Arizona is a purely no-fault divorce state, meaning that neither spouse has to prove that the other spouse is to blame for the end of the marriage. As long as one of the parties believes that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” the divorce proceedings will continue.
As if divorce weren’t confusing, distressing, and destabilizing enough, divorce law among the states is inconsistent, so it is important to work with a divorce attorney who is familiar with the legal ins and outs of the state you live in. Mitchell E. Cohen, Esq., has been practicing family law for over 35 years and has a well-earned reputation for legal knowledge, efficiency, and compassion. His office successfully serves clients in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale and throughout the state of Arizona.
Exception to the No-Fault Rule
The only exception to Arizona’s no-fault rule is made in cases in which the spouses have undergone special premarital counseling resulting in unions known as “covenant marriages.” When this is the case, a fault-based divorce may occur if one spouse has committed adultery.
Community Property Division
Because Arizona is a community property state, divorce law controls the division of all marital assets. Unless there is a compelling reason to overcome the community property presumption, all property acquired during the marriage will be equally divided between the two parties, as will all debts. Sole and separate property is, however, not vulnerable to such division. Sole and separate property may include:
- Property that was owned or received individually before the marriage (including the engagement ring)
- Property gifted to one of the spouses individually during the marriage (not by the other spouse)
- Personal injury damages awarded to one of the spouses for their pain and suffering
Sole and separate property, since it is not considered part of the marital assets, is not part of the accumulated wealth of the couple and is therefore not divided when the divorce is finalized.
Spousal maintenance, otherwise known as alimony or spousal support, was originally conceived as a way to level the playing field in the days when women were primarily homemakers and men were primarily wage earners. The idea behind alimony was that the wife was ill-prepared, at the time of divorce, to earn enough money to function independently, especially if she was to remain the primary caregiver to young children.
Nowadays, of course, both spouses are commonly wage earners. As long as their income levels are approximately the same, it may not be necessary for any alimony to be awarded. On the other hand, if one spouse is unable to provide for their reasonable needs, or, lacks appropriate education or training to likely be able to earn enough to provide for themselves, spousal maintenance may be part of the divorce agreement, at least until the spouse with less money is able to further his or her education or training. This latter case is known as rehabilitative alimony. In some situations, the court awards temporary alimony to tide the low-earning spouse over until the divorce is finalized.
How Spousal Maintenance Is Determined in A No-Fault Divorce Case
It should be noted that judges are prohibited from considering marital misconduct, such as adultery, when deciding on how spousal maintenance should be awarded in Arizona. Instead, the following factors are taken into account in determining whether, and how much, alimony should be awarded:
- Standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
- Duration of the marriage
- Age, physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance
- Employment history, educational level, and earning ability of spouse seeking support
- Ability of paying spouse to meet his or her own needs as well as those of the payee
- Comparative financial resources and earning capacities in labor market of the spouses
- Extent to which spouse seeking alimony has postponed training and career opportunities
in order to take on household and childcare responsibilities during the marriage
- Ability of both spouses to contribute to future educational costs of their mutual children
- Time necessary for payee to acquire sufficient training or education become financially independent
- Excessive expenditures or debts (e.g. from gambling, substance abuse) by one party
- Health insurance costs for each party
- Convictions for domestic abuse by one of the spouses
- Proof of deliberately hidden assets on the part of one or the other spouse
Part of Arizona divorce law states that all property division and spousal maintenance must be fair and just, resulting in a distribution of marital assets that neither punishes, nor rewards either partner.
Adultery, whether or not it precipitates a divorce, is illegal in Arizona. According to Arizona Revised Statutes, ARS 13-1408, any married person who engages in sexual intercourse with someone who is not his or her spouse and any unmarried person who has sexual intercourse with a married person not his or her spouse, is guilty of committing adultery, a class 3 misdemeanor. These statutes, however, are rarely, if ever, enforced. Whereas in many states with “at-fault” divorces, adultery may be grounds for divorce, in Arizona, except in the case of covenant marriages discussed above, there are not “grounds” for divorce – the divorce is simply based on the desire of one of the spouses to part.
Time Frame for A No-Fault Divorce in Arizona
The divorce of a couple in Arizona cannot be finalized until 60 days after the divorce paperwork has been served to the other spouse. Designed as a “cooling off” period, these two months are meant to confirm that divorce is the only foreseeable course of action for the couple involved and to allow the initial divorce papers to be filed and the other party to respond.
Contact Our Phoenix No-Fault Divorce Attorney
If you are considering divorce in the state of Arizona, consulting with Mitchell E. Cohen is a wise first step to take. Not only is he experienced and savvy concerning the divorce process in Arizona, he is licensed to practice in all Arizona Courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States. You are unlikely to find a more accomplished or empathic divorce attorney anywhere. You can reach Cohen Family Law by phone or by filling out a contact form on our website.