Filing For Divorce in Arizona

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Filing For Divorce in Arizona

Whether you initiated your divorce or were informed by your spouse that your marriage is ending, you are about to embark on a complex legal process. Before proceedings begin, it is important to know the basics of filing for divorce in AZ. Browse Gillespie, Shields & Taylor’s guide to divorce and learn who can file for divorce, how to file for divorce in Arizona, the associated residency requirements, court jurisdiction over your divorce, and more crucial information.

Before Filing for Divorce in Arizona: Residency Requirements

Arizona state laws have outlined specific residency requirements for filing for divorce in the state. Before you can file for divorce in Arizona, either you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 90 days. If you do not meet this requirement, you must wait to file.

If your divorce involves children, you must also show the court that you and your children have lived in Arizona for at least six months. There are no exceptions to this residency requirement for children because, as a crucial component of your divorce proceedings, the court will require you and your spouse to create a fair, mutually agreeable parenting plan. Areas that must be resolved in this plan include child support, decision-making rights, parenting time, and visitation schedules, and the court must have jurisdiction to legally affirm these decisions or create them if the parents cannot agree.

Before Filing for Divorce: Who Files?

Arizona is a no-fault state when it comes to divorce. This means that the filing spouse does not need to prove any wrongdoing on behalf of the other spouse for the divorce process to begin. As a result, only one party is required to complete a petition for divorce to begin the divorce process. However, couples have the option of filing jointly if they are both in agreement that they wish to divorce.

If both spouses agree to divorce and agree on all terms of the divorce as they are presented, the divorce is considered uncontested. If the spouses disagree on one or more terms, or if one spouse does not want to divorce, the divorce is considered contested. In either case, only one spouse needs to file for the divorce timeline to begin.

Beginning the Divorce Process: Necessary Steps

Once you meet the residency requirements, you can begin the process of filing Arizona divorce paperwork.

The process of filing for a dissolution of marriage requires many steps: 

  • Drafting and filing a petition for divorce
  • Serving a copy of the petition to your spouse via hand delivery, mail, process server, sheriff, publication, or an alternative service your attorney suggests
  • Waiting for a response
  • Coming to an agreement regarding the division of assets, child-related decisions, and other topics
  • Mediation or negotiation to address disputed topics, if needed
  • Litigation to resolve any other disputes, if needed
  • Final hearing date to present the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage to a judge for signature

During the Divorce Process: Mandatory Waiting Period

Once your spouse receives notice of the divorce, 60 days must elapse before your divorce decree can be signed by a judge. There are no exceptions to this mandatory waiting time. Waiting periods are intended to afford both parties time to consider their decisions and to have the time to collect the necessary divorce documents in AZ.

Contested divorces often take longer than the waiting period to come to a close because disputes must be resolved by either negotiation, mediation, or litigation. In most cases, however, even if you think your divorce is straightforward, the tasks of drafting and filing divorce papers in AZ, making court appearances, and completing other tasks will take some time. These tasks can be handled by a family law attorney who has experience helping spouses navigate the divorce process.

During the Divorce Process: Mandatory Waiting Period

What Can I Do During the Waiting Period?

The most effective way to reduce the amount of time necessary to complete your divorce is to work with your family law attorney to prepare the necessary divorce papers in Arizona. After the initial divorce petition, even if you and your spouse agree to divorce, you must submit financial disclosures, a parenting plan, and more.

Financial Disclosures

Accounting for all your assets and debts can take considerable time. Before marital assets and property can be equitably divided by the courts, you and your spouse must both take full account of everything you purchased, acquired, or borrowed money for during the marriage. A financial expert may be necessary to evaluate your assets to determine if you or your spouse have a high net worth.

Parenting Plans

You will also need to create a final parenting plan before your divorce decree can be finalized. When both parties can come to an agreement regarding the various aspects of a parenting plan, the court will typically honor that agreement, provided its terms are in the best interests of the children. In a contested or high-conflict divorce, your attorney can speak with opposing counsel to find areas of agreement and then negotiate or arrange for mediation. Begin working on your parenting plan well before the waiting period ends.

Planning for the Future

If you have selected a skilled divorce attorney, the remainder of your waiting period can be used to plan for the future. For example, if you are moving out of your current home, you can use this time to finalize your living arrangements. Similarly, you can prepare your children for any upcoming changes.

There will be many changes to your personal life as the divorce moves forward. Using the waiting period to complete the necessary divorce steps and Arizona divorce paperwork with the help of your family law attorney can help your divorce move quickly once the waiting period ends.

Major Divorce Decisions

Every divorce case is unique, but all involve multiple decisions that must be made during the process. When children are involved, there will be additional considerations for the courts before a divorce decree is finalized. Your divorce and family law attorney can help you navigate these common areas that will need to be resolved during your divorce.

Parenting Plan

As mentioned, you must create a parenting plan to submit for approval before the divorce decree can be finalized. Although parenting time and visitation agreements are often the most contentious issues addressed in family court, resolving questions of how parenting time is allocated and where children will reside are among the most important topics to resolve. Parents must also decide how to allocate decision-making rights.

Parenting Plan

Arizona Family Court prioritizes giving fit parents meaningful time with their children. The court encourages parents to work together on a co-parenting plan that keeps both parents active in their children’s lives.

Child Support

To ensure that children have access to adequate resources, the courts may order child support payments from the parent with less parenting time. A judge may consider the difference in income between the two parents and their visitation schedule, among other factors. The basis for child support will be established by the Arizona Child Support Calculator.

Physical vs Legal Custody

Custody is the general term that refers to the right of one parent to make decisions about the welfare and care of their child and to provide that care during their parenting time. When one parent has primary or sole custody of a child, that parent is known as the custodial parent. Under primary/sole custody arrangements, the child lives with one custodial parent most of the time, and that parent has the right to make major decisions. Arizona’s family code does not give preference to one gender over the other when it comes to determining the division of parental rights and visitation.

There are two main forms of custody that must be determined by the courts before your divorce can be finalized. Legal custody, known as decision-making rights in Arizona, refers to the authority to make major decisions on behalf of the child. When one parent has sole legal decision-making authority, they make the final decision about matters related to healthcare, education, religious training, and other consequential circumstances. Although the other parent may give input, the parent who has court-ordered authority will have the final say.

The other form of custody is physical custody, known as parenting time in Arizona. As with legal custody, a parent may have joint or sole physical custody. When one parent is designated as having sole physical custody, the child’s primary residence will be with that parent, and that parent will retain the bulk of the parenting time. Joint parenting arrangements are common in Arizona when both parents agree to share parenting time and responsibilities.

It is possible for a court to order joint legal custody even when one parent is given primary physical custody of a child. When both parents agree on how they want to structure custody, the courts will generally support those decisions as long as both parents are deemed fit to parent, meaning there is no history of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

Spousal Support

Not every divorce will require spousal support, but there are times when a judge determines that one spouse must pay the other to maintain the standard of living they experienced during the marriage. Factors that a judge may weigh include the wealth and earning capacity of both spouses, age, and the work/parenting arrangements that existed during the marriage. Spousal support can be short-term – often for the duration of the divorce – or long-term until the spouse remarries.

Division of Assets

The state of Arizona is known as a community property state, which means that property acquired during the marriage is owned by both spouses, with few exceptions, and must be divided equitably. Arizona does not require a precise 50/50 division of assets and debt, but there is an expectation that marital property will be divided equitably. Divorcing spouses can save time by working together to account for every piece of property and debt that was acquired during the marriage and finding a fair way to divide them equally.

Division of Assets

Community vs Separate Property

Property division can be time-consuming, but it is important that the process is completed in an open and transparent manner. As mentioned, the goal of property division is not to enforce the perfectly equal division of each asset. Rather, the courts aim for a fair and equitable division of all property and assets during a divorce.

Early on in the divorce process, you and your spouse will be expected to account for every asset, property, and debt acquired during the marriage. It is important to note that this does not include property or debt that was inherited during the marriage. Gifts are also not considered marital property. Rather, those items are considered separate property along with all other premarital assets.

Separate property is also transferable as long as there is direct evidence that the second asset is a direct result of transferring separate property. For example, if you owned your car before getting married and then sold that car during your marriage, the proceeds from that sale are also considered separate property. Anything that you purchase with the profits from the sale would also be considered separate property, so long as the sale and purchase were not a result of the management or efforts of your spouse. In general, the burden of proving that something is separate property falls on the owner of that property.

Benefits of Working With an Attorney

You may be wondering how to file for divorce in Arizona without a lawyer. While the idea of forgoing extra legal fees may seem advantageous, going to court without legal representation can have serious consequences. Divorce determines how your life savings are divided and how and when you may be able to see your children. Without proper legal representation, you could end up losing more of your assets and parental rights than you might otherwise have.

Your family law attorney understands how to protect your rights and ensure that property division, child support determination, spousal support, and custody are decided equitably and fairly. An attorney can help you settle your differences via negotiation or mediation and make important decisions that you are prepared to live with.

In general, your family law attorney can take a stressful situation and make it more manageable. They are there to provide counsel on a wide range of topics. The court will create the final divorce decree, but your attorney will always keep your interests at the forefront of his or her mind as you move forward through the process.

Arizona Divorce FAQs

Most people come to family court with many questions. Consider the answers to these common questions.

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

Theoretically, a divorce can take as little as a 60-day waiting period. However, the reality of dividing assets, determining child custody, and setting child support or alimony means that divorce typically takes anywhere from a few months to several months to finalize, provided both parties are cooperative. Contested divorces can take a year or longer to finalize.

One way to improve the chances that your divorce will resolve sooner rather than later is to work with an experienced family law attorney who understands how to move a case forward even if the other party is not cooperating.

What Happens If My Spouse Does Not Cooperate?

If your spouse does not cooperate, that could ultimately work against them. It only takes one party to initiate a divorce, and the court has a means of finalizing cases when one party is not cooperative. If the uncooperative spouse does not respond to the petition or appear in court, a judge may issue a default order against them, meaning the party that is present controls many, if not all, of the terms of the divorce. If a spouse is participating but refusing to agree to proposed terms, a judge may order mediation to resolve outstanding differences.

Can My Divorce Decree Be Modified?

There are circumstances when modifying a divorce is necessary. For example, if one parent moves farther away, they may require a change to the visitation schedule. If one parent becomes sick and can no longer work, they may require a modification to the child support agreement.

Modifications are common, but you must demonstrate to the court that there has been a substantial change to your living situation or that of your ex-spouse. Your family law attorney can help you petition for a modification.

What Do I Do if I Believe My Spouse Is Hiding Assets?

It is an unfortunate reality that some spouses believe they can get away with hiding assets and property. If you believe that your spouse is attempting to hide assets to avoid their division, your attorney may consult a financial expert witness to unearth the truth. Another means of extracting the truth is by having your spouse testify under oath. Hiding assets can lead to serious penalties if they are caught lying to the court.

How Do I Find a Good Family Court Lawyer?

Finding the right family court lawyer requires considering a few important factors, but experience and skill are extremely important during family court cases. Family code is incredibly complex, and having a lawyer who understands your rights and the applicable parts of the family code can help you win important legal arguments in court. To find experienced, skilled family law attorneys, look for a firm that focuses on family court cases like Gillespie, Shields & Taylor.

Schedule Your Arizona Divorce Consultation Today

Gillespie Shields Taylor Phoenix Office

Divorce can be a stressful situation that comes with many uncertainties. Fortunately, now that you know how to get a divorce in Arizona, you can face the process with confidence. Work with a law firm that combines experience with a compassionate approach to guiding you to a brighter future following a divorce.

At Gillespie, Shields & Taylor, our dedicated attorneys work to give parents and spouses peace of mind during divorces, custody battles, and adoption cases. During your private consultation, we’ll address all your questions about Arizona family laws and how numerous factors may affect your case. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published August 10, 2022 and has been updated June 25, 2024.


  1. Pima County Superior Court. (n.d.). Divorce General Information. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from
  2. Arizona Supreme Court. (n.d.). Parenting time guidelines. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from
  3. Maricopa County Superior Court. (n.d.). Divorce and legal separation. Retrieved June 10, 2024, from,from%20the%20date%20of%20proceedings


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