Dissolution Of Marriage

Here at the Law Office Of Louis Lombardo, PC we proudly represent clients in Phoenix, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Tempe & other cities throughout Arizona in Dissolution of marriage & other family law matters.

Arizona is similar to most of the United States in that does not require a spouse to prove that the marriage should be dissolved by the court before getting a divorce. In a “no fault” state like Arizona, the spouse seeking a divorce must only state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and that there is no chance of reconciling. There are a few requirements that must be met, however, for the Arizona court to grant a divorce.

To get a divorce in Arizona, the party asking for it must have resided in Arizona for at least 90 days. What “residing” in Arizona means has been the subject of many court cases, but in general, it means that the person was living in Arizona with the intent that Arizona be their primary residence.

If the parties have any minor children, the court looks not only to how long the parents may have lived in Arizona, but also whether the child(ren) of the parties lived in Arizona for at least six months before the divorce was filed. If the children have not been in Arizona at least six months, the Arizona court may require the divorcing parents to deal with custody of the children in the state where the children have been living. In rare situations, a parent may find that they have to get divorced in one state, but must go to another state to deal with custody of the children!

The Arizona court will want to know if either parent is in the military too. If one spouse is on active duty, the divorce case may be put on hold until the service member is available to participate in the legal proceedings.

Filing the petition for divorce is not enough to start the process. In order for a divorce case to be officially started, the petition for divorce and its related paperwork must be “served” on the other party. This means that the person asking for a divorce must have the initial divorce papers given to the other spouse in an official fashion so that the court knows the other party was informed of the lawsuit. Service of the petition for divorce typically happens by one party hiring a “process server” – a person licensed by the state to serve court documents – who gives the court papers to the opposing party and then files an affidavit with the court swearing that the papers were given to the other party. Service of the divorce petition can also happen by certified mail or by having the other party sign a form acknowledging that they received the papers. Whichever method of serving the divorce papers you choose, some form of official service must happen for the case to move forward.

The court will make everyone wait at least sixty days from the date the petition for divorce is served before it will grant a divorce. (This is Arizona’s mandatory “cooling off” period that is intended to prevent people from rushing into a divorce and encourage them to stay together). The court also offers free marriage counseling, and in those divorce cases where one spouse asks for such counseling, the court may place the case on hold for up to another sixty days before granting a divorce to give the parties a chance to work on reconciliation.

When the divorce is granted, the court will issue a “Decree of Dissolution of Marriage” that includes the final court order dividing up the parties’ property and debt, orders regarding legal decision-making and parenting time with the parties’ children (if any), and orders for the support of the children or one spouse. How the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage comes into being depends on whether the parties “settled” their case or not. If the parties reached a full agreement, they typically write their agreement in the form of a “Consent Decree” for the judge to approve. The Consent Decree sets forth final orders that the parties agreed should be entered by the court. If the parties are unable to reach a full agreement on all of the issues in their divorce case, then the judge will eventually tell the parties what the terms of their divorce will be in a regular “Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.”

The cost of a divorce and how long it takes can vary significantly from case to case. Some parties are able to agree on terms for a “Consent Decree” quickly and can minimize the need for attorneys. Other cases are not so easily decided and may require investigation into finances, parental unfitness, physical or emotional problems, etc. before an agreement can be reached. Some case cannot be settled at all, despite the parties’ best intentions, simply because they are too far apart in what they believe is fair. Regardless of the path your divorce takes, the Arizona courts charge everyone a fee to file for a divorce, and the cost seems to go up every few years. The current filing fee for a Petition for Divorce in Maricopa County is $349. A Response to the Petition for Divorce may be filed for $274. If you cannot afford to pay these costs, the clerk of the court may let you make payments (or waive the fee altogether) if your financial condition qualifies.

If you or a loved one is going through a similar case, please give my office a call at 480-413-9300. We will give your case an initial evaluation and and advise you on the next steps to take.