

Spousal maintenance

Sometimes, people who are divorcing may not be able to support themselves on their own, and thus, may seek support. Spousal maintenance, however, is not appropriate in every situation. Arizona state law specifies that support may be awarded in the following situations:

  • A spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs
  • A spouse contributed to his or her spouse's education opportunities
  • A spouse cannot obtain adequate employment to be self-sufficient
  • After a lengthy marriage, a spouse's age precludes him or her from obtaining adequate employment

Additionally, the court may award spousal maintenance to a spouse who is the custodian of a child whose age or condition prevents him or her from seeking outside employment. There is no set amount of formula for spousal support awards in Arizona. Rather, the court considers a number of factors in order to determine an appropriate award amount.

Working with an attorney

Even in the simplest of cases, there may be a number of details that must be dealt with during Arizona divorces. As such, divorcing spouses may consider obtaining legal representation. An attorney may help them understand the laws and procedures as they apply to their situations, as well as guide them through the legal process.