Arizona Uncontested Divorce
This information is an overview of the uncontested Arizona divorce filing process and a summary of the divorce papers that are typically filed with the family law or domestic relations clerk. This overview is not intended to be an exact step-by-step guide for those "do it yourself divorce" filers, due to the fact that many cases are unique and the overview presented here is often not the only method of obtaining an uncontested divorce in Arizona.
In Arizona, the legal grounds for a divorce are No-Fault, which means an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage has happened. However, Arizona recognizes what is called "covenant marriages," which are held to a higher standard than standard marriages. Covenant marriages may only be dissolved on grounds of 1) adultery, 2) conviction of a felony carrying the death penalty, 3) abandonment for more than 1 year, 4) commission of domestic violence against a spouse, child, or relative, 5) living separately or apart for 1 year after a legal separation is achieved, 6) habitual use of drugs or alcohol, and 7) both spouses agree to the dissolution.
Arizona recognizes legal separations. It is a community property state.
The filing spouse is called the Petitioner; the responding spouse is called the Respondent. Divorce actions are filed in the Superior Court, which is the county court.
To file for divorce in Arizona, either the Petitioner or the Respondent must be a resident of the state for 90 days.
A divorce cannot be granted until at least 60 days after the first divorce papers have been served on the Respondent. Although Arizona does not have a simplified or summary action, acceptance and waiver of service is allowed, so if the spouses are agreed about the divorce and its terms and conditions (the property settlement, division of assets and liabilities, spousal and child support and visitation), the divorce can be granted soon after the waiting period.
In Arizona, all divorce actions have six steps that are as follows:
1. Filing of the divorce action in the Superior Court;
In order to start the action, the Petitioner must select the appropriate Petition, Decree and other forms depending upon whether the marriage has minor children or does not have minor children.
If the marriage is without minor children, the appropriate Petition forms are as follows:
> Petition 100 a-b, page 1, which identifies the parties, their addresses, date and place of marriage.
The appropriate Decree forms are Decree 200 a-b, Decree 201, Decree 202, Decree 204a and Decree 204b, which are numbered pages 1 to 5, respectively.
The Decree Forms are positioned the same as the Petition forms; the forms reiterate the Petition forms as a court order. Thus the information in the Decree forms must match the information on the Petition forms because the Petition is simply the requests granted in the Decree.
The other forms required in a divorce are as follows:
> Form 240, the Family Law Sensitive Information Sheet, which provides the court with the particulars of the case -- the names and addresses of the husband, wife and children.
In all marriages, all of the forms listed above are used.
In marriages with children, Form 103, which deals with the custody arrangements, becomes page 4 in the Petition, and Form 203 becomes page 4 in the Decree.
A couple with minor children must also file the following additional forms:
> Form 110a-b, Parents Worksheet for Child Support Amount, which shows the calculation of child support paid by the noncustodial parent.
Depending upon the circumstances, the action may require these forms:
> Form 225a-b, Joint Custody Parenting Plan, which is used when the parents agree to joint custody.
If the Respondent cannot or will not sign Form 500, Acceptance of Service, he or she must be served. One of four methods may be used to serve him or her with a Summons. The methods are as follows:
1. Service by a Deputy Sheriff or Private Process Server in Arizona, Form 450, Affidavit of Service.
2. Service by a Deputy Sheriff or Private Process Server outside of Arizona, Form 450 and Form 600, Declaration of Personal Service Out of State.
3. Service by Certified Mail, both inside and outside Arizona, Form 650, Declaration of Service by Mail.
4. Service by Publication in a local newspaper, Form 700a, Declaration of Service by Publication, and Form 700b, Declaration of Due Diligence.
Except in the case where the Respondent signs the Acceptance of Service, the Petitioner must give the Respondent copies of the following forms when serving him or her: 1) the Petition, 2) Preliminary Injunction, 3) Parentís Worksheet for Child Support Amount, 4) Affidavit Regarding Minor Children, 5) Summons, 6) Parent Information, 7) Child Support Information, 8) Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance, 9) Notice of Obligations to Creditors.
Service by Certified Mail, both inside and outside Arizona, and Service by Publication in a local newspaper are sometimes required when the Respondent cannot or will not be located or will not cooperate. Service by Certified mail can be used to send divorce papers to the last known address, either inside or outside Arizona. Service by Publication requires that the Summons be published in a local newspaper for four consecutive weeks. When service is by publication, the court cannot order the Respondent to pay financial support to the Petitioner or children. Service by Publication also requires that the Petitioner make a diligent search ("good faith") effort to locate the missing spouse before using it.
The Respondent has a lawful right to answer a Petition for divorce. Doing so means he or she is most likely going to contest the action. If he or she does not respond within a certain period, the Petitioner files for a default. In a family law action, the method of service determines the duration of the default period.
Here are the five default periods:
1. Service by Petitioner when the Respondent signs the Form 500, Acceptance of Service, 21 days after the signing of the Acceptance.
2. Service by Certified Mail, either inside or outside of Arizona, 31 days after the date of mailing and Return Receipt is signed by the Respondent, plus 5 days for mailing.
3. Service by a Deputy Sheriff or Private Process Server in Arizona, 21 days after the date of service on the Respondent.
4. Service by a Deputy Sheriff or Private Process Server outside of Arizona, 31 days after the date of service, plus 5 days for the mailing.
5. Service by Publication, 30 days from the first date of publication, plus 60 days that begins with the expiration of the 30 days.
At the end of these default periods, the Petitioner may file Form 800a-b, Application for Default. The default becomes effective 10 days after filing for an application. During this time, the Respondent may respond to the action and contest it. If he or she does not, the court may then enter the default and move on to the divorce hearing.
In Arizona, the 60-day waiting period begins with the completion of service on the Respondent. This means that the minimum time a divorce can be made final is 61 days after the Respondent either signed the Acceptance of Service, Form 500, or was served by any other method except Service by Publication, which requires a total of 90 days from the date of first publication.
Under certain conditions, the Petitioner may end the marriage via a Mail-In-Divorce. Otherwise he or she must attend a court hearing. The marriage may end with a Mail-in-Divorce when
> there are no minor children of the marriage;
In order to use the Mail-In route, the Petitioner must file a Motion For Default Judgment, an Affidavit in Support of said Motion, the Order granting the Motion and the Decree of Dissolution or Legal Separation. These forms may not be filed until the Application for Default has been filed.
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