To get a divorce in Arizona, both parties are required to sign certain documents and submit them to the court. In a contentious divorce, a spouse may refuse to do so. It may be that they want more time to work it out or get their case in order, but in general it’s just a delay tactic.
If your spouse has told you they will delay the divorce by refusing to sign papers, there are still ways to proceed. Here are a few tips to help:
File paperwork carefully
Some spouses refuse to sign the Petition for Dissolution paperwork because they are afraid that means they are agreeing to your side of the story. Arizona is a no-fault state meaning you do not need to list a reason for the divorce on your paperwork. In fault divorces the filing spouse may be awarded a better settlement and it’s possible your spouse is concerned about that.
If your divorce is contentious, leaving a reason off the paperwork may help offer some comfort to your spouse. An experienced attorney can help ensure the wording on the papers is respectful.
Serve the divorce papers
If your spouse has already told you they won’t sign the papers then you need to take extra caution in having them served. A process server or sheriff can help with the process and make sure it is documented. This is important because if your spouse decides to fight the divorce later on they may claim they were not served properly, or given enough notice.
Once the papers are served there is a waiting period for your spouse to respond. They have 20 days if they live in Arizona and 30 days if they live out of state. If they miss this window, you can file an Application and Affidavit of Default with the court. Your spouse will then be granted another 10 days to respond before you can request a default divorce. You can also request a default divorce if your spouse cannot be located to be served.
A default divorce happens when one spouse refuses to respond to a petition for dissolution. It can still include spousal support, alimony, property division and a custody agreement for parenting.
In a default divorce the court will set a hearing. You and your attorney will likely be the only ones in attendance. The judge will ask you several questions and if there are children involved they may ask questions to understand what would be in the child’s best interest.
In most cases the judge may take your spouse’s failure to attend as giving up their right to have a say in the outcome of the divorce. The court will then divorce you at the end of that hearing.
Your spouse does have the option to fight the default divorce later on if they feel they were not given the opportunity to respond. This can be another tactic to cause stress in the future but a good divorce attorney can help you prepare and avoid that.
Arizona is one of few states that allow couples to enter a covenant marriage. In a covenant marriage the couple must make reasonable efforts to resolve their issues before seeking divorce, including attending therapy or marriage counseling. If you are seeking a divorce due to domestic violence, you may be required to submit proof.
If you are in a covenant marriage and your spouse leaves and you do not expect them to come back, then you may file for divorce but you may have to wait two years until it can be finalized.
Because of the higher expectation and requirements to dissolve a covenant marriage, it will be even more important to hire an experienced attorney to help.
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.