Home » The Valley Law Group Family Law Firm Practice Areas » Divorce Law » Legal Representation for Same-Sex Divorce in Arizona
The right to marry was affirmed for same-sex couples nationwide by the U.S. Supreme Court when it issued its 2015 ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges. Marriage in Arizona between same-sex couples was only prohibited until October 2014, previously having been precluded by both state law and a 2008 voter-approved state constitutional amendment. The expansion of legalized marriage to include same-sex couples meant thousands of new marriages for the citizens of Arizona. Unfortunately, these marriages sometimes must end in divorce.
Divorce laws vary from state to state, and the introduction of same-sex unions into marriage laws means those same unions need legal avenues of being undone in divorce. In 2019, Arizona was estimated to have nearly 16,000 same-sex households where the occupants were legally married. Phoenix rated as one of the 10 largest cities in the country for number of married same-sex households.
There are specific laws and considerations that come into play for same-sex divorces in Arizona, and a licensed, knowledgeable, and experienced attorney should be retained by both parties.
Consult with a lawyer from the outset of any divorce case, including same-sex divorces. Retaining an experienced and licensed attorney is important for ensuring you follow all laws, acknowledge all rights, file all paperwork, and avoid unnecessary delays.
The spouse seeking the divorce must file divorce paperwork with the course and have it served on the other party in the divorce. Arizona allows 120 days for the papers to be served from the time the divorce is filed. The responding party then has 20 days to respond if they reside within Arizona, or 30 days if they reside in another state.
If the divorce is amicable, or both parties are at least reasonably able to work through dividing assets and determining custody, it may be quicker and cheaper to go through mediation rather than hiring separate counsels and pursuing divorce litigation. Mediators are an unbiased party who considers the rights of both spouses in the divorce.
Factors that can impact the length of same-sex divorce proceedings in Arizona are the same as for a heterosexual marriage. It’s technically possible to receive a divorce decree in 61 days, but even for an uncontested divorce, it will almost certainly take longer—often up to twice as long. The 60-day waiting period begins when the divorce papers are served to the non-filing spouse. The non-filing spouse must file a response within the first 20 days after receiving the divorce papers.
The waiting period is meant to keep a couple from making a rash decision to terminate their marriage. The waiting period can be used to resolve conflicts and review what each side will agree upon before the divorce proceedings begin. This process is important, because anything the couple can’t agree upon, including custody and visitation arrangements for children, will be determined by the judge.
If the divorce is contested or custody of children is at stake, the divorce process may take months. High-value assets, multiple children, and very young children are likely to take multiple rounds of mediation or negotiation to solve. During this time, married couples of any persuasion are encouraged to seek free reconciliation counseling through the Family Court’s Conciliation Services to try to save the marriage. This service is available even after a divorce or annulment has been filed.
Seek advice from an experienced Arizona divorce attorney. Specifically, secure an attorney with experience with same-sex marriage and divorce, as this experience is critical for unsnarling the complex legal matter of dissolving a common-law marriage.
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