Is Arizona a No-Fault Divorce State?

Couple filing for divorce in the lawyers office.

Today, most states recognize the right of two individuals to marry and separate as they please and when they please. If a husband or a wife is no longer content in the marriage, that spouse may leave it. This was not always the case, however.Not too long ago, in many states, a party who wanted a divorce would have to prove that his or her spouse had done something wrong which justified getting the divorce.

Today, Arizona maintains no-fault divorce laws. If you are thinking about filing for divorce in Arizona, our experienced divorce attorneys at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC can help you to get through the process.

What Is a No-Fault Divorce?

As we stated above, Arizona is a no-fault divorce state. In other words, neither party must prove the fault of the other in order to justify the divorce. Instead, one party must simply assert that he or she believes the marriage to be irretrievably broken. The party does not need to prove alcoholism, impotence, adultery, abandonment, cruelty or any other grounds for a divorce.

Only one exception to this rule exists. Some people choose to enter into a covenant marriage or, at some point, to convert their marriage to a covenant marriage. In a covenant marriage, the couple agrees to premarital counseling. The couple also agrees that a divorce will be granted only in the event that certain grounds for divorce are satisfied. Under Arizona law, the possible grounds for dissolution of a covenant marriage include:

  • Adultery
  • Committing a felony
  • Abandonment
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Living separate and apart for at least two years before the petitioner files the request for dissolution of marriage
  • Living separate and apart for at least one year after the petitioner has filed the request for dissolution of marriage
  • Habitual use of drugs or alcohol
  • Agreement of both parties to dissolution of the marriage.

Does Adultery Affect the Outcome of a Divorce?

Many people wonder whether their spouse’s adulterous behavior – or their own –will affect the outcome of their divorce. Because Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, adultery will not affect a party’s ability to obtain a divorce (unless it is a covenant marriage). However, adultery could affect certain issues in the divorce such as:

  • Property division – While adultery itself will not have an effect on a property division determination, economic misconduct could. For example, if there is evidence that one spouse squandered joint monies in order to pursue an affair, a judge may award more property to the other spouse.
  • Child custody – The affair could affect a child custody determination if the affair is indicative of parental unfitness. A parent seeking custody may argue that the adulterous parent is not the best choice for custody.

Marital misconduct cannot be considered by an Arizona family law judge when making a decision about alimony. Instead, things like the duration of the marriage, the quality of living established during the marriage, income and resources and more will be considered.

How Does the Divorce Process Work in Arizona?

The divorce process starts in Arizona when one spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage and related documents with the court and serves these documents on the other spouse. The spouse who is served will then have 20 days to file a response with the court. If that spouse fails to respond to the petition within the required time frame, the other spouse can apply for a default divorce.

Before a divorce can be finalized, mediation may be required to help the spouses to come to an agreement about the terms of a divorce, including property division, child custody, child support and alimony. Mediation provides an opportunity for the spouses to work together with a neutral, third-party mediator who can facilitate the conversation and aid them in reaching an agreement on these critical issues.

If the spouses cannot agree on the terms of a divorce, a trial will be held. During the trial, each side will have an opportunity to present evidence to support their case. A judge will then make a decision, issue an order and finalize the divorce.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?

A divorce will take at least 60 days in Arizona.  The court requires that a 60-day “cooling off” period must transpire from the date that the petition for divorce is filed to the date that the divorce is finalized. In reality, however, getting a divorce often takes longer than 60 days. The spouses may not be in agreement about the terms of the divorce. In some particularly complex divorce cases, where a trial is required, a divorce could take longer than a year to finalize.

Start Working with Our Phoenix Divorce Lawyers Today

When you work with our experienced divorce attorneys at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, we will provide you with thorough answers to your questions about our state’s no-fault divorce laws as well as the laws which apply to the dissolution of covenant marriages. We can also discuss the issues which must be resolved before your divorce will be finalized, including the  issues of: property, debt, children and spousal support. The decisions made regarding these issues can have a significant impact on your future financial security and well-being. We want to make sure that you understand the laws and how they apply to your circumstances.

You are not alone. We are here for you. We will work hard to build your case and provide you with the representation that you deserve. We know how tough divorce can be. Our family law attorneys are committed to helping you to make the difficult but often necessary decisions to protect you and your family’s future.

To learn more about working with our Arizona divorce lawyers, contact us today for a confidential consultation. We serve clients throughout the Phoenix area from our offices in Sun City, Scottsdale, Glendale, Peoria, and Surprise.

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About the Author

Heather Baker-Mushkatel graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2001, and obtained her Juris Doctorate from Brooklyn Law School in 2004. Heather is an Arizona native that left the state for school, but returned home to practice law in 2004 with her primary area of focus being family law….