How long does it take to get a divorce in Arizona? It depends. Although you can get a divorce decree in as little as 60 days (in limited circumstances as per the waiting period in Arizona Revised Statute 25-329), the average time to finalize even an uncontested divorce in Arizona is between 90 and 120 days. In many cases, divorces can take considerably longer. If your divorce is contested or involves children, it can stretch on for six months or longer. Here’s what you should know about the process. Read on for an overview of the steps involved in a divorce and a basic timeline for how long it may take you to finalize your divorce.
This article is not intended to be legal advice. You can contact the Arizona Legal Center (ALC) today to learn more about your rights in your situation. Note that when you first contact the Arizona Legal Center, a law student (and not a practicing attorney) will handle your intake.
Factors affecting how long it takes to get a divorce in Arizona
How long does it take to get a divorce in Arizona? That number depends. Divorce is not a speedy process. Many different factors affect how long it takes to get a divorce in Arizona. These include the following.
If you and your spouse have minor children, it can affect how long it takes to get a divorce in Arizona. In addition to dealing with property division, you must address the parenting time each parent has with the child(ren) and the child support that will be paid.
Even if both parties agree to the divorce and agree on the terms of the property division and parenting time, you’ll have to file paperwork to determine the amounts of financial support for minor children.
Other issues include establishing parenting time and legal decision-making authority. These are all addressed in family law forms that you can fill out and file.
All together, these steps add time to the divorce process.
Division of property and debt
Figuring out who is responsible for debt created during the marriage can hold up the process of your divorce as well.
Similarly, dividing marital property such as houses and cars can be challenging. Even if one person has all the property in their name, if that property was acquired during marriage, it will be deemed community property subject to division in the divorce unless specific factors can be proven. This can take time to unravel.
One factor that petitioners and respondents cannot control is the caseload of the court. Processing paperwork and scheduling a hearing can extend the Arizona divorce process timeline if a court is particularly busy.
What’s the difference between a contested and uncontested divorce?
No matter the reason for your divorce, there are two basic categories of divorce: uncontested and contested.
An entirely uncontested divorce is the simplest kind. This means that both people agree to the divorce and all of the terms and provisions to be included in the decree (and parenting plan if minor children are involved). In general, there are no disagreements about how your assets, parenting time, and financial obligations should be settled.
This is a rare scenario, however.
Typically, two people will agree to get a divorce but disagree on the provisions of the divorce, such as division of assets and parenting plans. Often, these issues can be solved through agreements between the parties as negotiated by their attorneys, or with formal mediation with a mediator.
When we discuss uncontested divorces, we’re generally referring to these cases where the parties have agreed upon the provisions of their divorce before they enter the courtroom. In this way, the majority of divorces in Arizona are uncontested, but this does not mean that the process goes quickly. Even with an uncontested divorce, Arizona estimates that the time between serving papers, negotiating any provisions, and finalizing the divorce can extend well past six months.
A contested divorce is more complicated. In this type of divorce, the people disagree on issues like the divorce itself, dividing property, support of minor children, parenting time, or other matters even after working with an attorney or going through mediation.
When answering the petition for divorce, if a respondent disagrees on any of the above factors, the divorce is considered contested.
In Arizona, a judge makes the final decisions about contested divorces in the courtroom.
What’s the Arizona divorce process timeline?
The timeline starts when the person asking for the divorce (the petitioner) files their divorce paperwork with the court and serves it on the other party. In addition to the actual Petition for the Dissolution of a Non-Covenant Marriage (with or without children), this paperwork includes:
- Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance
- Joint Preliminary Injunction
- Creditor Notice
- Information on Parenting Information Programs (required for parties with minor children)
One copy goes to the court, one copy stays with the petitioner, and one copy is served to the other person (the respondent). These papers must be served to the petitioner within 120 days of filing in the court.
Once the papers are served to the respondent, they have 20 days to answer. Arizona law also enforces a 60-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized even when the responding party agrees to all the provisions set forth in the Petition. This allows for a couple different things to happen.
- Conflicts can be resolved: If the petitioner and respondent agree to the divorce but not the conditions, they may be able to reach agreements about them during this time.
- Decisions can be reconsidered: In some cases, the reality of divorce may not hit until the paperwork is served. Both petitioner and respondent may decide to seek other routes (e.g. marital counseling).
If both parties agree with the divorce and the conditions of the divorce after the 60 days is up, the petitioner must file a Consent Decree. A judge or commissioner then reviews the consent decree, and if it is deemed reasonable, signs this Consent Decree.
If there are any disagreements regarding property, debt, orders of financial support, and orders regarding the minor children, a hearing date will be set to determine if a trial is needed on the issues in dispute. Ultimately, any issues not agreed upon by the parties will be decided by the judge. How quickly the required steps can be scheduled depends on the caseload of the court and the availability of the parties. It could take a month to schedule a hearing, or it could take longer.
What’s a default divorce?
In Arizona, a default divorce is one form of divorce. If the respondent does not respond in any way to the initial divorce paperwork, and if that paperwork was properly served upon the respondent, the petitioner can file for a default divorce.
This gives the respondent another ten days to respond. After that, if the respondent has not contacted the court or responded in any way, the court will grant the petitioner a default divorce, granting the petitioner’s requests. However, the court will not divide community assets without a hearing; only the divorce will be granted.
What is a covenant marriage?
Because Arizona is a no-fault state, the reason for divorce can simply be that one person believes the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” The only exception to this is for something called a covenant marriage.
In Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana, couples who choose to enter into a covenant marriage agree to obtain pre-marital counseling and only seek divorce if there are grounds for it (as laid out in Arizona Revised Statute §25-903). The majority of people do not have a covenant marriage.
How to get help
Going through a divorce is never easy. Beyond the emotional toll divorce can take, knowing what paperwork to file and when is a major challenge. And, affordable or free legal assistance in Arizona can be difficult to come by.
At the Arizona Legal Center, we can help. Our volunteers can walk you through the divorce process and talk about all of your options. We offer free consultations, so you can understand the process and know what to expect. In certain cases, the Arizona Legal Center will go beyond providing advice and consultation in divorce cases, and offer representation in court by an attorney for as little as $100. Do note that these fees are for limited-scope representation and charged on an hourly basis. You will also be required to pay a retainer up-front.
At the ALC, we are making the law accessible to all by providing legal assistance for the public. If you need help navigating your divorce, and don’t know where to start, give the Arizona Legal Center a call today or fill out the form below.
The Arizona Legal Center provides free legal aid and consultations in Arizona only. We provide low-cost access to fee-for-service cases when determined appropriate by an attorney at the Center, but generally do not undertake full-scope representation.