Common Divorce Questions

If you’re headed for divorce, you undoubtedly have a lot of questions about what to expect. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed and aren’t quite sure which questions you should be asking. Divorce is serious and will affect you, your family, and your finances, potentially long into the future. Knowing the answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions can help eliminate some of the stress from the process. Cohen Family Law is here to advise you on the ins and outs of your Arizona divorce.

Is Divorce Just the End of a Marriage?

Technically, divorce alone represents the legal termination of two spouses’ marriage. But in reality, there is so much more that most parties will need to work out. Depending on the circumstances of your marriage, you may need to address the following items (among others) along with the actual end of your marriage:

  • Division of marital assets and debts
  • Child custody, which includes both the right to make decisions for the child and how the parents will share time with the child
  • Child support
  • Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony

Does Arizona Have Jurisdiction Over My Divorce?

Before an Arizona court can hear your divorce (or other issues arising out of your marriage, like those listed above), it must have jurisdiction over it. Jurisdiction means the court has the power and authority to issue legally binding decisions concerning your divorce and related matters. Either you or your spouse must reside in Arizona for at least 90 days before filing for divorce. That means you can file as long as you or your spouse meet this requirement. If either you or your spouse are in the armed forces and are stationed in Arizona, this military presence must be maintained for at least 90 days before filing.

How is a Divorce Initiated?

A spouse begins the divorce process by filing a Petition for Divorce. This document will contain details about not only the parties’ marriage but their children, assets, and other financial information. At the same time you file your petition you will file a summons, which notifies your spouse (the defendant) of the divorce action and orders him or her to appear in court to answer it.

What Happens After Filing for Divorce?

Filing the petition and summons initiates the divorce, but the court cannot do anything further until the defendant’s spouse has been notified about it. This is where the service of process comes in. The court papers have to be served on the defendant’s spouse in a manner consistent with Rule 4 of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. There are various ways to serve a spouse, such as by sheriff or a private process server. Regardless, service must be done properly before a court can issue any valid, enforceable orders.

My Spouse and I Only Need to End Our Marriage, Can We Annul It?

It is true that spouses with no children, no significant assets or debts to divide, and no claim for spousal maintenance, may only need a divorce. They sometimes wonder if they can simply annul the marriage and thereby expedite the process. But divorce and annulment are not the same thing. The basic difference is this: while a divorce terminates a valid marriage, an annulment officially declares that no valid marriage existed. It was null and void.

Do I Have To Prove Fault?

Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, which means neither spouse has to allege that the other spouse engaged in marital fault (e.g. adultery) to seek a divorce. When filing the divorce petition, a spouse can simply assert that the marriage has been “irretrievably broken.”

There is an exception for marriages that are known as covenant marriages, a rare type of union in which the spouses agree to participate in counseling first. To divorce, one of the spouses in a covenant marriage must allege fault.

What Types of Divorce Are There?

Broadly, divorces are either contested or uncontested. Contested means the spouses don’t agree on the terms and conditions of the divorce, such as child support or property division. Conversely, in an uncontested divorce, the spouses come to an agreement on all the issues arising out of their marriage.

There are other types of divorce based on your exact circumstances, such as a high net-worth divorce and “gray divorce” for those in or nearing retirement age. You should also know about collaborative divorce, in which spouses work together to end their marriage amicably and on terms they can both agree with.

Will I Have To Go To Court?

When spouses think of divorce, they often imagine heated courtroom arguments and showdowns between spouses. But your divorce doesn’t have to wind up before a judge because there are several options for resolving it outside of court.

One alternative is mediation, in which a neutral third party helps the parties settle child support and other matters. Another, mentioned above, is collaborative divorce. This process involves mediation but also brings in outside professionals such as financial experts and child specialists. Finally, the parties can informally discuss and negotiate the terms of their divorce, either directly or through their attorneys.

You can settle some or all of your issues out of court, and take to the judge any matters you and your spouse cannot agree to. Whatever is agreed to will be reduced to a separation agreement. The court will still play some role, like entering a consent decree to formalize the separation agreement and dissolve the marriage. But settling on your own terms by one of the above means is generally preferable to drawn-out litigation.

How Can a Family Law Attorney Help Me?

In addition to understanding the complexities of Arizona family law, an experienced attorney will know the various rules associated with divorce petitions, including those that concern civil procedure, evidence, and discovery. Failure to understand these rules could seriously jeopardize your rights and interests, so having legal representation is strongly advised. An attorney can also represent you during out-of-court settlement procedures such as mediation and will advocate on your behalf from start to finish.

Even More Divorce Questions

Contact Our Phoenix Divorce Attorney

Are you going through a divorce, or is one in your near future? You likely have plenty of other questions, and we’re ready to answer them. Reach out to the dedicated team at Cohen Family Law. Call to schedule your confidential consultation today.

Cohen Family Law services clients with their divorce needs throughout the Phoenix, Arizona area including Anthem, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Laveen, Mesa, Peoria, Scottsdale, Surprise, and Tempe.