In Arizona the divorce procedure is called a dissolution of marriage. A dissolution for any married couple will accomplish two things: severing the marital relationship, and dividing assets and debts.
Additionally, if the couple have been married for a significant length of time and one of them will be unable to be self-supporting, the issue of alimony may arise. If there are minor children, the couple will need to resolve issues of child custody, visitation, and support.
To file for dissolution of marriage in Arizona, either you or your spouse must have been domiciled in Arizona for at least 90 days.
To be “domiciled” requires taking actions indicating an intent to make Arizona your primary state of residence (for example, registering to vote, obtaining an Arizona driver’s license, or registering a car in the state).
While it is possible to be a part-time resident of two or more states, you can only have your domicile in one state. You begin the procedure by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the Superior Court of the county where you live.
In the most basic procedure (an uncontested divorce), you, and maybe your spouse, will be need to attend a court hearing. The judge will ask some questions, to be sure you understand and agree to everything, and will enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
Grounds for Divorce
Grounds are legally recognized reasons to get a dissolution and sever the marital relationship.
Arizona has what are commonly called no-fault grounds for dissolution. You need to state in the Petition that: “The marriage of the parties is irretrievably broken.”
What is unusual about Arizona is that this is the only ground for dissolution.
Arizona is one of a few states that have created a covenant marriage. You will know if you have a covenant marriage.
To dissolve a covenant marriage you and your spouse need to agree on a dissolution, or have already gone through a legal separation procedure. You may also prove a fault-based ground such as adultery, your spouse being convicted of a felony, abandonment for at least one year, physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, habitual drug or alcohol abuse.
Property Division in Arizona
In dividing property and debts, Arizona adopts the concept of community property, where property acquired during a marriage is marital property.
Generally, each party will keep their “sole and separate” property. If the judge must divide the property, he or she may consider any “excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.”
Alimony in Arizona
In Arizona alimony is called maintenance. In deciding whether to award maintenance, and the amount and duration, the judge must consider factors (1) through (5) listed above for property division, plus the division of property and other factors the court determines are relevant.
Maintenance in Alaska may be for a limited or an indefinite period of time, and in a lump sum or installments. The parties may agree that maintenance may can’t be modified. Maintenance may be awarded if the parties agree, or if the court finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:
- Lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her needs
- Lacks sufficient earning ability, or has custody of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment
- Contributed to the other spouse’s education
- Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that precludes employment adequate to be self-sufficient
The amount and duration of maintenance takes into account the following factors:
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The age, employment, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The ability of the other spouse to meet his or her needs while paying maintenance
- Comparative financial resources and earning abilities
- Contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the other’s earning ability
- Extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced income or career opportunities for the other’s benefit
- Ability of both to contribute to the educational costs of the children
- Financial resources, and ability to meet needs, of the party seeking maintenance
- Time needed to acquire education or training to find appropriate employment
- Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community or jointly owned property
- Cost of health insurance for both parties
- Damages and judgments from criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim
Child Custody in Arizona
If you have any minor children, there will have to be a custody determination. Traditionally, one parent was awarded custody, and the other was given visitation rights. The modern trend of keeping both parents active in their children’s lives, has led to new terminology. The terms legal decision-making and parenting time are used in Arizona. It all still comes down to figuring out how the children’s time will be divided between the parents, and how decisions will be made.
According to Arizona child custody laws, if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement on decision-making and parenting time, you will each need to submit a proposed parenting plan to the judge. The judge will make a decision based upon the following factors:
- The past, present, and future relationship between the parent and child
- The relationship between the child and parents, siblings, and other significant persons
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- The wishes of child, if of suitable age and maturity
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
- Which parent is more likely to foster contact with the other parent
- Whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause a delay, increase cost of litigation, or persuade the court to give preference to that parent
- Any domestic violence or child abuse
- Any coercion or duress by a parent in obtaining an agreement
- Whether a parents has completed a class on the impact of divorce on families
- Whether either parent was convicted of falsely reporting of child abuse or neglect
- The agreement or lack of an agreement regarding joint legal decision-making
- Whether a parent’s lack of an agreement is unreasonable or influenced by an issue not related to the child’s best interests
- The abilities of the parents to cooperate in decision-making
- Whether joint decision-making is logistically possible
Child Support in Arizona
The Arizona child support guidelines, which may be obtained from your county’s Superior Court clerk, consider the child’s needs and the parents’ abilities to meet the needs.
A party’s former name may be restored as part of a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. If either party would like to pursue reconciliation, a petition for conciliation may be filed.