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What is the General Timeline of Divorce in Arizona?

Posted On February 20, 2023 In Divorce

No two divorces are the same and some are much more complex to navigate than others, depending on the amount of property to divide, whether or not there are children, and whether both parties can agree to an out-of-court settlement. But in Arizona, the divorce process follows a specific timeline that can give divorcing spouses an idea of how long their divorce will take and how the process proceeds from one stage to the next on the way to finalizing.

Arizona has a residency requirement for divorce. One or both spouses must have lived in the state for 90 or more days to file for an Arizona divorce.

If you’re contemplating a divorce it helps to understand the process so you know what to expect once you decide to move forward.

Making the Divorce Decision And Asking for Temporary Orders

Deciding that a divorce is inevitable is one of the toughest conclusions to face. No one goes into a marriage believing it will end in a divorce court, but nearly 40% of Arizona marriages end in divorce. If you’ve had to face the difficult decision to divorce and made up your mind that it’s the best way forward, you’ve taken the first step. The next step is typically to seek representation by a skilled and experienced Chandler divorce attorney.

The spouse who files for divorce is the petitioner, while the other party is the respondent. It’s important to file in the correct jurisdiction. 

Unlike some states, Arizona does not require a period of separation before filing for divorce; however, after you or your spouse files for divorce, there is a 60-day waiting period from the date the respondent is served the divorce papers until the process proceeds. During this waiting period, spouses should carefully consider whether or not they wish to proceed or if they want to pursue counseling or find a way to reconcile. Either party may ask the court for temporary orders during this time for child and/or spousal support, visitation, and orders for who retains the family home.

If you find you are unable or unwilling to reconcile, the divorce proceeds to the next step.

The Discovery Period for an Arizona Divorce

The respondent must respond to the petition served within 20 days, or within 30 days if they live out of state. In cases where the other party fails to respond, the court can grant a divorce by default in 60 days. In most cases, the other party responds to the petition, and the divorce proceeds to the discovery phase.

During discovery, both parties must submit full financial disclosures divulging the following information:

  • Total income from all sources
  • All assets and properties
  • All accounts and investments
  • Any existing support order obligations

During the discovery period, both sides can request answers to specific questions, request documents, and ask for information from third parties.

Settling Out of Court

Once both parties have all the necessary information, they may agree to a fair resolution for the division of assets, a parenting schedule, child support, and spousal support where appropriate, in which case they won’t need to go to court. Divorcing spouses may resolve issues and craft their own settlement through mediation, open negotiation meetings, or a settlement conference with the judge. If spouses cannot come to a mutual agreement, the case proceeds to trial and a judge decides on all issues of property division, child custody, and support. Before the trial date, both spouses and their attorneys will use the information compiled during the discovery phase to create a pre-trial statement detailing each party’s side and what they want out of the settlement.

The Final Dissolution Hearing

At the final hearing, both spouses must testify before a judge about what they wish included in the final decree, addressing all points of contention in property division, custody, support, and retention of the family home. After the judge hears both sides, the spouses must wait for the final decision. This process may take days or weeks, while the judge reviews the financial documents, and deliberates on the custody and support arguments. Once the judge issues a decree, the divorce becomes final unless one party appeals. Once the divorce becomes final, both parties must take whatever steps necessary to follow the judge’s orders, including transferring assets and making arrangements for sharing parenting time as they move forward into independent lives.