Legal Separation in Arizona: Do You Qualify?

Legal separation in Arizona provides a unique avenue for couples seeking to live apart while retaining their marital status. This option is particularly suitable for those wishing to preserve certain marital benefits or who are not yet prepared to pursue a divorce. Arizona has distinct requirements and procedures for legal separations, and it’s vital for individuals considering this route to be aware of their options and the legal considerations involved.

What Is Legal Separation?

Legal separation is a formal arrangement where a married couple lives apart but remains legally married. Unlike divorce, which dissolves the marriage, legal separation keeps the marriage legally intact while allowing spouses to separate their lives. This process typically involves legally determining aspects like child custody, support, and property division, similar to a divorce. 

Couples may opt for legal separation for various reasons, including religious beliefs, financial considerations, or as a step before deciding on divorce. It may allow them to maintain certain benefits, like insurance coverage or tax advantages, that come with being married. Each state, including Arizona, has specific laws and guidelines governing legal separation, shaping how these arrangements are executed and managed.

Qualifications for Legal Separation in Arizona

In Arizona, couples must meet certain qualifications to file for legal separation. First, at least one spouse must be a resident of Arizona when filing. There’s no requirement for a minimum period of marriage. Unlike some states, Arizona does not necessitate a period of physical separation before the process begins. The couple must agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one of the parties desires to live separate and apart.  In a covenant marriage, specific grounds such as adultery, abandonment, or regular abuse must exist or the parties have been physically separated for at least two years. If the couple has minor children, additional considerations regarding child custody and support come into play.

Benefits and Considerations

Choosing legal separation in Arizona comes with its own set of benefits and considerations. A key benefit is the maintenance of certain legal rights and financial benefits, such as health insurance and tax advantages, which might be lost upon divorce. It can also serve those with religious or moral objections to divorce. For couples uncertain about their future, legal separation offers a reversible solution, providing time and space to reconcile or decide on divorce. However, it’s important to consider that legally separated spouses are still responsible for each other’s debts and legal obligations. Additionally, if a decision to divorce is eventually made, the process of legal separation might lead to duplicated efforts and expenses in legal proceedings. Therefore, weighing these factors is crucial in making an informed decision.

The Process for Filing for Legal Separation

  • Consultation with an Attorney: Begin by consulting a family law attorney to understand your rights and obligations. An attorney can help you draft a separation agreement that addresses financial, custodial, and property issues.
  • Filing a Petition: File a Petition for Legal Separation in the Arizona county where either spouse resides. This petition should state the grounds for separation and include detailed arrangements for finances, children, and property.
  • Service of Process and Negotiation: After filing, legally serve the other spouse with the petition. This ensures they are officially notified and have an opportunity to respond. The parties then engage in negotiations, where both spouses discuss and revise the separation agreement terms. If both parties agree to the terms, the process is smoother. If not, negotiations or court hearings may be necessary to resolve disputes.
  • Finalizing the Separation: Once all issues are resolved and the court approves the separation agreement, a judge will issue a decree of legal separation, legally formalizing the separation.

Contact Our Experienced Legal Separation Attorney

At Cohen Family Law, we offer compassionate and thorough guidance through the complexities of legal separation in Arizona. Our dedicated team understands the nuances of family law and is committed to supporting you every step of the way. If you’re considering legal separation, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for personalized assistance and legal counsel.