Arizona Divorce FAQ

Divorce – State FAQ – Arizona

Residency requirements, venue and procedures

Q: How long must I have lived in Arizona prior to filing for divorce in an Arizona court?

A: Arizona requires that at least one of the parties to the action for dissolution of marriage must have resided in the state of Arizona for at least ninety (90) days prior to the filing of the action.

Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?

A: “Venue” refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. In Arizona, proper venue for the divorce action is the Superior Court of the county in which the petitioner resides.

Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The document granting the divorce?

A: The title of the action initiating the dissolution of marriage is a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, while the title of the action granting the dissolution of marriage is a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.

Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?

A: The party who files the action for dissolution of marriage is called the Petitioner, while the other party is referred to as the Respondent.

Q: Are there any waiting periods associated with a divorce action?

A: Yes, there is a sixty day (60) day waiting period from the date the Respondent was served or accepted service of process before the court will grant a dissolution of marriage decree.

Grounds for divorce

Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?

A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Arizona. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.

Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Arizona?

A: The State of Arizona recognizes two distinct types of marriages within the state and each type has its own separate grounds for dissolution of marriage. A covenant marriage entered into in Arizona may only be dissolved for the following reasons:

1. The respondent spouse has committed adultery.
2. The respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment.
3. The respondent spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage.
4. The respondent spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the dissolution of marriage, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the matrimonial domicile or has committed acts of domestic violence or emotional abuse.
5. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage.
6. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least one year from the date the decree of legal separation was entered.
7. The respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.
8. The husband and wife both agree to a dissolution of marriage.

The grounds for dissolution of a non-covenant marriage is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Legal Separation

Q: Is legal separation recognized?

A: Yes. A decree of legal separation may be granted for a non-covenant marriage upon a finding that either party was domiciled in Arizona at the time the action was commenced and that either or both of the parties desire to live separate and apart or that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

A decree of legal separation may be granted for a covenant marriage upon a finding that:

1. The respondent spouse has committed adultery;
2. The respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment;
3. The respondent spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the petitioner filed for legal separation and refuses to return;
4. The respondent spouse has physically or sexually abused the petitioner, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the matrimonial domicile or has committed domestic violence or emotional abuse;
5. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for legal separation;
6. The respondent spouse’s habitual intemperance or ill treatment of the other spouse is of such a nature as to render their living together insupportable.
7. The respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.

Spousal Support/Alimony

Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?

A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce. Alimony may be granted to either spouse upon a finding by the court that the party seeking alimony:

1. Lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs;
2. Is unable to support himself/herself through appropriate employment or lacks earning ability in the market adequate to support himself/herself;
3. Is the caretaker of a child whose age or condition is such that it would be unreasonable to seek outside employment;
4. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse;
5. Had a marriage of long duration or is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining adequate employment.

Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party? Is a party’s degree of fault considered?

A: Alimony may be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital fault, after consideration of the following factors:

1. The standard of living established during the marriage;
2. The duration of the marriage;
3. The age, employment history, earning capacity, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking alimony;
4. The ability of the payor spouse to meet his/her own needs while meeting the needs of the spouse seeking alimony;
5. The comparative financial resources of each spouse;
6. The contribution of the spouse seeking alimony to the earning capacity of the other spouse;
7. The extent to which the spouse seeking alimony has reduced his/her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;
8. The ability of each spouse to contribute to the educational needs of any children of the marriage after dissolution;
9. The time necessary for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire sufficient education or training to enable that spouse to find appropriate employment;
10.Any excessive or abnormal expenditures, or the destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community property.

Division of Property

Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?

A: The courts in the State of Arizona will distribute the community property of the spouses as it deems equitable and just, without regard to marital fault, after setting aside to each spouse that spouse’s separate property.

Child Custody and Visitation

Q: What is child custody and visitation?

A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).

Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?

A: The courts will determine custody in Arizona based upon the best interests of the child. The court may order sole or joint custody without regard to the sex of the parties. In determining the best interests of the child, the court will consider all relevant factors, including:

1. The wishes of the child and the child’s parents;
2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parents, siblings and any other person with a significant relationship with the child;
3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community;
4. The mental and physical health of all individuals concerned;
5. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent;
6. Which parent is or was the primary caregiver of the child;
7. Any other relevant factor.

Child support

Q: What is “child support”?

A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).

Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?

A: Arizona has established Child Support Guidelines which set the presumptive correct amount of support owed. Deviation from these guidelines must include a written finding by the court that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust.

Divorce – State FAQ – Arizona

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Residency requirements, venue and procedures

Q: How long must I have lived in Arizona prior to filing for divorce in an Arizona court?

A: Arizona requires that at least one of the parties to the action for dissolution of marriage must have resided in the state of Arizona for at least ninety (90) days prior to the filing of the action.

Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?

A: “Venue” refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. In Arizona, proper venue for the divorce action is the Superior Court of the county in which the petitioner resides.

Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The document granting the divorce?

A: The title of the action initiating the dissolution of marriage is a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, while the title of the action granting the dissolution of marriage is a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.

Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?

A: The party who files the action for dissolution of marriage is called the Petitioner, while the other party is referred to as the Respondent.

Q: Are there any waiting periods associated with a divorce action?

A: Yes, there is a sixty day (60) day waiting period from the date the Respondent was served or accepted service of process before the court will grant a dissolution of marriage decree.

Grounds for divorce

Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?

A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Arizona. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.

Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Arizona?

A: The State of Arizona recognizes two distinct types of marriages within the state and each type has its own separate grounds for dissolution of marriage. A covenant marriage entered into in Arizona may only be dissolved for the following reasons:

1. The respondent spouse has committed adultery.
2. The respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment.
3. The respondent spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage.
4. The respondent spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the dissolution of marriage, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the matrimonial domicile or has committed acts of domestic violence or emotional abuse.
5. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage.
6. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least one year from the date the decree of legal separation was entered.
7. The respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.
8. The husband and wife both agree to a dissolution of marriage.

The grounds for dissolution of a non-covenant marriage is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Legal Separation

Q: Is legal separation recognized?

A: Yes. A decree of legal separation may be granted for a non-covenant marriage upon a finding that either party was domiciled in Arizona at the time the action was commenced and that either or both of the parties desire to live separate and apart or that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

A decree of legal separation may be granted for a covenant marriage upon a finding that:

1. The respondent spouse has committed adultery;
2. The respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment;
3. The respondent spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the petitioner filed for legal separation and refuses to return;
4. The respondent spouse has physically or sexually abused the petitioner, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the matrimonial domicile or has committed domestic violence or emotional abuse;
5. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for legal separation;
6. The respondent spouse’s habitual intemperance or ill treatment of the other spouse is of such a nature as to render their living together insupportable.
7. The respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.

Spousal Support/Alimony

Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?

A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce. Alimony may be granted to either spouse upon a finding by the court that the party seeking alimony:

1. Lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs;
2. Is unable to support himself/herself through appropriate employment or lacks earning ability in the market adequate to support himself/herself;
3. Is the caretaker of a child whose age or condition is such that it would be unreasonable to seek outside employment;
4. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse;
5. Had a marriage of long duration or is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining adequate employment.

Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party? Is a party’s degree of fault considered?

A: Alimony may be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital fault, after consideration of the following factors:

1. The standard of living established during the marriage;
2. The duration of the marriage;
3. The age, employment history, earning capacity, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking alimony;
4. The ability of the payor spouse to meet his/her own needs while meeting the needs of the spouse seeking alimony;
5. The comparative financial resources of each spouse;
6. The contribution of the spouse seeking alimony to the earning capacity of the other spouse;
7. The extent to which the spouse seeking alimony has reduced his/her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;
8. The ability of each spouse to contribute to the educational needs of any children of the marriage after dissolution;
9. The time necessary for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire sufficient education or training to enable that spouse to find appropriate employment;
10.Any excessive or abnormal expenditures, or the destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community property.

Division of Property

Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?

A: The courts in the State of Arizona will distribute the community property of the spouses as it deems equitable and just, without regard to marital fault, after setting aside to each spouse that spouse’s separate property.

Child Custody and Visitation

Q: What is child custody and visitation?

A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).

Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?

A: The courts will determine custody in Arizona based upon the best interests of the child. The court may order sole or joint custody without regard to the sex of the parties. In determining the best interests of the child, the court will consider all relevant factors, including:

1. The wishes of the child and the child’s parents;
2. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parents, siblings and any other person with a significant relationship with the child;
3. The child’s adjustment to home, school and community;
4. The mental and physical health of all individuals concerned;
5. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent;
6. Which parent is or was the primary caregiver of the child;
7. Any other relevant factor.

Child support

Q: What is “child support”?

A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).

Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?

A: Arizona has established Child Support Guidelines which set the presumptive correct amount of support owed. Deviation from these guidelines must include a written finding by the court that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust.


Inside Arizona Divorce FAQ