Important information to know before filing for a divorce

A divorce dissolves the bonds of matrimony between two legally married people. That’s why a judge enters a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. It’s only for purposes of convenience that the process is called a divorce. The person who files for a divorce is known as the petitioner, and the person who is on the receiving end of a divorce is known as the respondent.

The domicile requirement
Pursuant to the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) section 25-312, one of the parties to a divorce proceeding must be domiciled in the State of Arizona or a member of the armed services stationed in Arizona for at least 90 days before a divorce action can be commenced. It’s quite common in Arizona for a person to have more than one residence, but they can have only one domicile.

Service of process
Once the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed, and a summons is issued, copies of those must be served on the respondent. The respondent must respond to the pleading within 20 days if he or she is served in Arizona. If your spouse is served outside of Arizona, he or she has 30 days to respond. Failure to respond in a timely manner is a basis for filing a motion for default. Once that motion is served, the respondent has 10 days to file a response. Failure to file a timely response can result in all relief sought in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage being granted.

The “cooling off” period
There’s a 60 day “cooling off” period after service of process on the respondent. If a timely response is filed, or if by agreement of the parties, a late response is agreed to, the petitioner and respondent can present an agreed Decree for Dissolution of Marriage for approval by the court. If the court believes that all material issues relative to property division, custody and child support are properly addressed, a judgment will be entered.

My husband or wife won’t give me a divorce
A judge isn’t going to keep two people married if one of them doesn’t want to be married. A petitioner who persists in a divorce case will eventually obtain a divorce. If a respondent doesn’t want to get divorced, a conciliation meeting is arranged with the court, and the case is continued for 60 days. If that meeting isn’t fruitful, the petitioner can proceed with the case. If there are disagreements on issues, a judge will have to decide them.

The parenting program
Even if the parties are in agreement on all matters involving the care, custody, control and education of their children, Arizona still requires them to attend a parenting education program before a final divorce will be entered. The parties to the divorce aren’t permitted to attend the program at the same time.

Domestic violence
If you’ve been a victim of domestic violence in the immediate past, or you believe that or your children have been threatened, harassed or intimidated, you’re allowed to petition the court for an Order of Protection. There are no filing fees for this, and you’ll be heard by a judge on the same day.

Some divorce cases are highly emotional, especially if children are involved. The process can be complex and lengthy. Arizona’s rules and local rules of procedure must be followed along with the rules of evidence. You can refer to for other information that you might need that isn’t discussed here.