Residency Requirements for
One of the spouses must have lived in the state at least 90 days before filing for dissolution of marriage. The divorce should be filed in the county in which the petitioner resides at the time of filing. There is also a 60-day waiting period after the service of process on the Respondent (or after the Respondent’s acceptance of service.
Legal Grounds for Divorce
- No Fault Divorce: Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. [Arizona Revised Statutes Annotated; Title 25, Chapter 312].
- General Divorce: Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only grounds for dissolution of a “standard” marriage in Arizona. However, Arizona recognizes what is termed a “covenant marriage,” which is presumably a higher standard of marriage. The grounds for dissolution of a covenant marriage are:
- Conviction of a felony which mandates imprisonment or death
- Abandonment for over 1 year
- Commission of domestic violence against spouse, child, or relative
- Living separately and continuously and without reconciliation for over 2 years
- Living separately for over 1 year after a legal separation is obtained
- Habitual use of drugs or alcohol
- Both spouses agree to a dissolution.
Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or that 1 spouse desires to live separate and apart are the grounds for legal separation in Arizona. However, if the marriage is a “covenant marriage,” the grounds for legal separation are the same as the grounds for a general dissolution of a “covenant marriage” listed above, under Legal Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage. One of the spouses must live in the state of Arizona when the action for legal separation is filed. No residency time limit is specified. If 1 spouse objects to a legal separation, the case will be amended to be an action for dissolution of the marriage.
Prior to filing for dissolution of marriage, either spouse may ask the court to order mediation for the purpose of a reconciliation to save the marriage or to obtain an amicable settlement and avoid further litigation. After a dissolution of marriage has been filed, either spouse may request that the dissolution of marriage proceedings be transferred to the Conciliation Court for mediation. Official forms for requesting this transfer are available from the clerk of any Superior Court. In addition, if 1 spouse denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may delay the case for up to 60 days and order the spouses to attend a conciliation conference. In addition, a judge may require spouses to attend conciliation conferences. Finally, there is a required delay of 60 days after the service of papers on the respondent spouse before any hearing may be held for a dissolution of marriage.
Arizona is a “community property” state. Separate property is retained by the owner of the property. Community or marital property (property acquired during the marriage) is divided and awarded equitably. Marital misconduct is not considered in the division. The court may consider excessive or abnormal expenditures of community property, and any destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of community property in making the division. The court may place a lien upon a spouse’s separate property in order to secure payment of child support or spousal support. A special Notice regarding debts and creditors is provided by statute and must be included on any materials served to the respondent. In addition, at the request of either spouse, the court shall order the spouses to submit a “debt distribution plan” which allocates the responsibilities for debts. Forms for this are included in Arizona Revised Statutes; Title 25, Chapter 318.
Alimony and Spousal Support
Maintenance can be awarded to either spouse, if the spouse seeking maintenance:
- Lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs
- Is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment
- Is the custodian of a child whose age and condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home
- Lacks earning ability in the labor market to adequately support himself or herself
- Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse
- Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age which may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to support himself or herself.
Marital misconduct is not a factor to be considered. The factors to be considered are:
- The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse and the extent that the seeking spouse reduced his or her income or career opportunities to benefit the other spouse
- The time for the spouse to acquire education and training for suitable employment
- The spouse’s future earning capacity
- The spouse’s standard of living during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The ability of the spouse providing maintenance to meet his or her needs while providing the maintenance to the other
- The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance (including marital property awarded and the spouse’s ability to meet his or her needs independently)
- Any destruction, concealment, fraudulent disposition, or excessive expenditures of jointly-held property
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses including their comparative earning capacities
- The age of the spouses
- The physical and emotional condition of the spouses
- The usual occupations of the spouses during the marriage
- The vocational skills of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The ability of both parties to contribute to the future educational costs of any children
- Any other factors the court may deem just and equitable.
Awards of maintenance are to be paid through the court unless the spouses agree otherwise. Maintenance agreements may be made non-modifiable by agreement of both spouses.
In awarding custody, the court considers the best interests of the child and the following factors:
- The preference of the child
- The desire and ability of each parent to allow an open, loving, and frequent relationship between the child and the other parent
- The wishes of the parents
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of the child and the parents
- The relationship between the child and the parents and any siblings
- Any evidence of significant spouse or child abuse
- Any coercion or duress in obtaining a custody agreement
- Which parent(s) have provided primary care of the child.
No preference is to be given on the basis of the parent’s sex. If custody is contested, all other issues in the case are decided first. Joint custody may be awarded if the parents submit a written agreement providing for joint or shared custody and it is found to be in the best interests of the child, after a consideration of the general child custody factors (above) and the following additional factors:
- That neither parent was coerced or influenced by duress into withholding or granting his or her agreement to joint custody
- That the parents can sustain an ongoing commitment to the child
- That the joint custody agreement is logistically possible.
Grandparents and great-grandparents may be awarded visitation rights.
Either parent may be ordered to pay child support, without regard to marital misconduct, based on the following factors:
- The financial resources of the child
- the standard of living of the child during the marriage
- The physical and emotional needs of the child
- The financial resources and obligations of both parents
- Any destruction, concealment, fraudulent disposition, or excessive expenditure of jointly-held property
- The needs of the child
- The duration of parenting time and any related expenses.
Awards of child support are to be paid through the court unless the spouses agree otherwise. In addition, there are specific Arizona Supreme Court guidelines for child support payments available from the Clerk of any Superior Court. The amount of support established by using the official guidelines will be the required amount of child support, unless the court finds such an amount would be inappropriate or unjust. Every child support order must assign 1 or both of the parents responsibility for providing medical insurance coverage for the child and for payment of any medical expenses not covered by insurance. Unless there is contrary evidence presented in court, the court will assume that the non-custodial parent is capable of full-time work at the Federal minimum wage (unless the parent is under 18 years of age and attending high-school).