The First Step: Filing for Divorce
Filing for divorce starts the court process of dissolving a marriage, legally referred to as a dissolution of marriage. The party that begins this process is referred to as the “Petitioner” while the other party in the divorce is deemed the “Respondent”. One key point to know when filing for dissolution of marriage is that the petitioner or respondent must be a resident of the state of Arizona for the past ninety days prior to filing for divorce. After filing, the first technical step is for the court to determine if the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Arizona is what is known as a “no-fault” state meaning neither spouse has to prove fault or provide evidence of misconduct in order to proceed. In short, there need be no reason for choosing to dissolve a marriage between the parties. That being stated, the court does require that one of the spouses declare the marriage irretrievably broken. Additional laws apply to those in a “covenant marriage.”
Self-Representation During an Arizona Divorce
The option to self-represent in an Arizona divorce is open to everyone, but choosing so, the family law court will expect anyone self-representing themselves to be up to par with the applicable laws and follow the Arizona divorce process appropriately and accurately, even if they are not an attorney.
Someone considering self-representation should then reflect on the possibility that they may dilute their right of receiving and requesting certain benefits and exploiting their legal rights forever. Along with that, if the case goes to trial that person may be excluded from providing evidence and calling a witness to the stand. Court judges and personnel are exempt from giving legal advice. Failing to follow the Arizona divorce process and or being unknowledgeable of the applicable laws can also lead to the self-representative party being required to pay the attorney’s fees of the other party. Taking all of this into consideration it is strongly recommended to hire an attorney as a counsel and representative if you are unfamiliar with the laws and process.
The Process of an Arizona Divorce
Once contact has been made to an Arizona family law expert and the acquisition of legal representation has been obtained for the divorce, that legal team will make certain all the required documentation is filed and within full compliance to the Arizona divorce process and procedures as needed. If the petitioner were filing for dissolution of marriage, the catalog of necessary documentation would start with a petition for dissolution of marriage and related documents.
As soon as the dissolution of marriage and other associated documents are filed, the respondent has twenty days to respond, after being served, if they were served in Arizona. If they are not an Arizona resident and were served outside of the state of Arizona the respondent is given thirty days to respond. If the respondent fails to respond within these timeframes, the petitioner may file for default. As soon as this request is filed, the respondent has only ten days to respond; depending on how they were served with the motion and application for entry of default, for example being personally served or being served through the mail. If the “10-day” rule follows through and the motion was sent, they take the chance that the divorce is permitted on the terms of the petitioner.
If the respondent does not respond and is then correctly defaulted, they will cover several major subjects. One huge issue that could be situated by the petitioner though the court is that of finances which ranges from the determination of alimony, determination of child support, the division of debts that occurred during and sometimes before the marriage as well as the division of property acquired during and before the marriage. The respondent could potentially at the request of petitioner have liability to pay attorney fees, cost of the case, etc of the petitioner when a divorce decree is obtained by default. Not only will they (petitioner) have the upper hand in financial decisions but they will most likely have their say in most actions regarding a child or children such as custody and parenting time.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hildebrand Law for their insight into divorce.