Divorce is always a difficult process, both emotionally and legally. In the best-case scenario, divorcing spouses agree on all divorce terms, including the division of their marital assets, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance (alimony). In Arizona, even in these relatively rare instances of non-contentious divorces, the courts require spouses to wait 60 days from the date they file the divorce petition until the hearing date to finalize the divorce. This serves as a “cooling off” period in which the courts hope the spouses consider a reconciliation. It also allows time to negotiate mutually agreeable terms for a divorce settlement agreement.
In more common circumstances, divorcing spouses disagree on one more term of the divorce, resulting in a contested divorce process rather than a simple, uncontested divorce. In these cases, it’s not uncommon to wonder, “Why is my divorce taking so long to finalize?”
When a divorce takes longer than anticipated, the most common cause of delays is one or more contested issues. The process becomes extended when spouses cannot agree on divorce terms such as:
During the divorce process, both spouses may meet frequently with their attorneys to attempt to resolve these common issues of contention. Often they have one or more meetings with a professional mediator who offers workable resolutions and compromises. These attempts to come to terms may significantly delay the divorce’s progress. When spouses cannot reach an agreement after multiple attempts, they must argue their sides for a judge to decide in a divorce trial. This process not only extends the length of the entire proceeding but also results in additional expenses for attorney fees and court costs.
When divorcing spouses rent their home and own very few assets, an Arizona divorce moves quickly following the required waiting period; however, when spouses have significant assets or various complex assets and properties, the discovery period during which the attorneys for both sides make full financial disclosures and request documents from the other can be lengthy. Arizona requires divorcing spouses to fairly divide any assets they accumulated during their marriage, while each spouse may retain separate property they owned before the marriage or that they inherited during the marriage. This process takes more time when spouses argue over property, attempt to hide assets or engage in extensive negotiations—such as one spouse offering to exchange an RV and a rental property for their spouse’s share of the marital home.
Discovery may also become complicated and time-consuming when spouses argue over child custody and make accusations against each other that require investigations so a judge can decide the matter in the child’s best interests.
Sometimes one spouse purposely delays the divorce process, either because they don’t want the divorce or as a means of punishing their spouse due to hard feelings or rancor. There are many ways that one spouse can delay the divorce process and make it more difficult to settle or argue in court.
If one spouse fails to respond to the divorce petition in an attempt to delay the process, it results in a default divorce in which they lose their right to make requests or counteractions in court.
If one spouse causes significant delays, or there are many issues of contention in the divorce, it is difficult to speed up the process without giving in to the aspects of the divorce that the other spouse contests. It’s important to speak to your Chandler family law attorney about the timeline of your divorce and how you can expedite the process without compromising important issues.