Arizona is a no fault divorce state. A party does not have to prove a reason for the divorce beyond affirming that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The reasons for the divorce generally do not affect how things are divided or how custody is decided unless the bad conduct is directly related to their parental fitness or if the marital assets were wrongfully wasted, such as spending on an extramarital affair or in satisfying an addiction.
Divorce (also called dissolution) cases in Arizona generally involve three main issues: (1) Child Custody (if there are minor children), (2) Division of Property & Debts, and (3) Support (for children and/or spouse).
A divorce case formally begins by filing a Petition for Dissolution with the court and serving the other party with the court papers. If the parties agree on everything and have reached a settlement at the beginning of the case, they can file a “consent decree” for the judge to approve and sign as a final court order. A judge cannot sign a divorce decree until at least 60 days have passed from the date of service.
Sometimes, parties prefer an out-of-court resolution that gives greater privacy, time-sensitive resolution, and offers a different setting to resolve their issues. In such instances, Collaborative Divorce can be a great option. Collaborative Divorce is not appropriate for every case, especially if there are certain relationship dynamics or a history of domestic violence between the parties. If you are interested in learning more about Collaborative options, you can find more information here. Attorney Ashley DeBoard is trained and certified in Collaborative Family Law by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals.
If the parties don’t agree at the beginning of the case, the case will proceed to “Discovery and Disclosure” where parties exchange and gather financial and other relevant information. The parties will also likely participate in some sort of mediation or other alternative dispute resolution process. If the parties can reach a settlement through the process, they can file the written agreement with the court for the judge’s approval. If an agreement cannot be reached, the parties proceed to a trial, where a judge will decide the issues for the parties.
Divorce and custody cases can go on for 6-18 months on average. Sometimes parties cannot wait that long to have a court order on issues that need to be resolved before the case is over. Under those circumstances, either or both parties can ask the court for “temporary orders” on issues such as parenting time, child support, payment of attorney’s fees or costs for experts, use of the family home, spousal support, interim payment of marital debts or obligations, and so forth.
Costs of Divorce
Most parties rightfully want to know what a divorce is going to cost. There are some costs that are fixed (such as court filing fees, costs for service of court papers, etc.). Other costs, such as attorney’s fees, property valuations, or expert witness fees vary considerably. The cost for attorney’s fees directly relates to the amount of time necessary to resolve a case. The attorney time necessary generally depends upon (1) the complexity of the legal issues and (2) how reasonable each party (and their attorney) will be in resolving the case issues. When the parties agree on everything, preparing the proper court documents to file with the court can be very simple and cost effective. On the other hand, when parties are in high conflict or being unreasonable, or if parties have complex custody or property issues, the time required is much greater. We work with clients to understand their priorities and budget and keep in frequent communication with our clients to review options to manage costs effectively.