Arizona is a no-fault state for purposes of divorce. This means it is possible to file for divorce without a lawyer. If you and your spouse agree on the key issues, such as division of property, child custody, and child support, a do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce may be a viable option.
Before you proceed with a DIY divorce, it is wise to consult with an experienced Arizona divorce lawyer so that you understand the risks involved. Divorce can become complicated when there are children or you have acquired significant marital assets.
At Cohen Family Law, we provide informed representation to clients who are considering divorce. Contact our Phoenix office today to learn whether a DIY divorce is the best option for you.
The Challenges of Divorce Without a Lawyer in Arizona
If you have decided to end your marriage, there are many issues that need to be resolved. If you and your spouse have children, for example, you must agree on which parent will have primary custody, the visitation rights (“parenting time”) of the non-custodial parent, and who will pay child support (which is determined by a formula). In a divorce involving minor children, the court must approve a parenting plan before a divorce will be granted.
Also, you must decide how to divide your marital property. Arizona is a community property state which means that all the marital property and debt must be divided in a way that is equitable to both parties. In an uncontested divorce, you can resolve these issues through a divorce settlement agreement which also must be approved by the court.
Starting the Arizona Divorce Process
The first thing to know is you or your spouse must meet the state’s residency requirements: either spouse must have lived in Arizona for 90 days before filing.
To initiate a DIY divorce, you will need to complete several forms that are available online through the Arizona Judicial Branch. These standard state forms include:
- Family court/sensitive data cover sheet
- Preliminary injunction
- Petition for dissolution of marriage (with children)
- Petition for dissolution of marriage (without children).
- Notice of your rights about health insurance coverage
- Notice regarding creditors
It is important to note that you are required to file in the county in which you or your spouse resides, and your county may have additional filing requirements. Finally are different forms for the petitioner (the party initiating the divorce) and the respondent (the spouse being served with legal papers).
Once you complete the forms, make two copies of all the documents. The originals should be filed with the clerk of the court, and the copies should be retained for your records. You will be required to pay a filing fee unless the court agrees to deferral or fee waiver.
Serving Your Spouse in a DIY Divorce
Although you have 120 days from the date you file to serve the divorce papers (the Summons and Petition for Divorce) on your spouse, you should do so as soon as possible. The documents can be served by a deputy sheriff or a process server, and there is a fee involved. If you fail to fail to serve your spouse within 120 days, your case will be automatically dismissed, and you will have to start the filing process over.
If your spouse does not have an attorney, the divorce petition should be served at his or her home address. On the other hand, if your spouse has retained a divorce lawyer, the papers should be delivered to the attorney’s office. It is important to note that different rules may apply if your spouse is serving in the military, cannot be located, or is in jail.
In any event, your spouse (the respondent) has 20 days to respond to the divorce petition after being served. If he or she fails to file an answer within that time period, the court may grant a default divorce.
You Must Make Financial Disclosures in a Divorce Without a Lawyer
Both spouses must complete a financial affidavit, which is a statement that includes information about their income, expenses, assets, and debts. Other documents that may be required include:
- Credit card statements
- Mortgage statements
- Tax returns
The financial information will help you and your spouse (and the court) to make determinations about property division, spousal support, and child support.
Why You Need an Arizona Divorce Lawyer
While some couples may be able to navigate divorce without a lawyer, completing all the required forms correctly and meeting the filing deadlines can be complicated. While the Arizona Judicial Branch makes forms readily available, the clerk of the court cannot give you legal advice. What happens if there is a dispute over custody arrangements or one spouse conceals assets? What is the difference between separate and marital property? Is a business or professional practice subject to property division?
Ultimately, it takes a skilled divorce lawyer to answer these and other questions that are likely to come up, as well as to ensure that you and your children are protected.
Contact Our Experienced Arizona Divorce Attorneys
At Cohen Family Law, we pride ourselves on providing our clients with trustworthy advice and dependable service. We know the ins and outs of the divorce process in Arizona and always work in the best interests of our clients. In order to avoid the risks of divorce without a lawyer, contact our office for a consultation.