Table of Contents
- What to Expect: The Divorce Process in Arizona
- What Is a Default Divorce?
- What to Expect in Default Divorce Proceedings
- Potential Risks of Default Divorce
- Benefits of Hiring an Experienced Attorney During a Divorce
- Discuss Your Divorce Case with The Valley Law Group
Divorce is the legal process couples go through to end their marriage. In Arizona, divorce is also referred to as dissolution of marriage. Dissolution of marriage is a process that involves making many decisions about the things you shared in your marriage. This includes debt, financial and physical assets, and even the custody of and care for children. In many cases, both spouses come to the decision to end the marriage together. They then complete the proceedings willingly, through mediation or a traditional divorce hearing.
In some cases, however, one of the partners fails to acknowledge the other partner’s decision to divorce. This situation leads to what the courts call a default divorce.
What to Expect: The Divorce Process in Arizona
In Arizona, a dissolution of marriage begins when one party petitions for divorce. The “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” is an official document that outlines the reasons for the divorce and lists the contact information of the other partner involved. In Arizona, there are two different versions of this document depending on whether the case involves minor children.
Hiring a lawyer is extremely beneficial before navigating this stage of divorce. Going through a divorce is often a stressful and emotional experience due to the major changes involved in your family and relationship structure. Adjusting to these changes consumes significant time and energy, which can lead to your missing important details pertaining to your case. An experienced attorney can help ensure that your paperwork is well-developed, completed properly, and submitted in the appropriate time frame.
The person who files the petition is responsible for ensuring the other party is served the petition. The person served then has a specific amount of time to file a written response that either confirms or denies the information presented in the petition. At this point, they are also able to add information. If a written response to the petition is ignored or not submitted on time, the person who filed the petition can move forward with the case as a default divorce. An experienced attorney can help you learn how to file a default divorce in Arizona.
If you and your ex-partner can work together, mediation is another option for dissolving the marriage. A divorce attorney could help you navigate the process of collaborating with your ex-partner to make decisions about the dissolution of marriage. Mediation can also help couples cooperatively manage conflict better than litigation, which could be helpful in the future if children are involved in your marriage. Successful mediation may accelerate the divorce timeline, since you are negotiating terms together prior to your hearing with a judge.
What Is a Default Divorce?
The default divorce process differs from typical divorce proceedings because of the absence of cooperation by one of the parties involved. Default divorce could also result from a simple lack of response by the non-filing partner. In a default divorce, the case proceeds quickly, and a judgment is made based on the non-filing partner’s failure to respond.
Default divorce can occur in any of the following situations:
- The filing spouse is unable to locate the ex-partner to serve the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
- The non-filing spouse ignores the petition or refuses to participate
- Both ex-partners agree to enter a default judgment
How Long Does a Default Divorce Take in Arizona?
Since a default divorce case is one-sided, the Arizona default divorce timeline often moves faster than a typical two-sided divorce. In Arizona, the served party must respond to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage within 20 days if they live within the state of Arizona. If they live out of state, they must respond within 30 days. If they do not respond, the person who filed the petition will then file an Application and Affidavit of Default, which is also sent to the ex-spouse. The served party then has another ten days to respond. If ten days pass and there is still no response, the filer can request a hearing for a default divorce case.
Once it is evident that the case is being handled as a default divorce, the process will move rapidly. In a default divorce case, the dissolution can be finalized at the default hearing. In theory, this means your divorce could be finalized quickly. However, there is a statutory requirement of 60 days known as the “cooling off period.” That is a statutory requirement from our legislature that makes it so that you cannot technically be divorced within 60 days from the date of service of the Petition. This was imposed to give parties the chance at reconciliation. You are looking at a minimum of 61 days to finalize a divorce (and that’s if the judge signs off on it on day 61, which likely wouldn’t be the case). Hiring a lawyer to guide you through the process can help to make sure things move as quickly as possible.
It is important to be aware that in a default divorce, only the filing party can indicate their demands, allegations, and desired outcomes. This is great news for the filing partner. On the other hand, the spouse who failed to respond to the filing may end up with an unfavorable settlement. As a result, it is crucial to respond in a timely manner if you are served with a divorce petition.
What to Expect in Default Divorce Proceedings
If one party did not respond to any of the divorce filings, it is likely that the spouse who filed will be the only party in attendance at the court hearing. The judge will ask questions based on jurisdiction and verify that you meet the residency requirements to continue the dissolution of marriage in Arizona.
Some types of questions you could expect the judge to ask during the hearing include:
- Do you and your spouse share any children by birth or adoption, or are you currently pregnant with a child together? If so, what are the ages of your children?
- Have you and your spouse agree on custody of the children?
- Have you made child support arrangements with your spouse?
- How long have you and your spouse lived continuously separate and apart?
- Are there any personal or property rights that need to be determined today?
- Are you asking for a former last name to be restored?
After considering your answers to these questions and the details outlined in the Petition of Dissolution of Marriage, the judge will determine if your marriage is irreconcilable. If you share children with your spouse, the judge will also take care to ensure any orders surrounding custody and child support are in the best interest of the child. Once the judge has clarified the necessary information, they will sign a Default Divorce Decree. The decree needs to be served to your ex-partner within 3 days.
You will also need to be prepared with specific documents at the time of your hearing, which a lawyer can help you gather.
Some of these items include:
- Decree of Dissolution
- A 9×12 envelope addressed to the other party with four postage stamps
- Parenting Plan and Child Support Worksheets (if your case involves children)
- Wage information (if your case involves children)
Potential Risks of Default Divorce
As with all legal cases, there are challenges and risks involved with a default divorce in Arizona. The served party could try to fight the process if he or she can prove the petitioner didn’t exert an adequate amount of effort to locate their spouse and correctly serve the petition. If this is proven, the default divorce case could be re-opened, and the decisions amended. Thus, it is important to do your due diligence when attempting to present a Petition of Dissolution of Marriage to your ex-partner. A lawyer will ensure you serve the petition correctly to avoid this risk in the future.
Conversely, if you have been served a divorce petition and are wondering how to move forward, it is important to consider how the above factors will affect you. You should know when you need to respond and decide how you would like to move forward by that date. A written response to the petition is required—a verbal response is not adequate. However, the stress involved with divorce can make you feel overwhelmed, making it difficult to respond on time. If you do not respond, important decisions will be made without your input. These may include decisions regarding your children and assets, and you’ll forfeit the chance to respond to any allegations made by your ex-partner.
If you find out later that your ex-partner completed the default divorce process and you feel you were not properly notified, you can petition the court to reopen the case. This should be done if you weren’t aware of the proceedings and find the outcome to be unfair or a misrepresentation of what you would have prioritized had you been involved. If you find yourself in this situation, discuss the case with an experienced divorce lawyer. They will have a thorough understanding of the complexities of the Arizona justice system and can help you determine if you can reopen the case.
Benefits of Hiring an Experienced Attorney During a Divorce
Hiring an experienced Arizona attorney to represent you during your default or traditional divorce has many benefits.
You’ll Reduce Unnecessary Fees
Filing paperwork, such as the petition, incurs fees. Forms and documentation must also be submitted properly. Completing any of the steps incorrectly could result in a lengthier divorce process, ultimately costing you more money. An attorney can ensure that the process is followed correctly the first time.
The Process Will Conclude Quickly
Attorneys are knowledgeable about the systems and processes necessary when it comes to divorce, including default divorce in Arizona. Hiring a trusted attorney will ensure your divorce proceedings go as quickly as possible. They will make sure deadlines are met and will move forward quickly to start the default divorce process if your ex-partner fails to respond to the petition.
You’ll Achieve a Better Outcome
Without a skilled attorney on your side, you may feel forced into an agreement about assets, children, debt, or alimony that is unfair to you. The dissolution of a marriage can lead to long-term negative financial outcomes for both men and women, especially if you’re attempting to navigate Arizona family court without the help of a skilled attorney. What happens to your children, including where they will live and how often they will get to see you, is very important to prioritize. A divorce lawyer will examine the details of your case and work to help you reach the best possible solution.
Emotions Will Not Impede Your Progress
Ending a marriage can be a highly emotional process. Especially in a traditional divorce where both spouses are present in a courtroom, the situation can become heated. When children are involved in a divorce, the emotions associated with the process are even more intense. A lawyer will speak on your behalf so that your emotions do not get in the way of the official proceedings at your hearing. This way, decisions can be made in the best interest of you and any children.
Discuss Your Divorce Case with The Valley Law Group
A default divorce may seem simple due to how quickly the process can happen, but it is important to remember that Arizona default divorce is still a complex legal case. Whether you are writing or responding to the petition, it is important to know your rights and understand the options available to you. Hire a quality divorce attorney in Arizona to guide you through the process, ensure you file accurate paperwork, and meet deadlines so you can move forward with adjusting to life after divorce.
At The Valley Law Group, we are proud to aid Arizonans in pursuing their best interests as their marriages end, whether that is via traditional divorce, legal separation, divorce mediation, or default divorce. Learn more about our divorce services and contact our firm anytime to explore your options.
*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published February, 2022 and has been updated March, 2022.
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Jonathan Roeder, Founder/Director of Marketing of The Valley Law Group, is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.