Arizona Divorce Process in 2022
The Bishop, Del Vecchio & Beeks Law Office, P.C. has found our simplified divorce chart is an easy way to illustrate the steps in a divorce proceeding and help clients understand the entire process. It’s important to note that our divorce chart shows different possible scenarios, so not all steps shown will apply in every case. However, the use of this chart has been extremely helpful to our clients in understanding the divorce process.
Documents filed with the court
The following documents are filed with the Court in order to commence the divorce proceedings:
- Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage
- Preliminary Injunction
- Notice of Right To Convert Health Insurance
- Notice Regarding Creditors
- Domestic Relations Cover Sheet
If the parties involved have minor children, the following documents will also be filed:
- Child Support Information Sheet
- Order and Notice to Attend Parent Information Program Class
Service of Process
In cases where the parties are not hostile, the Firm generally asks the opposing party to sign a Waiver of Service of Process or Acceptance of Service of Process. This alleviates the necessity of formal service of process. In the event that the party does not accept service of process or in the event that the client wishes to proceed with serving the other party personally, the Firm will retain a process server to have the documents served in person.
Response to Petition for Dissolution
Unless the parties are able to resolve all issues and stipulate to a consent decree, the other spouse will likely need to file a Response to Petition for Dissolution. Unless the parties agree to an extension, such response must be filed within 20 days of service if served within the state and 30 days of service if served outside of the state. There is a new procedure called “Default on Demand” where a stipulated divorce decree can be submitted at the beginning of your case.
If the other party does not file a response by the required deadline, you may be able to obtain a final divorce decree through the default process. You will need to prepare your proposed orders in advance of the default hearing. It is important that your initial petition for dissolution (divorce) or other initial pleading conveys what you are specifically requesting or your default decree could be rejected or not include all of the items you want the court to order.
Stipulated Consent Decree
This is generally the easiest and most common way to get a divorce. If the parties can agree to all terms of their divorce, including legal decision making, parenting time, child support, property and debt issues, spousal maintenance and other financial issues (if applicable), the parties can stipulate to all terms and obtain a consent decree without going to court. In such event, the Firm can draft the consent decree, the settlement agreement and other necessary documents. Where children are involved, the Firm will also draft a parenting plan, child support worksheet and other documents to be submitted to the Court. This is generally the least expensive and fastest method of getting a divorce. In the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding the issues, the only other way to get a divorce is by trial.
In divorce cases the parties must wait no less than 60 days from the date of service of process in order to submit the divorce agreement, form of decree of divorce / dissolution, and other documents with the Court. However, the Firm can start drafting the documents and obtaining the parties’ signatures before this waiting period is over.
There are a number of Court programs that may apply, depending on the circumstances of your case. If you have contested legal decision making or parenting time issues, the Court may refer you to Conciliation Services for mediation in order for you to attempt to work out an agreement. These are confidential proceedings. In the event that the parties cannot reach an agreement during mediation, the matter is referred back to the Court.
With regard to parenting, financial and any other issues, the Court may also refer the parties to Alternate Dispute Resolution. This is also called a settlement conference. An appointed judge pro tem will assist the parties in settling all issues.
The Court may also refer the parties to Expedited Services with regard to child support and child support enforcement issues.
If the Court determines that the parties can afford private mediation, the Court may order the parties to attend private mediation (generally with a private attorney or former judge as mediator) in order to explore the possibility of a full or partial settlement.
All parties with cases involving legal custody/decision making or parenting time issues are required to attend a Parent Information Program. This is not “parenting classes per se”. Rather, it is focused upon general guidelines such as not placing the children in the middle of disputes between the parties, not saying bad things about the other parent in front of the children, and similar divorce specific issues. This program lasts 3 hours and costs approximately $40. The parties generally do not participate at the same time, although they may if they are amicable and wish to do so. This can be done through in-person programs or on-line programs. The Parent Information Program Order that is served with the initial filed documents provides information so that you can look up available classes and dates and times the programs are available.
Resolution Management Conferences
The Court generally schedules at least one Resolution Management Conference if the case is not quickly settled. During such conference, the Court sometimes schedules a trial date and inquires whether any agreements have been reached. The Court generally also inquires whether the parties have exchanged all relevant documents and other information. If the terms are agreed upon by the parties, the Court may enter interim orders regarding support, parenting time, payment of bills and other orders pending the final trial. The Court may also refer your case for mediation, Alternative Dispute Resolution, or other Court services.
There is sometimes a need to file a request for temporary orders with the Court. This is a request that the Court enter certain orders pending the final trial or other disposition of the proceedings. Parties may request temporary orders regarding legal decision making (child custody) and parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, temporary use of the house, attorney’s fees, payment of debts, division of liquid financial accounts, use of property and other issues. Unless the terms are agreed to in advance, the parties will need to attend a short evidentiary hearing in order to obtain temporary orders.
These orders generally stay in place until the final trial, or the final settlement of the case.
It may be necessary to conduct certain written “discovery.” This may include written questions that the other party needs to answer, such as listings of assets, debts, income and other information. Discovery may also include requesting documents from the other party. Subpoenas may also be issued to obtain documents from banks, employers and other third-party sources. In some cases, depositions are necessary. During depositions, questions are asked to the other party or witnesses under oath in front of a Court reporter who then makes a written transcript (if requested) of the questions and answers submitted during such depositions.
In many cases, parties do not know what assets or other property that has been acquired or what the value of such property is. In some cases, certain funds may be missing or unaccounted for. Discovery may be necessary in order to obtain such information. A party may want to submit discovery in order to obtain information regarding other issues such as child custody, spousal maintenance, or essentially any other issue involved in the case. Our firm can issue discovery requests on your behalf in order to obtain the necessary information to protect your interests.
It is also possible that the other side may want certain information and documents. Our attorneys and/or paralegals are happy to assist you as such can be a very technical, tedious and cumbersome process.
Proceeding to Trial
Bishop Law Office attorneys will always explore the possibility of settlement without the necessity of trial. However, if you cannot come to an agreement with your spouse on all issues, you will have to go to trial regarding the unresolved issues so that the judge can decide the issues for you. The Court will schedule a Resolution Management Conference during the case and address whether the parties have provided each other with all of the necessary information, and may schedule your case for trial at that time.
Trials in divorce cases do not involve juries. Rather, your case will be tried before the assigned judge. Trials in divorce matters are usually scheduled between two and six hours, although in some cases more or less time is necessary. Prior to trial, the parties submit Joint Pre-Trial Statements that outline their positions and arguments. During trial, the parties present testimony, exhibits and other evidence that support their respective positions. After the trial is completed, the Court will enter its divorce decree or other judgment, which sets forth its specific findings and orders. Judges are supposed to enter their rulings and decree of divorce within sixty days after trial (most judges do this more more quickly).
Decree of Dissolution
After trial, decisions are rendered by the judge on all disputed issues and a final Judgment of Divorce is issued. If you have disagreements with the Court’s orders, you will want to consult with a family law attorney as soon as possible since time periods apply to appeals or other actions to contest a Court’s orders.