Deciding to divorce is never easy but it’s often the fear of being tied up in court battles that keeps a couple from getting out of a bad marriage. In reality, a divorce can take as little as two months (per Arizona Revised Statute 25-329) or it can be drawn out for years without proper guidance. On average an uncontested divorce takes anywhere from 90 to 120 days.
Disputes over property, child custody, child support, parenting time, or hidden assets can really draw out the process.
When you sit down with an attorney to plan for your divorce it’s important to be up front about all the issues at play in your case. This will help ensure each problem is handled in the most appropriate and efficient way. The more that can be solved during mediation, the less time will be spent on litigation.
The steps to get a divorce in Arizona are:
Decide it’s time.
No one can tell you when your marriage is over. It’s a very personal decision that each couple must come to on their own. You should never feel rushed or pressured into this decision. Talk about the reasons your marriage is not working and see if you can maintain civility as you dissolve the marriage.
Once you have made the decision to divorce it may take some time to prepare for that. You should begin by looking at your finances. Are you prepared to move from a two-income household to one or to support yourself if you were not supporting yourself previously? Do you expect your former spouse to help you?
Find an attorney.
This step should also take some time. It’s important to interview several attorneys before choosing who should represent you. Make sure you understand their process and find someone who understands your desires for your future. Ask about fees up front and their estimated timeline if that’s a concern for you. Find more info here
You could file for divorce on your own but having an attorney on your side will ensure the process ends up as favorably as possible.
In Arizona you must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This document states your marriage is “irretrievably broken” but it does not need to state why. This paperwork will also mention children born during the marriage, if applicable, and any community or separate property that needs to be divided.
Your attorney can help fill this paperwork out. There is a fee to file it with the court. Your spouse will have 20 days to respond to the filing.
Discuss the big issues.
Again, if you can work issues out with your spouse early on it will save you both time and effort down the road. The biggest issue most couples face is where each person will live and where the children will live if there are any. If these issues cannot be worked out ahead of time they will be decided in a Temporary Order Hearing. Your attorney will need to request this hearing and the court tries to schedule it quickly to get these issues worked out sooner rather than later.
Before the Temporary Order Hearing you should try to establish a routine as this will be important for the judge to consider now and later on in the case.
Discovery and disclosures.
This is probably the most time-consuming step in a divorce and if you’re considering filing it may be the most important step to include your attorney in. You’ll need to collect statements about any income, property information, business ownership, investments and any other financial obligations. Discovery also includes written questions and information from third parties which your attorney can help you compile. If you were trying to file for divorce on your own you may not know all the necessary questions to ask or facts to gather but an experienced attorney knows just what the court needs to see.
During this time the court may also issue a Preliminary Injunction. This prohibits either partner from harassing the other, hiding earnings, taking out new loans on community property, or taking minor children out of state without written permission.
Settlement or mediation.
The best time to settle a divorce is before it goes to court. Once discovery has happened it’s a good time to review what can be resolved privately. You might try reaching out to your former spouse to negotiate certain details or allow your attorney to do it for you. Arizona law requires that couples must have at least one discussion about a possible settlement—an effort to keep divorces from taking up valuable court time. Use this time wisely and be sure you and your attorney are on the same page about what can be compromised and what cannot.
Anything that cannot be settled with mediation or settlement will be decided in a trial before a judge. Trial is never guaranteed to go your way so you should prepare carefully with your attorney. Discuss the facts that will be shown and the witnesses that will be called, including yourself.
A trail is an emotionally draining process. Prepare yourself to hear testimony from your former spouse and testimony from experts about your finances and children. This is an opportunity for both sides to present their case and their desires for the future. You should not expect it to be easy but you should be prepared by your attorney to know what is coming.
Life after trial.
After the trial there is still time for attorneys to submit new information that wasn’t available during trial or practices they found to be unfair during the trial. The judge may take a few weeks or a few months to make a ruling. Even after the ruling, you or your spouse can submit an appeal. If no appeal is filed then the divorce is final and all that’s left to do is follow the court’s orders.
Pangerl Law Firm P.L.L.C. focuses on divorce, child custody, mother’s and father’s rights, child support, and all other areas of family law, as well as personal injury claims. Our office is located in Deer Valley and serves the greater Phoenix area, including the communities of Scottsdale, Peoria, Glendale, Cave Creek, Avondale, Goodyear, Surprise, Mesa, Tempe, Anthem, New River, North Phoenix and Phoenix. For more information, call: 602-942-6200.