What is a divorce?

A divorce, legally called a "dissolution of marriage," is a court procedure to end a marriage. The party who starts the divorce is known as the Petitioner. The other party is known as the Respondent.

What is A.R.S.?

A.R.S.  stands for Arizona Revised Statutes. When followed by "§"and a number, it refers to a particular Arizona law. These statutes may be found at www.azleg.gov/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.aspas well as in any county law library.

What is A.R.F.L.P.?

A.R.F.L.P. stands for Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. These rules may be found at http://www.supreme.state.az.us/rules/ramd_pdf/R-05-0008.pdf or in any county law library. 

When can I file a petition for divorce?

You or your spouse must have been a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days before you can file for a divorce. A.R.S. § 25-312.

What reasons must I give in order to get a divorce? 

Arizona is a no-fault state, which means that neither spouse needs to give a reason for the divorce. Only one party needs to assert that he or she believes the marriage is "irretrievably broken." If the parties choose to have a "covenant marriage" at the time of their marriage or later convert their marriage to a covenant marriage, the party seeking the divorce must prove grounds found in A.R.S. §25-903.

Do I need a lawyer to represent me?

Everyone is entitled to represent himself or herself in a divorce. However, if you represent yourself, the court will expect you to follow all laws and the correct procedures that apply to your case, even if you are not an attorney. If you do not follow the correct procedures, you could lose important rights and the ability to request certain benefits forever. If your case goes to trial and you do not follow the correct procedures, the judge may not allow you to present certain evidence or call witnesses. Court personnel and judges are not allowed to give you legal advice. If you do not understand the laws or court procedures, you may contact an attorney for assistance.

In certain circumstances, a judge may order your spouse to pay all or a portion of your attorney's fees.

How does the divorce procedure work?

One spouse files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and related initial documents.

After the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed, copies of all of the papers must be served on your spouse unless service is waived in writing and filed with the court. Your spouse has 20 days (if served in Arizona) or 30 days (if served outside of Arizona) to respond to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

If your spouse fails to file a Response within those 20 days, the other spouse can apply for a default. After a request for default is filed, your spouse only has 10 days to file a Response or risk the divorce being granted on all of the terms of the petitioning spouse.

If no Response is filed, at the end of the "cooling off" period of 60 days after the Respondent is served with the divorce papers, the Petitioner may obtain a Default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.

If a Response is filed but both parties reach an agreement as to all issues, they can submit a Consent Decree of Dissolution of Marriage that sets forth all of their agreements for the judge to sign. A.R.F.L.P. Rule 45(B).

What if my spouse does not agree to a divorce?

If your spouse does not want the divorce, he or she may request that the parties attend a conciliation meeting with the court. The divorce will be put on hold for up to 60 days while that meeting takes place. If the meeting does not result in the parties agreeing to postpone the divorce, the divorce will go forward.

There is no charge to request a conciliation meeting.

What happens if my spouse and I do not agree on something during the divorce proceedings?

If you and your spouse do not agree on a particular issue, such as custody of children, spousal maintenance, or division of property, it may be necessary to have a judge decide these issues for you. You must then request a trial in order to finalize your divorce.

The procedure for requesting a trial varies from county to county. You should seek the advice of an attorney if you are not able to determine how to obtain a trial date. Many courts have information and forms available to the public either in their law libraries or their websites.

Some courts offer free mediation services.

How long does it take to get a divorce? 

After your spouse is served with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, a 60-day "cooling off" period must transpire before the divorce may be finalized. It is not possible to be divorced any sooner even if both parties agree. If the parties do not agree on the terms of the divorce, a trial will be set.  Depending on the county, these proceedings could take as long as six to nine months before a divorce would become final.

What is covered in a decree of dissolution of marriage?

A Decree of Dissolution of Marriage will:

1. Terminate the marriage.

2. Determine custody, parenting time and support of the minor children, if any.

3. Determine spousal maintenance (alimony), if any.

4. Divide property acquired during the marriage, and affirm property owned prior to the marriage (if any) to the party who owned it.

5. Assign responsibility for debts incurred during the marriage, and affirm debts owned prior to marriage (if any) to the party who owed them.

6. Determine responsibility for attorney fees and costs, if any.

7. Restore the last name of a requesting spouse (optional).

Can I get temporary orders while the case is pending?

While your divorce is pending, you may apply for temporary orders regarding custody, parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, attorney fees, and other matters.  The procedure to request a hearing for temporary matters varies from county to county. You should seek the advice of an attorney if you are not able to determine how to obtain a hearing for temporary orders.

What is a preliminary injunction?

A Preliminary Injunction is a form of restraining order which is issued at the beginning of every divorce case.  The Preliminary Injunction is issued tobothparties and requires that neither party harass the other, that no community property is sold, that existing insurance is maintained and that minor children not be removed from the state without court permission or the other parent's written consent.

What if my spouse has commited domestic violence or may become violent?

If your spouse has committed domestic violence or may become violent during the dissolution proceedings, you may apply for an Order of Protection. The forms for an Order of Protection are available for free at any Superior Court, Justice of the Peace Court or City Court.  You will see a judicial officer on the same day that you fill out the Petition for Order of Protection. There is no charge to apply for an Order of Protection.

Always call 911 in an emergency.

Is there a mandatory parent education program?

If the parties have a minor child or children together, both parties must attend a court- mandated education program about the impact of divorce on children. Both parents must attend, even if there is no disagreement regarding custody and parenting time. If one party does not attend, he or she may not be able to obtain custody and/or parenting time with the child(ren). The parties may not attend the same class at the same time. A.R.S. § 25-351



Lake Havasu law office divorce when children are involvedThe steps and procedures for getting a divorce generally apply to all cases, including those where the spouses have minor children together. When children are involved, however, the court has a special responsibility to decide matters of legal custody, parenting time and child support. Even if the marriage ends by default, the court must inquire about these issues and make orders that are in a child’s best interests.

Also, when there are minor children, each parent is required by law to complete an educational class. For more information, see the note at the end of this section.

What if the children need support while the court case is still in progress?

Once a divorce case is started, either spouse may ask the court to issue orders for temporary support of a child. This "temporary order" lasts until the court makes a final decision in the Decree that ends the marriage.

What about custody and parenting time?

When a divorce case is started, the court automatically has authority to decide issues about custody of any children involved. If there are disputes between the parents about custody or parenting time, in most counties the court generally directs the parents to meet with trained court professionals and try to come to an agreement through discussions called "mediation." If the parents cannot agree, the court must decide these issues.

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In 1996, the Arizona State Legislature established a Domestic Relations Education on Children’s Issues Program, now offered in each Arizona county. This program sometimes is referred to as the "parent education program" or "parent information program." Although the programs may differ somewhat in each county or even within counties, each is designed to offer education to parents about the impact that divorce, the restructuring of families and judicial involvement have on children. The Arizona Supreme Court sets minimum standards for these programs, including presenters’ qualifications.

Parents who have a child in common who is less than eighteen years old must complete the program when involved in a court case for divorce or legal separation. Unmarried parents involved in any court case to establish paternity or maternity must also complete the program if the court has been asked to decide custody, parenting time or child support. Parents of minor children may also be ordered to attend the program if, after determining paternity or obtaining a divorce or a legal separation, disputes regarding custody, parenting time or child support are presented to the court. Parents who fail to attend the program as ordered may be refused any specific request for court action, may be held in contempt of court or may have other penalties imposed. The program lasts up to four hours and a fee may be charged to each participant.

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Acceptance of Service - A form signed by a non-filing spouse indicating that the spouse agrees to receive the initial papers in the case without the papers being formally delivered by a Sheriff or process server.

Affidavit - A written statement made under oath to show that certain facts are true or that certain events have happened.

Affidavit of Service - A paper filed with the court to show that legal papers in a court case have been delivered to one of the persons involved in the case.

Application for Default - A form filed with the Clerk of Superior Court indicating that the Respondent has been served with the initial court papers and has not replied in the time allowed by law.

Conciliation Court - A branch of the Superior Court to which a spouse may apply in an effort to preserve a marriage or to receive other services such as mediation.

Conciliation Services - Services of trained professionals offered by the court to persons in divorce or custody cases that help resolve disputes or reconcile marital difficulties.

Community Property - A term generally meaning that a wife and husband share equally anything acquired, purchased or paid for during the marriage, no matter who uses the property or who paid the money or in whose name title is taken.

Commissioner - A person authorized to hear and determine some kinds of court cases. A judge is elected or appointed by the Governor. A Commissioner is appointed by the Presiding Superior Court Judge in a particular county to perform some of the tasks that a judge otherwise would do.

Consent Decree - An order of the court legally ending a marriage that is based on an agreement of the spouses regarding any issues that originally were disputed.

Covenant Marriage - An optional type of marriage created by the state legislature that requires partners to complete marital counseling prior to marrying and to sign a special declaration to obtain a marriage license. In a covenant marriage, a legal separation or divorce may be granted only for certain reasons listed in state law.

Decree - The court order legally ending a marriage, often containing other orders regarding division of property, debts, spousal support and, when children are involved, custody, parenting time and child support.

Default - When a person named in a lawsuit chooses not to or neglects to participate by filing necessary court papers or making an appearance in court, the court may enter orders against that person without the person being involved.

Deferral - When speaking of court fees, a term meaning that payment of fees may be postponed.

Dismiss - An action taken by the court that has the effect of ending a case or a request in a case.

Dissolution of Marriage - The terms used in Arizona law for "divorce."

Enter (also Entry) - A term used to indicate that a document is accepted by the Clerk of Superior Court and made a part of the official court record in a case.

Hearing - The opportunity for persons involved in a legal case to tell the court their side of the dispute to the court. Hearings are scheduled by the court for a particular date and time.

Injunction - An order of the court directing the spouses not to do certain things like sell property or annoy one another.

Irretrievably Broken - The standard used by the court to decide if a dissolution of marriage should be granted. It means that there is no reasonable chance that the spouses will agree to stay married.

Judicial Officer - A term referring to either a judge or commissioner of the court who has the authority to decide legal issues and issue court orders.

Mediation - A process by which persons attempt to reach mutually acceptable agreements, usually with the assistance of a trained professional who guides the discussion process.

Motion - A written request filed with the court asking a judge to issue an order or rule on a particular matter.

Petition - The paper filed with the Clerk of Superior Court to state a case for dissolution of marriage.

Petitioner - The term used to refer to the spouse that files a request (Petition) with the court for a dissolution of marriage. This can be either the husband or wife.

Process Server - A person authorized to deliver or serve court papers on one of the parties to the court case.

Proof of Service - A paper filed with the court to show that legal papers in a court case have been delivered by a sheriff or other authorized law enforcement officer to one of the persons involved in the case.

Respondent - The spouse that did not file the request for a dissolution of marriage.

Response - The written legal paper filed in court by the person against whom a case to dissolve a marriage has been brought and by which the person tells the court whether he agrees or disagrees with the claims made by the person who started the case.

Separate Property - A term referring to any property owned by a married person before the marriage date that remains the personal property of that spouse during marriage and does not become community property. In addition, gifts and inheritance received during the marriage are the receiving spouse’s separate property, as are any increases in those items such as interest, profits of sale or capital gain.

Service - The process by which court papers given to the Clerk of Superior Court by one spouse are made available to the other spouse. Particular rules state how service must be made in different circumstances.

Service of Process - A phrase referring to the procedure by which a Summons and the Petition and other papers originally filed with the Clerk of Superior Court are delivered to the non-filing party to advise that a case has been started and a response must be made to avoid further legal action.

Spousal Maintenance - Also called Spousal Support; formerly known as "Alimony." Money that the court may order either a husband or wife to pay to the other during or after a divorce case. The court must decide whether financial support is necessary; if so, in what amount and for how long the support should be paid.

Summons - A legal paper that is stamped by the Clerk of Superior Court and which must be delivered in the way required by court rules on the party who did not file the request for a dissolution of marriage. The Summons notifies the non-filing spouse that a request for a dissolution of marriage has been filed and advises that spouse what action must be taken.

Waiver - When speaking about court fees, a term meaning that payment of fees is excused.

Waiver of Service - A form signed by a non-filing spouse indicating that the spouse does not wish to formally receive the initial papers in the case by delivery from a Sheriff or process server.

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Apache County
70 West 3rd South
St. Johns, AZ 85936
(928) 337-7550
Cochise County
County Courthouse
Bisbee, AZ 85603
(520) 432-8570
Coconino County
200 N. San Francisco
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
(928) 779-6535
Gila County
1400 E. Ash
Globe, AZ 85501
(928) 425-3231
Graham County
800 Main St.
Safford, AZ 85546
(928) 428-3100
Greenlee County
223 5th Street
Clifton, AZ 85533
(928) 865-4242
La Paz County
1316 Kofa Ave., Suite 607
Parker, AZ 85344
(928) 669-6131
Maricopa County
201 W. Jefferson
Phoenix, AZ 85003
(602) 506-3676
Northwest Regional Court Center
14264 W. Tierra Buena Lane
Surprise, AZ 85374
(602) 506-3676
Southeast Regional Public Service Facility
222 E. Javelina Ave.
Mesa, AZ 85210
(602) 506-3676
Navajo County
County Courthouse
Holbrook, AZ 86025
(928) 524-4188
Pima County
110 W. Congress
Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 740-3201
Pinal County
County Courthouse
Florence, AZ 85232-2730
(520) 868-6296
Santa Cruz County Complex
2150 North Congress Drive
Nogales, AZ 85621
(520) 375-7700
Yavapai County
County Courthouse
Prescott, AZ 86301
(928) 771-3312
Yuma County
230 W. 2nd Street
Yuma, AZ 85364
(928) 329-2164
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Arizona Supreme Court | Administrative Office of the Courts | Court Services Division| Court Programs Unit

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