Updated: May 21, 2022
The divorce process is one of the most stressful times in many people's lives. While facing significant changes to your personal life and possibly facing child custody issues it can be incredibly difficult to find the time to fully understand the divorce laws in Arizona.
While the majority of divorces are actually quite simple, they can still be confusing for anyone unfamiliar with the process. No matter what your divorce situation, it is a good idea to contact an experienced divorce attorney to be sure everything is done correctly and your rights are protected. Contact a qualified family attorney at Monahan Law Firm to see what we can bring to your case!
How Long Do You Have to Wait to File For Divorce in Arizona?
There is no waiting period required to file for a divorce in Arizona except for those with a covenant marriage. For a standard marriage, however, you may file for divorce whenever you wish. That being said, you will be required to undergo a 60-day waiting period after you have filed your divorce papers.
This means that the soonest your divorce can be finalized is 61 days after your papers were filed with the courts. This requirement holds true even in cases where both parties are in agreement on all of the terms of the divorce.
Many divorces will take longer than the required 60-day waiting period. A contested divorce in particular will often take considerably longer to finalize than 60 days after the petition for divorce was filed.
Factors That Affect the Length of a Divorce
Divorce cases can vary greatly in length depending on their unique circumstances. Divorce proceedings are far from quick under ideal circumstances, but they can get considerably longer with the inclusion of certain factors. These can include:
The inclusion of minor children in a divorce proceeding is one of the most common factors that can lengthen the divorce process in Arizona. Disagreements over child custody, parenting time allotments, and child support can all cause a case to be drawn out significantly. Even cases in which both parents are in agreement over the above will take longer to close. Documents will need to be drafted and filed establishing the agreed on terms for parenting decisions and this takes extra time to accomplish.
Marital Property and Debt
Ownership of homes, vehicles, and debt can all introduce points of contention in divorce cases. Any property acquired during the marriage is considered property of both parties, even if it only holds one persons name. These commonly take additional time to unwind and settle.
This one is entirely outside of your control, but can be the biggest contributor to your divorce time. A court will have to process all the paperwork associated with your divorce and schedule at least one hearing. The busier the court is, the longer it will take to get this done, which can draw your divorce out for far longer than it would otherwise take.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?
An uncontested divorce in Arizona could, in theory, be completed in 61 days, as soon as your mandatory waiting period ends. In practice, however, you should expect to wait between 90 and 120 days for your divorce to reach completion. As long as both you and your spouse agree on all areas of your divorce, you will be able to file uncontested. This will still take time but is nowhere near as long as an average contested divorce case.
As we discussed above, an uncontested divorce is your shortest path. You and your spouse will have to be in complete agreement on every aspect of your divorce, so this may be easier said than done. However, if you are able to file uncontested your divorce can be finalized in between 90 and 120 days on average.
Contested Divorce Timeline
Contested divorces introduce more variables into the equation, and can take much longer as a result. This doesn't necessarily mean that the divorce will be an ugly process, it simply means that there are issues that will take time to resolve.
In general, you can expect to have to take the following steps to proceed through your contested divorce:
Be Sure You Are Actually Ready to Divorce
This may seem obvious, but it is an important first step in the process. Divorce is an inherently personal process and can be a tough decision to make. If you have decided that the issues you and your spouse face are not reconcilable, you will need to prepare for the divorce process.
This can include gathering necessary documents and ensuring your finances are squared away. You are about to go through a major change in circumstances and need to be ready for the realities that it brings. It will be considerably easier to tackle this before starting the divorce process than waiting until everything is already in motion.
Choose Your Divorce Attorney
You have the right to file for divorce on your own and represent yourself in court for your case. But this is almost always a bad idea. Divorce law can be a complicated subject and trying to learn the ins and outs of it while handling a major life change is setting yourself up for failure.
Working with an experienced divorce attorney allows you to lean on them for the wealth of information they have and use them as a resource throughout your divorce proceedings. They will also be able to help you file any documents required by the courts. This can allow you to avoid common mistakes that could end up costing you more time and money.
File For Divorce
Once you have gotten your personal affairs in order and found your divorce lawyer you should file your divorce papers. In Arizona, this means filling out and submitting a petition for dissolution of marriage and paying the applicable filing fee. Your lawyer will be able to prepare the paperwork, ensure that it is filed correctly, and have your spouse served through a process server. Your spouse will usually have 20 days after they receive your petition to file their response. After this the divorce will move ahead with a hearing.
Temporary Order Hearing
This initial hearing is designed to handle a number of issues that cannot wait until the rest of the divorce is settled. This includes child custody, child support, spousal maintenance payments, and the living situation of the spouses. This ensures that the basic needs of the family, and in particular the minor child, are attended to while the divorce process continues.
In order to resolve this situation, the court will hold a Temporary Order Hearing. This will allow the circumstances to be settled, with a temporary order filed detailing the requirements for each of the issues until the divorce is finalized and a permanent order can be issued. This hearing may not be necessary if you and your spouse are able to agree on the issues addressed at it.
Discovery and Disclosure
Legal cases hinge on the collection of information before going to hearings. This allows all involved parties to prepare and build their cases around the facts of the situation. This can be particularly important for divorce cases, the effects of their resolution are long-lasting and can impact not only your own life but the lives of any minor children involved. Spouses are required by Arizona Law to disclose certain information in divorce cases. This can include total income, property ownership, investments, etc.
You need to be certain you fully disclose the information required, or the court may issue a sanction against you. Both parties will also engage in the discovery process prior to going to trial. This involves sharing certain information with one another such as responding to document requests, gathering 3rd party information, or answering questions submitted in writing. At this stage, your attorney will be doing the bulk of the work. They will make sure you have the needed information for your case and are likely to think of options you would not have considered on your own.
At any point in the divorce process, you and your spouse can settle your case. You will have to reach an agreement on the terms of your divorce, but doing so will drastically shorten the time that will be required to see the process through. Arizona law requires every couple getting a divorce to have a meeting about settling their divorce.
This plays a role in the high number of settled divorce cases in Arizona, but the simple fact is that settling your divorce is just easier in many ways. If you are able to have a civil discussion with your spouse, the issues delaying most divorce cases can be sorted out outside of court. There are a number of methods couples use to reach a settlement, such as informal discussion or going through divorce mediation. However your divorce is settled, once the agreement is in place it will have to be reviewed by a judge to ensure it is in compliance with the law.
Preparation for the Trial
When you have been unable to reach an agreeable resolution with your spouse, you will have to go to trial. The information-gathering your lawyer did earlier in the process will pay dividends here as you can build the strongest possible case using everything at your disposal. Your lawyer will take this time to write your pretrial statement and prepare any exhibits for the trial to come. You should be sure to have your attorney describe the trial process to you, including timelines, what will be expected of you, and what to expect from the courtroom proceedings.
The final hearing of your divorce process is often an intense experience, as you will be required to testify about your marriage, life, family, work, finances, and more. This trial will typically include hearing testimony from both parties, witnesses who can attest to certain aspects of the couple's life such as financial situations, a presentation of evidence from your marriage, and presentations from attorneys on both sides. Your lawyer will work with you to prepare for the trial, so you will know what to say in certain situations and have an idea of what to expect as the trial proceeds.
Motions and Appeals
Lawyers on both sides will likely file motions or appeals following the trial. These frequently cover common practices and concerns such as unfair actions in the trial, the introduction of new information not known at the trial, or the handling of various exhibits by the court. The judge will be required to review these and make their decision.
Depending on their caseload this will often take several weeks but could take several months instead. You may appeal certain motions if the judge denies your original. Once the appeals are concluded, or if no appeals are filed after the trial, your divorce is finalized and your marriage is dissolved by the state of Arizona.
How an Attorney Can Help Speed Up a Divorce
A skilled family law attorney can provide you with practical help, representation, and legal advice throughout your divorce process. From negotiating property division to representing you during your divorce trial to answering any questions you have as they come up, your lawyer will be on your side from the time you file your divorce petition until the entire matter is settled.
Divorce can be a difficult time for many people, and you will have many time-sensitive matters to attend to throughout your case. Your lawyer will keep you on track with your case, help you avoid missing deadlines, and make sure all of your paperwork is filed correctly the first time. This will speed up the process significantly by keeping you from making costly, and time-wasting, mistakes.
Contact an expert divorce lawyer at Monahan Law Firm today. Our legal team is ready to guide you through your divorce to reach the best outcome possible.