In Arizona, a divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.” Regardless of the term used to denote the fact that a marriage has ended, the legal processes involved in attaining that goal are similar to those of other states. The major differences usually arise only when it is a “covenant” marriage that is to be dissolved.
Arizona recognizes two types of marriage, the “covenant” marriage and the much more common “non-covenant” or “civil” marriage. Since the dissolution of covenant marriages account for only a small percentage of cases in the Arizona courts, our main focus will be on the legal processes involved when a civil marriage is ending.
Under Arizona law, the spouse who files the Petition for Dissolution (the “petitioner”) must have resided in Arizona for a minimum of 90 continuous days prior to the date the petition is filed with the Superior Court of the county where the petitioner resides.
Grounds for requesting a dissolution
Arizona is a “no fault” state, meaning that a spouse can petition for dissolution without citing a specific act or acts as a basis for their petition. If a covenant marriage is to be dissolved, there must be a specific reason given and that reason must be one of several (such as adultery, abandonment, or addiction) that are recognized by law.
Filing and serving notice to a spouse
In Arizona, the Superior Courts are given some leeway is setting the time limits that it applies to dissolution cases.
Once a petition has been filed, the other spouse (the “respondent”) must be served (given a copy) of the Petition and any supporting documents within 120 days of the filing date.
Responses and hearings
Once served, the respondent has the right to file a response with the court. Depending on circumstances such as spousal and/or child support, a response must usually be filed within 20 or 30 days of service. In cases where the respondent cannot be located, or was served and did not respond within the time limits, the petitioner may ask the court for a default hearing and a dissolution on the terms set forth in the original petition. Should the respondent contest the original petition, he or she will be scheduled for a hearing in court.
Community property, custody, and support
Arizona is a community property state, meaning that all property (and debts) accumulated during a marriage is divided as close to “50 – 50” as possible. There are several exceptions to the community property rule, and these exceptions should be discussed with a family law attorney.
Custody of children is decided by the court. Child and/or spousal support, is based on maintaining the quality of life that the spouse and children enjoyed during marriage and the contribution that each former spouse can be fairly expected to make to the child’s or children’s well-being. The amount of support is determined by the court and can be enforced by the state’s child and spousal support laws.
Your need for legal representation
From this review, you can understand how complicated the Arizona dissolution laws can become. For this reason alone, anyone involved in a Dissolution proceeding should have legal counsel. In the Phoenix area, the attorneys at Ronald Saper Law can provide both petitioners and respondents with legal counsel that protects their legal rights during and after a dissolution case.
If you are considering a marriage dissolution, or are currently involved in such a case, you should contact the law offices of Ronald Saper Law to discuss your present situation and the options that may be available to you during this emotional time of your life.
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