Divorce Laws | Residency Requirements | Grounds for Divorce | Divorce Attorney | Filing for Divorce | Online Divorce | How Long? | Divorce Costs | Custody | Child Support | Alimony | Division of Asset | Common-Law Marriage | Alternatives
Choosing to end a marriage is not typically an easy decision or one to take lightly. Divorces in Arizona can be challenging with all the nuances involved. For example, if you and your spouse have children together and joint assets.
There are also different types of divorces in Arizona, various laws, and other factors that play into this process.
If you're thinking of filing for divorce and aren't sure about how to go about it or where to start, keep reading to learn everything there is to know about getting a divorce in Arizona.
Types of Divorce Laws in Arizona
When you're filing for a divorce in Arizona, the process is not a subjective subject matter. Instead, there are several specific laws in place that help all parties perform the divorce correctly according to these laws.
There are two types of divorces you can file for in the state of Arizona, contested and uncontested.
A contested divorce is when spouses don't agree on all or only some aspects of their divorce.
Main issues that spouses typically disagree on are:
- The division of assets
- Custody of the children
- Child support
Pros and Cons
When you and your spouse can both agree on all the terms that will finalize your divorce, you can file for an uncontested divorce in Arizona.
Uncontested Divorce Requirements in Arizona
- Both must agree that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and they cannot repair it
- Both people must agree on the division of assets
- Both must agree on the issue of spousal support
- Both must agree on custody of the children if they have any
- Both must agree on a visitation schedule for the children
- Both must agree on child support payments
Pros and Cons
Arizona is a community property state. A community property state means that any property acquired during the marriage belongs to both parties. Community property can include houses, debts, pensions, IRAs, 401ks, and retirement plans.
However, if one spouse acquired assets during the marriage, but they were given as a gift or inherited, they will treat them as the property of the individual that was gifted the asset.
In Arizona, you may hear alimony referred to as spousal maintenance. The law differentiates between two types of alimony, temporary or permanent.
You or your spouse will pay temporary alimony only during the divorce process, and either will pay permanent alimony after you finalize the divorce. Courts tend only to require people to pay alimony until the other can get back on their feet.
If children are involved in the divorce, the courts will require both parents to contribute to the children's well-being. They calculate the amount based on several factors, which we will discuss later.
How the courts decide which parent gets custody of the children is also based on several factors. Ideally, courts favor giving joint custody to both parents if it's in the children's best interest.
If one parent has substance abuse issues, it's less likely that the courts will grant joint custody and give sole custody to the sober parent.
Bifurcation allows both parties to say that they're single while the divorce is still processing if they choose. Even before you finalize the divorce, declaring yourself single will not affect the division of assets or custody and child support.
Disclosure and Discovery Obligations
The law surrounding disclosure and discovery states that both parties must disclose all assets to one another. Fully disclosing assets allows the attorneys and courts to divide the assets as they see fit accurately.
If you're the one filing for divorce in Arizona, your spouse has 20 days to respond if they're living in the state and 30 if they're elsewhere. If your spouse does not respond within the appropriate time frame, the divorce can end by default.
While this isn't a type of divorce, it's worth mentioning. In 1998, Arizona signed a law that gives couples the option to enter a covenant marriage.
To enter a covenant marriage, both parties must attend premarital counseling and sign a document to do their best to make the marriage work when times get rough. If you and your spouse have a covenant marriage, the courts will only grant you a divorce for particular reasons.
Since you sign paperwork stating you'll both do your best to make the marriage work before marrying each other, that's why the courts only grant divorces for these marriages under certain circumstances.
Examples of reasons the court will grant a divorce are if someone cheated or domestic violence is involved. If you're wondering whether you have a covenant marriage, your marriage license will state if you do or don't.
Residency Requirements in Arizona
The residency requirements in Arizona are minimal compared to other states. To initiate a divorce, at least one spouse needs to have been a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days. You cannot file for one before these 90 days unless it's under exceptional circumstances.
For those in the armed forces or have previously been in the armed forces, if the military stationed you in Arizona for 90 continuous days, that counts as residency under Arizona law.
If you've lived in Arizona for 90 days or more with your spouse, but they now live out of state, you can still file for divorce in Arizona. The divorce may take longer due to the spouse not living in another state, though.
However, if you have children under 18 years old, the residency requirements are longer. You must have residency in Arizona for at least six months before you can begin filing for a divorce.
Grounds for Divorce in Arizona
Arizona is a “no-fault” state. A no-fault state means that neither spouse has to declare the reason for the divorce, other than that it is “irretrievably broken.”
Once both spouses have made this statement, a judge will decide if that's true. Once they do, they'll grant the divorce, and the process can begin.
If you and your spouse stated on your marriage license that you entered a covenant marriage, the judge could only grant you a divorce if:
- Your spouse cheats on you
- Your spouse is sentenced to life in prison or received the death penalty
- Your spouse left and has refused to come back for over a year
- Your spouse physically or sexually abused you, your child, or your relative that lives in your home
- Your spouse has committed emotional or domestic abuse
- You and your spouse live separately and have been for two years without repairing the marriage
- You and your spouse were granted a legal separation and had been living separately for one year
- Your spouse has substance abuse issues
- You and your spouse mutually agree to the divorce
Using an Arizona Divorce Attorney
You have the option to use a divorce attorney or go without. While the decision is ultimately up to you, there are situations in which hiring an excellent divorce attorney is in your best interest.
For example, when divorcing a narcissist, a good attorney will be able to negotiate on your behalf so you can keep your sanity.
If you and your spouse are filing for an uncontested divorce, you may not need to bother hiring an attorney. Since you both agree on everything surrounding the divorce, hiring an attorney may ultimately be a waste of money for you.
When you and your spouse can't seem to agree on every aspect of the divorce, hiring an attorney is beneficial. Both attorneys can bring everything to the table and hopefully work out a settlement that makes both of you happy.
Hiring an attorney is especially important if the divorce is contentious. Many divorces get messy when children are involved. An experienced attorney can ensure that the best possible outcome comes for that child.
Even if you know getting a divorce is for the best, it's a stressful and often upsetting time. If you plan on hiring an attorney to help, it's crucial to find one that is not only experienced but one you feel comfortable handling your case.
What Makes a Good Divorce Attorney?
When searching for the best divorce attorney (for you) in Arizona to handle your case, there are several factors you'll want to consider:
- Their ability to communicate and set realistic expectations
- Their skills and experience in divorce and family law
- Their availability to handle your case with focus and care
- Their ability to work well under pressure
- Their resources they have available to you since it's unlikely you're their only case
- Their ability to build trust with you
These are some of the most important things that make a world of difference between a great divorce attorney and a bad one.
How to Find a Good Divorce Attorney
Even though you know the qualities you want in a divorce attorney, finding one that fits the bill can be challenging.
One of the best ways to find a great attorney in Arizona is to do a Google search. Often you'll want to find someone who specializes in family law or divorces. Usually, these terms will appear next to their name or law firm to avoid the guessing game.
Another option is to ask your friends you trust. If they've used a great divorce attorney in Arizona before, it may be worth reaching out to the attorney they used.
Before you begin working with an attorney, you will want to interview them. Interviewing an attorney allows you to see how well you would work together, their ability to handle your case, and if you feel comfortable with them doing so.
Interview Questions for a Divorce Attorney
Once you've set up a meeting with a divorce attorney, you'll want to go in prepared with questions.
Common questions to ask when interviewing an attorney:
- Do you specialize in divorces?
- How many family law cases have you handled?
- What strategy would you pursue for my case?
- How accessible are you if I have any questions about my case?
- Will other people in your office be working on my case? If so, can I meet them?
- How much will you charge me for the entire process?
- What's the estimate for the overall cost for my divorce? (They may not know without knowing all the nuances of your divorce).
- Do I negotiate with my spouse, or do all negotiations go through our attorneys?
- What do you suspect the judge will rule based on my case?
As you're speaking with the attorney, more questions may naturally come up. That's perfectly okay, but these are some great ones to get you started.
What Is an Initial Consultation Fee?
An initial consultation fee is what most attorneys charge to hear why you need an attorney. An attorney will usually consider everything you've presented and then decide how to proceed with your case or respectfully decline.
Since they're taking the time to meet with you and discuss the basics of your case, they charge a fee for their time. The fee will vary depending on the attorney you use, and there's nothing wrong with asking what the amount is before booking a consultation.
Is the Meeting Confidential?
Attorney-client privilege extends to anything surrounding your case. Even the initial consultation will be confidential.
Pros and Cons of Using a Divorce Attorney
Filing for Divorce in Arizona
Before you can officially divorce your spouse, there are several steps in the process you need to go through before that happens.
You'll need to prepare the divorce forms, file the documents, serve those papers to your spouse, and begin negotiations on who gets what.
What forms you'll need to complete and the extra steps involved depend on the type of divorce you're filing for.
Pro Tip: The information below is perfect for you to get an overview of the divorce filing process and also use as a guide if you will be filing for divorce on your own. However, if you are using an attorney, their team will typically be taking care of these steps as part of their proper representation of you as a client.
Preparing Your Divorce Forms
The first step in filing for a divorce in Arizona is to prepare all the necessary forms to file. The documents you'll need are mostly the same, but some may differ depending on if you're planning on hiring an attorney or not.
You can find the appropriate forms on the Arizona Judicial Branch website. You'll notice that there are two separate forms on the website.
One is for a divorce with no children, or all the children are over 18 years old, and the other for spouses with minor children.
Here's a breakdown of the forms you'll need to gather to begin the filing process:
- Petition of Dissolution of Marriage
- A Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance
- Preliminary Injunction
- Notice to Creditors
The Petition of Dissolution of Marriage is the form where you'll outline what you're asking for. The petition can include if you're asking for alimony, assets, child support, etc. The summons is what will be served to your spouse, including an outline of the petition of divorce.
The health insurance form allows each spouse to convert their health insurance when separating. The preliminary injunction disallows both spouses to make any significant decisions regarding assets until the courts can evaluate the divorce. Lastly, the notice to creditors notifies both spouses about their responsibilities surrounding any debts they've both accumulated during the marriage.
If you're divorcing your spouse and you have children together, you'll be responsible for filing two additional forms:
- An Affidavit Regarding Minor Children
- Order and Notice Regarding the Parent Information Program
For some people, it's easier to fill out the forms online, but you're welcome to print out the documents and fill them out by hand. If you're filling them out by hand, it's important to write clearly so that there's no confusion on your responses.
It's vital that you fill out the divorce forms honestly and not leave anything blank. Unless there's a section that is not applicable, you'll address why you are filing for the divorce, which you're welcome to be detailed on, or simply put that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
You will need to prove that you've been a resident of Arizona for at least 90 days without children and six months if you have kids.
Keep in mind that these forms are from the Arizona Judicial Branch. Depending on the county in Arizona you live in, there may be more required forms before you can file for divorce.
Filing Your Divorce Forms
Once you've completed all the necessary divorce forms, you can file them at the courthouse. When you're ready to file, be sure to make three copies of every document.
You'll need three copies because you will turn one into the court, you'll need a copy for your records, and a process server will deliver the other to your spouse for notification of divorce.
The court will require the originals of the documents, and the others help create the Summons and Petition for Divorce.
When you're filing the documents with the court, don't be surprised when you have to pay a filing fee. The fee’s cost does depend on the county you live in, but the general price is about $300. The court understands that not everyone can pay this fee. If your financial situation prevents you from paying the filing fee, you can submit the Filing Fee Application for Deferral.
The court will review your application based on your financial situation and then decide to defer our payment or require you to pay.
Once you've filed your divorce forms with the clerk of court, they'll get stamped. The stamp includes the date and time of the filing. If you're the one petitioning for divorce, you can sign the petition in front of the clerk, who will notarize it for you for free.
Serving Your Spouse
Once all the appropriate documents have been filed and you have the divorce petition, you need to notify your spouse. This is typically referred to as serving your spouse.
If you're the petitioner, it's best to serve your spouse the documents as soon as possible once you leave the courthouse. But if you cannot deliver the documents within the next few days, you have 120 days to present your spouse with the papers before the court dismisses your case.
If you as the petitioner do not serve your partner within this time frame, the court will dismiss your case, and you'll be back to square one. In turn, your spouse has 20 days to respond if they too live in Arizona. If they live in another state, they have 30 days.
Pro Tip: You may be thinking you can leave the documents in their mailbox or on the kitchen counter if you still live together, but that's not the case. Under Arizona law, you cannot serve your spouse's divorce documents yourself.
You have two options when choosing someone to deliver the divorce petition. You can use a sheriff or a process server. A process server is someone who is not involved in the divorce and is over 18 years old.
When you hire a process server to deliver the divorce petition, you will most likely have to pay a fee. On the other hand, if you prefer to use a sheriff, you can ask the court to lower the cost or waive it altogether.
If your spouse lives out of state or you want to mail the documents for whatever reason, you can only do this if they agree to sign an Acceptance of Service form.
How you serve your spouse, the divorce petition is dependent on a few factors. If you know your spouse has hired an attorney, the best way to serve the papers is to have a process server drop them off at their attorney's office.
On the contrary, if your spouse is not hiring an attorney, you won't want to stop them in the street or at work. The best way to serve your spouse who doesn't have or hasn't hired an attorney yet is at their home.
For exceptional circumstances, different rules may apply. There are different rules when your spouse is serving in the military, and you cannot locate them.
Another case where regulations may be different is if your spouse is serving a prison sentence.
When filing for divorce, the clerk of courts should be able to assist you with any of these particular circumstances.
After a process server or sheriff has notified your spouse of the petition of divorce, you'll both need to fill out financial affidavits.
One of the laws involving divorce in Arizona is that both parties must disclose all their financial and other assets so that the courts or both spouses can divide the assets accordingly during the divorce. The affidavit requires both parties to list all debts, assets, income, and expenses.
You and your spouse will most likely need to provide pay stubs, credit card statements, tax returns, and other documents so that neither of you can hide any assets. A complete list allows the courts or you and your spouse to decide how to divide everything.
Online Divorce in Arizona
While hiring a skilled divorce attorney is the best choice for some people in Arizona, it's not necessary in some cases. You can file for divorce without the guidance of an attorney by using online divorce services.
Online divorce services will help you complete all the complicated documents that you are required to file for divorce in Arizona. Shelling out the money for an attorney may not be needed if you qualify.
Unfortunately, if you and your spouse cannot agree on every issue in the divorce, filing for divorce online isn't the best option for you. Online divorces in Arizona are perfect for uncontested divorces.
Hypothetically, even if you and your spouse can and have agreed on every issue, there are some circumstances where you may want to consider still hiring an attorney. When you have messy finances or a child is involved, it's in everyone's best interest to seek legal counsel.
Using an online divorce service can guide you through the process, and the best part? You can save yourself some money and some time.
There are several online divorce sites with varying prices. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $400 for online guidance for the most part.
How to Qualify for an Online Divorce in Arizona
Qualifying for an online divorce in Arizona is similar to the qualifications you need to file a divorce in person in the state.
As the petitioner, you need to provide proof of residency in Arizona. That's the first step. Additional qualifications include you and your spouse agreeing on all issues within the marriage and how to divide up the assets.
When filing for divorce online, you'll need to know where your spouse is currently living. When you're unsure of where they're at due to personal or military reasons, this adds complications to your divorce, and filing online isn't going to be the best option for you.
Do You Still Need to Go to Court?
Online divorces aren't entirely online like you may believe. Online divorce sites help you with all the required paperwork to get your divorce going. Even if you and your spouse choose to represent yourselves, you will need to file the documents in person and potentially go to court.
Without attorneys, you'll need to appear in court so that the judge can evaluate the terms of the divorce and officially grant you the divorce based on everything you've outlined in the divorce petition.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in Arizona?
When you're ready to close one chapter and start another, it's normal to be curious how long it will take to finalize the chapter officially. Even if you and your spouse are filing for an uncontested divorce, you cannot complete it in a week. Even the most amicable divorces take a few months.
How long it will take to finalize your divorce in Arizona is dependent on multiple factors. Generally speaking, uncontested divorces are finalized quicker than contested divorces.
Contested divorces take longer because one or both parties need to negotiate or argue everything down to the last detail. This can result in settlements being rewritten over and over again. Contested divorces can take close to two years to finalize.
The judge will finalize an uncontested divorce quicker than a contested one because both parties agree about the divorce issues. Most times, you can have uncontested divorces finalized in a few months.
Regardless of whether you're filing for an uncontested or contested divorce, Arizona state law requires a 60 day cooling-off period from the date that the petitioner files for divorce.
The courts require 60 days to ensure that the spouses are sure about their decision or in case they change their minds during this time.
When trying to figure out how long your divorce is going to take, here are some of the factors that contribute to the timeline of your divorce:
- Whether the divorce is amicable or contentious
- How contentious you and your spouse are
- The number of assets you each have and combined assets
- Whether children are involved
What Factors Increase Your Divorce Timeline
If you find yourself in a situation where one or more of these factors is present in your case with your spouse, you can expect your divorce to take more time:
- If you two cannot agree on how to settle the divorce
- If your spouse, the non-petitioner, waits until the last minute to sign the petition of divorce
- If children are involved
- If you or your spouse are requesting alimony
- If you or your spouse is pregnant during the time of the divorce
When you and your partner cannot come to agreements around one or more subjects involved in your divorce, you're going to be spending a lot more time married than you probably want to. You may go back and forth several times trying to find an agreement that makes both parties happy.
Another factor that will increase your divorce timeline is if your spouse doesn't sign the divorce petition when they receive it. Since they have 20 days, the longer they wait, the more days that are added to your timeline.
Even in the most amicable divorces, finding a custody and visitation plan that works for both parties and is in the kids' best interest can take time. When kids are involved, the courts want to do what's in the child's best interest, which takes time.
Child support payments go along with if you and your spouse have children. If you cannot afford the child support payment requested or vice versa, more negotiations need to happen to find a happy medium.
Alimony is another factor that may increase your divorce timeline. As the petitioner, you can request that your spouse pay you alimony, and then the courts will decide on the appropriate amount.
If your spouse doesn't think the amount or paying, in general, is fair, they can fight it, and that will take more time.
Many people don't think about is if you or your spouse are pregnant at the time of filing, which can add to your timeline. If you or your spouse are pregnant during the divorce filing, courts will not complete the divorce until the baby is born.
They do this because things can change during a couple of months. People may change their minds about getting a divorce, or they may have rearranged their custody agreement.
Depending on how far along into pregnancy you or your partner is, that can add months to your divorce timeline.
What Factors Decrease Your Divorce Timeline
On the contrary, there are a few things that will make your divorce move along faster, such as:
- You and your spouse are 100% in agreement on everything surrounding the divorce
- There are no children involved
- Neither party are requesting alimony payments
When you and your spouse are on the same page with your divorce, the process will go much quicker. When you aren't spending valuable time arguing or negotiating who gets what, you'll be able to move the process along.
There’s nothing to decide regarding custody agreements and child support payments when there are no children involved. Even when both parties agree on custody and child support payments, it's just added steps that can prolong a divorce.
The same thing goes with alimony. When neither party is requesting alimony payments, that's one less thing the courts need to consider when evaluating a divorce.
FURTHER READING: How To Get a Cheap and Quick Divorce
Divorce Costs in Arizona
Similar to how long your divorce will take, the cost depends on several factors. The main factor determining how much your divorce will cost is whether you're having a contested or uncontested divorce.
Since most people who file for an uncontested divorce don't need to hire an attorney, these tend to be less expensive than someone who files for a contested divorce and needs to spend thousands on attorney fees.
When you hire an attorney, how much you'll be paying them depends entirely on their pricing. The attorney down the street may charge a completely different price.
It's hard to give an exact number for how much your divorce will cost, but the average cost of a divorce in Arizona is $20,000. Some people have paid as little as $5,000, whereas more contentious divorces have cost upwards of $100,000.
Uncontested divorces have an average price of about $7,500 in Arizona (when using an attorney) or as little a few hundred dollars when using an online divorce service such as 3 Step Divorce, whereas contested divorces with a lawyer will cost anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000!
When you're filing for divorce, there are fixed costs that you can expect to pay regardless of whether you're filing for uncontested or contested. These include the filing fees, process server fees, and court fees.
Both parties in the divorce are required to pay court fees. The petitioner typically pays the most in fees since they're the ones initiating the divorce.
The court fees will vary depending on the county you live in, but the average court fee you'll pay when filing for divorce is about $300.
When a process server delivers the petition of divorce to your spouse, they will have to pay about $280 to return the signed papers acknowledging the divorce petition.
Court fees are unavoidable when filing for a divorce. The exception to this is that if you cannot afford the costs of the filing fees, you can apply to waive the charge.
If you're going through a contentious divorce, hiring an attorney can keep it as peaceful as possible and help both you and your spouse agree that you're both happy with it.
Even if you and your spouse are relatively amicable, hiring an attorney can ensure everything runs smoothly, and if there is any issue you're not 100% in agreement with, it gets settled.
Attorney fees are the costliest part of getting a divorce regardless of what state you live in. In more metropolitan areas of the state, you'll see higher attorney fees than in a small town.
The average price per hour for a divorce attorney in the cities of Arizona is $500. You can find more affordable divorce attorneys that charge $250 an hour, but it's still fairly pricey. Several attorneys are on the higher end and will charge $750 an hour or more.
These are just the attorney's hourly prices. Before you hire an attorney, you'll want to know if there are other fees associated with their services, and if so, what the costs are. Here are some examples of other things a divorce attorney may charge extra for:
- Mailing documents
- Stamps for documents
- Travel time
- Drafting documents and letters
When your divorce proceeds to the litigation step, you and your spouse will have to pay for litigation costs. The more conflict you two have, the more time you'll likely spend in litigation and the more you'll be emptying your pockets.
If you ask most divorce lawyers for a very straightforward case, it will cost about $15,000 to $20,000 per spouse. These numbers are the general price for spouses with moderate conflict, several assets, and kids involved.
Unfortunately, litigation doesn't always bring out the best in people. Conflict tends to escalate during litigation which can prolong the divorce process.
Putting two and two together, the more litigation you go through, the more you'll both pay.
When conflict increases during litigation, that's when you can see the cost of the divorce rise to and upwards of $50,000 per person. Many people prefer to avoid taking the divorce to trial, but it does happen. When this does, each party may end up paying more than $100,000 each.
Mediation (Reduces Cost)
Mediation is the ideal option for spouses who no longer want to be together. Meditation helps to reduce conflict by staying out of a courtroom and avoiding costly litigation fees.
If you and your spouse can be civil, you can go through mediation. You'll hire a mediator to oversee the process and ensure you both come to an agreement that works for all parties involved.
If you and your spouse are amicable, the best thing about mediation is that it costs almost 90% less than going through litigation. You will both still need to pay the mediator, but it's much more affordable.
Before you choose a mediator, you can do some research and understand how they charge. Some mediators charge by the hour like a lawyer does, whereas others charge a flat rate per mediation session.
Just because you and your spouse choose to go through mediation doesn't mean you both can't get legal advice from an attorney. An experienced divorce attorney can still provide the expert advice you can take with you to the mediation meetings.
While you'll still be paying for the cost of the attorney fees, you'll be avoiding litigation fees and paying much less for mediation.
Online Divorce Service
As mentioned earlier, online divorce services aren't entirely online. But, they're great and affordable tools for those looking to reduce the cost of their divorce.
Several websites online can provide extensive guidance for gathering and preparing all the documents you'll need to file your divorce. The cost of an online divorce depends on the site you use.
You'll want to shop around and ensure you're finding a site that has excellent reviews but is within your budget. You can find online divorce services ranging from $100 to $400. That's much more affordable than hiring an attorney to advise you.
What Increases the Cost of a Divorce
Here are a few things that will increase the cost of your divorce:
- If you're filing for a contested divorce
- If you and your spouse have a lot of conflicts
- You hire a divorce attorney
What Decreases the Cost of a Divorce
Divorces are expensive. If you're looking for ways to decrease the amount of money you'll spend closing a chapter in your life, here are a few factors that reduce the cost of your divorce:
- Going through mediation rather than litigation
- Avoiding hiring an attorney
- Filing for an online divorce
Custody Considerations in Arizona
When you're divorcing the other parent of your children, custody of said child or children plays a significant role.
Ideally, both spouses can come to a custody agreement without having a judge decide for them. If you can both determine who will have sole custody and who has visitation or joint custody and agrees on a schedule, a judge will likely approve the agreement.
Unfortunately, deciding on a custody agreement isn't always this simple. Most of the time, the most significant cause for conflict in a divorce is the custody of the children.
When you're going through a divorce with your spouse, you'll need to consider the custody agreement in your child’s best interest.
If you two cannot do that on your own, a judge will be presented with facts of the case, including finances, jobs, substance abuse issues, and decide the best agreement for the children.
When a parent has physical custody of the child or children, they primarily live with this parent. One parent has physical custody, which is also called sole custody, or both parents can share custody, also known as joint custody.
The parent or parents who have physical custody of the child or children can make everyday decisions. Day-to-day decisions include who they hang out with, what meals they eat, what music they're allowed to listen to, etc.
When both parents have physical custody, each parent may allow different things under their roofs. While joint physical custody is sometimes the best option for the kids because it shows parents are amicable and capable of caring for them, ultimately, one parent will have less time.
Since there are only seven days in the week, one parent will likely have the child or children for four days when the other only has them for three. Another common arrangement is to alternate weeks or weekends between parents.
Legal custody grants a parent the ability to make significant life decisions for the child. Major decisions can be everything from educational decisions like where they're going to school, medical decisions, and even religious decisions.
As with physical custody, parents can share legal custody of their children. It is possible that both parents can have physical custody, but only one of them has legal custody. It is also possible that both parents have legal custody, but one has physical custody.
Although, it's more probable that both parents have physical and legal custody or only one parent has both.
Even the most amicable parents will disagree. If there ever is a time when parents who share legal custody cannot agree on a major decision, the decision is to be made by the parent with primary physical custody.
Factors that Influence Custody
Even if you and your spouse have agreed to a certain custody agreement, a judge will review it and either approve or make amendments. A judge will determine a custody arrangement based on the following factors:
- The physical and mental health of both parents
- The ability of both parents to provide stability
- The child or children's relationship to both parents
- If either or both parents have a history of any abuse
A judge evaluates you and your spouse's physical and mental health to ensure you're healthy enough to provide a safe and healthy environment for your children.
Stability is crucial for kids. If you and your spouse can provide stability and prefer joint custody, you will probably be granted it. Now, if your spouse cannot provide stability due to a lack of a job or other issues, you'll be given priority.
Children go through phases when they're closer with one parent than another. A judge will consider their relationship with you and your spouse, but more often than not, this isn't the most significant deciding factor.
If you or your spouse have a history of any type of abuse, that will not count in your favor. Whether domestic, emotional, child, or substance abuse, these are not qualities that make for a stable home.
Substance abuse cases are slightly different because the courts may still grant joint custody if you have a proven track record of sobriety and can provide a safe environment.
Child Support Considerations in Arizona
Following closely behind child custody considerations is the factor of child support. Regardless of whether the children's parents are married or not, they're both responsible for financially supporting the child until they're 18 years old.
In Arizona, regardless of which parent has sole physical custody, the other parent will be required to pay child support to that parent. When both parents have joint physical custody, the parent with a higher income may still be required to pay the other parent.
When you're filing for divorce from your spouse, when you're filling out the divorce petition, you'll want to outline the request for child support if you need or want it.
The judge will decide what is deemed feasible for monthly child support payments. They consider factors such as each parent's income and how much time they spend with their children. While these are the most significant factors, there are other factors they consider:
- Any alimony or child support a parent receives from a previous marriage
- Whether either parent is paying maintenance and/or child support for an earlier marriage
- Whether either parent has custody of a child of a prior marriage
- Which parent pays for healthcare
- Which parent pays for any daycare
- How old the children are
- If either parent earns irregular income such as commission-only positions
- If either parent lives with someone who contributes to household expenses
If you're curious about how much child support you'll receive or have to pay before presenting your case to the judge, you can use this free calculator to see an estimate.
Factors that Increase Child Support
Whether you're asking your spouse for child support or they're asking you, here are a few things that may increase the amount of child support:
- If you have a higher salary or the ability to earn more money
- Your co-parent pays for the child's healthcare and/or daycare costs
- How young the child is
When you earn more than your co-parent, you may be required to pay a higher amount in child support. A judge will calculate an appropriate amount that adequately supports the child but still allows you to live comfortably.
If you're not the parent covering health care or daycare costs, you may be required to pay more. Since the other parent is spending more money on the child for these things, the judge may need you to pay more to help support these costs.
The age of your child will determine how much child support you either pay or receive. The younger the child, the more expensive they tend to be.
Young children grow out of clothes quickly and need replacements more often than older children. The same goes for diapers and infant supplies.
Factors that Decrease Child Support
There's plenty of factors that will increase the child support you'll receive or pay, but there are a few that can lower the amount:
- Your income
- If you have older children
If you're the one requesting child support payments, your income will impact how much they pay you. If you earn more than your ex-partner, you may not receive as much compensation as you like.
When your children are older, they tend to be less expensive. As your children age, you may not receive as much child support as you would when they're babies and toddlers.
Alimony Considerations in Arizona
The courts in Arizona view alimony as rehabilitative. Ideally, judges will grant alimony with the idea that eventually, the other person will become independent.
You and your spouse can agree to an amount in alimony that you both see fit, and the judge will more than likely agree with you if you're both on the same page. When you cannot agree on your own, that's when a judge will step in and decide for you.
Arizona awards three different types of alimony based on where in the divorce process you're at.
1. Temporary Maintenance During the Divorce
This type of alimony is sometimes referred to as pendente lite. Temporary alimony during this time means that your spouse or you will pay alimony until you both finalize the divorce.
A judge will grant this type of alimony when the other spouse needs help supporting themselves through a divorce. Just because a judge awards you pendente lite alimony doesn't mean you automatically are granted temporary maintenance after the divorce.
If you're struggling to support yourself during the divorce, they will likely grant you temporary maintenance afterward, but you'll need to file for it. As the end of the divorce process nears, the judge will announce if temporary maintenance will continue after that.
2. Temporary Maintenance After the Divorce
When you're granted temporary maintenance, the judge will announce for how long you'll receive these payments and what the fixed amount will be per month.
Ultimately, the goal when a judge grants temporary maintenance post-divorce, it's to help the recipient until they get a job.
If they already have a job, it can help them find a better paying job, get the proper education to further their career, or essentially get them to the point they can support themselves.
A judge will likely award the lower-earning spouse temporary maintenance after the divorce, especially when the latter left a job to raise children or for other reasons.
3. Permanent Maintenance
Permanent maintenance is a type of alimony that grants the recipient alimony payments for the rest of the other spouse's life.
Arizona does not like to award this type of alimony often, and they reserve it for extreme situations. A situation in which a judge may award permanent alimony to someone is if they cannot financially support themselves due to a disability, their age, or an illness.
Factors that Increase Alimony
Similar to how much you'll earn in child support, some factors will increase the amount you'll receive in alimony:
- If your spouse gets a pay raise at work, increasing their income
- If your gross income decreases
If your ex-partner has a significant increase in their gross income, you may receive more alimony.
When their income stays the same but your gross income decreases, you may earn more in alimony than you initially would have.
Factors that Decrease Alimony
As with anything, there's always the other side of the coin. Here are a few things that can decrease the amount of alimony you receive:
- Your spouse lost their job or took a significant pay cut
- You take a job that pays more than your previous one, or you get a pay raise
If your ex-partner who pays your alimony loses their job or takes a drastic pay cut, the amount in maintenance you receive may be lower. The same goes for if you find a higher-paying position.
Division of Assets
Unlike many other states in the country, Arizona is a community property state. Where most states divide property and asset-based on equity, Arizona divides almost everything equally unless the spouses can come to a different agreement.
There are a few rules that come into play where they won't divide everything equally. For example, anything obtained during the marriage is considered community property.
An example of something that wouldn't be divided equally is if one spouse received an iheritance. That money belongs to the spouse that inherited it is not community property.
If you and your spouse can sit down and come to an agreement on how to divide up all the assets you both have, it's not only going to save you both time and money but a lot of headaches.
When you both cannot agree, like with other issues in the divorce, it will go to a judge to decide. Typically, they will take what you agree on when dividing up the assets, but don't be surprised if everything is split equally since it is a community property state.
If you're worried about the assets you have before your marriage, the state of Arizona does recognize separate property. Separate property is any asset you or your spouse had before the marriage. Here are a few examples of what the courts consider individual property:
- Property one had before the marriage
- Assets give to the spouse by a spouse, family member, or friend via a gift or inheritance
- Any asset that is covered by a prenuptial agreement
Keep in mind that if you owned a home before the marriage but signed the title to your spouse while married or added them to the title, that's community property now.
Community property moves past just the home you and your spouse own together. Arizona considers community property assets includes any retirement funds, businesses, and real estate acquired during the marriage.
If you and your spouse own property that you bought during the marriage, that will be divided up. Ideally, you both will agree on who gets the house or agree to sell it and split the profits since it's unlikely you'll both want to remain living there together.
When neither of you can agree on who gets the real estate, a judge may grant the house to one spouse while giving them additional assets that equal the home’s value.
401k, IRA, Investments
Most people have a 401k in place or some form of retirement fund. Any money that has been put into one of these accounts by both spouses during the marriage will be divided up unless an agreement is put in place where both spouses keep their own earnings.
If either of you has invested throughout your marriage, those investments can be divided as well. Even if you invested zero dollars and your spouse invested $1,000.
Any business that began during the marriage is considered community property, even if only one person technically owns and operates the business.
If you don't want your spouse taking over your business, it's best to agree where you keep all aspects of the company.
Other assets that can be divided in a divorce include any vehicles, boats, shared and personal bank accounts, and unused but owned land.
Common-Law Marriage Considerations in Arizona
Common-law marriage is when a couple has been together for years, presents themselves to the world as married, but has never gone through the process of getting a marriage license or having a ceremony.
Not all states legally recognize common-law marriages, and the basis on which the ones that do recognize it may vary from state to state.
The general requirements for a common-law marriage in the states that do recognize it are having lived together for several years, taking one another's last names, and presenting yourselves as married.
When it comes to separating from your common-law partner, there are several things to consider. Luckily for you, if you are in a common-law marriage in Arizona, the state does not recognize this as legal. The separation doesn't require an official petition for divorce.
Suppose you and your partner were in a common-law marriage in another state that legally recognizes them and relocated to Arizona. In that case, the state does recognize this common law marriage.
Alternatives to Divorce in Arizona
Deciding to divorce your spouse is never an easy one. Even if you know things aren't working like they used to, it can be challenging to leave the comfort you've had with them for however long you've been together.
Before you head to the courthouse to file a divorce petition, there are some alternatives you can consider first. You don't necessarily need to go through with them if you believe divorce is the best option for you, but it's best to know all your options before making a life-changing decision.
While divorce and legal separation may sound very similar, they're different. A divorce legally and officially dissolves marriage between two people. A legal separation recognizes the couple’s separation for a period of time while they're legally still married.
Arizona does recognize legal separation, and it has similar requirements as to filing for a divorce.
You can file for a legal separation after being a resident of the state for at least 90 days, and you must give a reason. Since Arizona is a no-fault state, you can say the marriage cannot be fixed.
A legal separation is a mandate from the court that divides the responsibility of both spouses while they're living apart. The finances will be divided during the legal separation, and if there are children involved, the responsibility for caring for them.
Pursuing a legal separation is a great option when there's still a chance that the marriage can be saved. It acts somewhat like a trial divorce because you'll be living apart and have to decide on things such as finances and childcare responsibilities like you would if divorce happens.
Many times, people pursue a legal separation while they try to work on their marriage. It's often easier to repair something broken when you're not living under the same roof.
If you're curious about a legal separation but aren't sure if you should, here are some reasons people choose this before a divorce:
- To live apart while they work on their marriage
- One or both parties think there's a chance of repairing the marriage
- For one spouse to continue receiving health benefits
- Religious and/or social beliefs frown upon divorce
An annulment deems a marriage void. When you and your spouse are granted an annulment, legally, it's like the marriage never happened in the first place.
Reasons for wanting an annulment are personal. The exact reasons someone would prefer to seek an annulment are the same reasons that would qualify them for one.
You cannot seek an annulment just because you dislike your partner now. Judges will not go forward with an annulment and will encourage you to file for a divorce.
If you're wondering whether or not your marriage can qualify for an annulment, here are the main reasons annulments are granted:
- Your spouse committed fraud
- Your spouse is already legally married to someone else
- You were underage and did not have a parent's consent
If you found out that your spouse lied to you to get you to marry them, that can be considered fraud, and you may qualify for an annulment since the marriage was based on a lie.
Having multiple legal spouses is illegal in the United States. If your partner is married to someone else and you didn't know, you can qualify for an annulment.
Anyone who got married because of a threat from their spouse can be granted an annulment due to being under duress and not saying yes in their own opinion.
If you were married at the age of 17 or younger without your parent's consent, you could file to have the marriage annulled. You'll qualify because, as a minor, you cannot make that decision on your own without a parent's consent.
An annulment can happen if relatives are married. This applies to first cousins, siblings, and any other close relative.
Work It out Together
This alternative is not always possible, but it's something most people at least try to consider before filing for a divorce or legal separation.
Depending on what the issues are within your marriage, they may be able to be fixed. Whether it be by you two having a trial separation, going to couples therapy, or simply talking it out with one another, trying to work it out may prove to be the best thing you ever did.
Sometimes trying to work things out only makes the situation worse, though. There are some issues that people cannot work through.
If you've tried your best to work through whatever issues you're having, continuing to press the problem when it's not working will only cause you more stress and unhappiness.
Counseling is a fantastic alternative to divorce. The majority of people who have marital problems are more than willing to try couples counseling before taking more legal measures.
Presenting the idea to your spouse shows that you're willing to try and that you believe there's a chance. Finding a professional that makes you both feel comfortable can make all the difference in working through your problems.
If you choose to go down this path, keep in mind that counseling can bring up a lot of hard memories on the road to a solution. Being there for your partner during this time while respecting your own boundaries is going to be crucial in trying this step.
Sometimes people absolutely love their spouse, but the marriage itself isn't working for one reason or another. Suggesting an open marriage may be the best thing that ever happened to you both.
If you're going to suggest an open marriage, and if they agree to it, you'll need to have rules and boundaries in place. What the rules are will be different from another couple. Maybe you don't want to know who your spouse is dating, but you want to know if they are, whereas another couple may want to know who their partner is seeing.
Having an open marriage can allow both parties to get the emotional or physical connection they're missing with their spouse in someone else.
As ineffective as this sounds, polyamory is practiced all over the world, and when done correctly, married couples can sometimes see an improvement in their happiness. Although proceed with caution that this road is not a solution for everyone.
Many times when spouses want to divorce, it's because they no longer have a romantic connection with one another. While some couples can get that romantic connection back, sometimes it's impossible.
If you and your spouse have children together, a parenting marriage may be an excellent option for you. A parenting marriage is a non-romantic union where two parents come together to raise their children in a happy and healthy environment.
When two people enter a parenting marriage, they have to have an agreement on how they'll raise their children while they have lives independent of one another while still coming together as a unit for the children.
You may be wondering what the difference between staying together for the kids and a parenting marriage is. The most significant difference is when you're forcing yourselves to stay together because of the kids, you're not allowing each other to live independent lives.
In a parenting marriage, you acknowledge that you're parenting together, but you're living lives that make yourselves happy. It can be similar to an open marriage if you both decide you're allowed to see other people.
This is definitely not going to work for everyone, but nonetheless, it's an alternative to consider before legally divorcing.
Lauren Cook-McKay is the Vice President of Marketing at DivorceAnswers.com. She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) from the University of San Diego and applies her training in private practice to helping couples struggling in their marriage. She believes there is hope in all marriages and strives to provide therapy to couples that will lead them back towards a loving marriage, or an amicable divorce that brings peace and closure.