I Want to Get a Divorce. Where do I Start?
One of the most unique aspects of my job as a family law attorney in Arizona is my first meeting with a prospective client. To be honest, I am never really sure what to expect. Over the years I have seen the full gamut of emotions in those I am meeting with. Some people are angry, some are fearful, some want to find a way to get even, some people are even happy, but most of all there is a lot of sadness. I often tell my prospective Client that I am fortunate to get to meet so many nice people, but it is unfortunate that it is often in the worst of circumstances. Every case is a little bit different, but almost every person I meet with who is seeking a divorce usually asks the same thing: I want to get a divorce, where do I start?
Believe it or not, getting a divorce in Arizona is actually pretty easy; well, at least the requirements for getting a divorce are pretty easy. Whether or not your divorce is easy or difficult quite honestly depends on whether you and your soon-to-be ex can agree on the issues or not. Regardless, every Arizona divorce starts out the same way: by filing a Petition for a Dissolution of Marriage.
A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is the initial document filed with the Court that begins the divorce process. Before a court can ultimately grant a divorce in Arizona, it must determine if it (the court) has jurisdiction to grant the divorce. So what exactly are the jurisdictional requirements?
- At least one of the parties to the divorce has to have been a resident of Arizona for a minimum of ninety (90) days before the filing of the Petition for Dissolution.
This is pretty straightforward. If you want to get an Arizona divorce, either you or your spouse has to have lived in the State for at least ninety (90) days before you file a Petition for Divorce. Once in a while, I have someone who consults with me that has just moved to the State. If they have not been here the required ninety days I always ask if their spouse lives here, and if so for how long. If the other party has lived in Arizona for at least ninety days then we can move forward with filing a Petition for Divorce even if my Client has not lived in Arizona for the required time. If the other party has not lived in Arizona for at least ninety days or does not live here at all, then we have to wait for my client to have been here for the required ninety days before filing. There really isn’t anything really tricky about this requirement, you just have to make sure one of the parties to the divorce has been in Arizona for at least ninety (90) days before filing a Petition for Divorce.
- The Marriage is Irretrievably Broken
When I sit down with someone for a divorce consultation it is pretty common for the prospective client to want to tell me their whole story and especially all the reasons why he or she wants a divorce. The reasons people get divorced are those I am sure you can imagine: infidelity, substance abuse, spousal abuse, neglect or even just drifting apart. But in Arizona detailing the reason for seeking a divorce is not necessary. Arizona is a “no-fault” divorce State, which simply means that the court does not need to know the reason why you are seeking a divorce. Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciate the trust people place in me to share such personal information. And, the reason(s) for seeking the divorce may be extremely important to some other aspect of the case. But for purposes of the dissolution of the marriage, all the State of Arizona requires is for the person filing the Petition for Dissolution to acknowledge that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This simply means that the person seeking the divorce thinks the marriage is broken and cannot be saved through counseling or therapy or some other means of marriage reconciliation.
It is important to note that the acknowledgment that the marriage is irretrievably broken only needs to come from the party filing the Petition for Divorce. It is not uncommon for only one party to feel that the marriage is broken. I have represented many people who have wanted or were willing to try counseling to try to save the marriage. Unfortunately, if the other party does not feel the same the divorce will be granted.
- File the Petition for Dissolution
As long as you can meet the above requirements, you can file a Petition for Dissolution (Divorce) in Arizona. The Petition itself is simply a statement to the Court that details your position on all of the issues that your divorce case involves. Many Petitions are somewhat generic and others are very specific. The purpose of this article is not to discuss all of the specific issues that are addressed in a divorce Petition (I’ll save that for another blog!). Rather it is to discuss how a divorce proceeding gets off the ground and what the State of Arizona requires to begin a divorce. Suffice it to say for now that the issues addressed in a typical Petition for Dissolution often include the following: division of marital property, the division of marital debt, legal decision-making and parenting time for minor children, child support, spousal support (alimony). In short, the Petition for Dissolution should provide sufficient detail to provide notice to the other party what your position is on each issue in the case and what you want the court to do regarding each issue. When the Petition is ready to file, you will be required to sign the Petition under oath verifying that the things you have alleged in the Petition are true and accurate to the best of your knowledge. The Petition is then filed with the court a filing fee is paid and your Arizona divorce has begun.
As you can see, the process for starting an Arizona divorce is not terribly difficult. However, it is very important that your Petition is prepared properly and includes all appropriate issues for your case. Failure to follow the procedures correctly or to include all issues in your Petition could result in your case being dismissed or the court not addressing all of the important issues your case involves.
Sometimes just getting started is the most difficult part of the process for some people because it is often a reality check that the marriage really is over. In most cases, however, that reality and the real emotion comes over the next several months as the case progresses to its conclusion. The truth is, Arizona makes it rather easy to get a divorce (that is not to say the divorce process is easy.. it is not). I advise everyone who comes into my office to discuss a possible divorce to make sure it is what they want before proceeding because it truly is a life-changing decision… sometimes for the good and other times, not so much.
If you have questions and would like to take to a Mesa divorce attorney please contact our law firm, our contact information is below. We are happy to help.
Jensen Family Law
3740 E Southern Ave #210, Mesa, AZ 85206
Hours: Open ⋅ Closes 5PM
Phone: (480) 999-2321
Jensen Family Law
4365 E Pecos Rd # 130, Gilbert, AZ 85295
Hours: Open ⋅ Closes 5PM
Phone: (480) 900-2302