The Top 3 Most Common Questions About Arizona Family Law Procedure Answered

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Arizona family law procedure can be complicated, and there are often many questions that arise when individuals are going through a family law case. Whether you are going through a divorce, child custody, or child support case, it is important to understand the procedures involved in order to navigate the legal system effectively. In this article, we will address the top 3 most common questions about Arizona family law procedure.

1. What Is the Process for Filing for Divorce in Arizona?

  • Assess Your Readiness for Divorce

Deciding to divorce can be a difficult and personal decision, with no one else able to tell you definitively what is right for your situation. Common reasons for divorce include lack of communication, infidelity, substance abuse, financial carelessness, and domestic violence. In addition to mental and emotional preparation for the Arizona divorce process, you may also need to prepare your finances for the transition from a two-income household to a single income.

  • Hire a Divorce Attorney

Filing for divorce on your own is not recommended. A divorce attorney will provide invaluable guidance and legal advice throughout the process. Choosing the right attorney is a personal decision based on their knowledge, trustworthiness, and ability to provide caring support. Discuss legal fees upfront and have an honest conversation about affordability.

  • File the Divorce Paperwork

Your attorney will assist in preparing the required petition for dissolution of marriage and paying the filing fee. Your spouse will be formally served the paperwork through a process server and must file an answer within 20 days. This begins the most time-consuming part of the divorce process.

  • Temporary Order Hearing in Arizona

During a divorce, important issues like child custody, child support, alimony, and who will live in the marital home need to be addressed. The couple will usually work these out between themselves, but if they cannot agree, the court will schedule a Temporary Order Hearing. It’s important to prepare for this hearing as the temporary order may be similar to the final order in the divorce.

  • Disclosure and Discovery in Arizona Divorce

Gathering information is critical in any legal case, and it’s especially important in a divorce. Arizona law requires certain disclosures, including income, property, and other support obligations. In addition to disclosures, parties exchange discovery, which includes written questions, document requests, and requests for admission. Your attorney can help you respond to these requests and create discovery to obtain information about your spouse.

  • Settlement

A divorce settlement can be reached at any time, which can speed up the process and reduce the need for court involvement. In Arizona, couples must discuss settlement options, and they can do so through informal negotiations, neutral negotiations, settlement conferences, or mediation. A settlement allows for flexibility that may not be available if the case goes to court.

  • Trial Preparation

If your divorce case cannot be resolved through settlement, it will proceed to trial. During trial preparation, your attorney will use all the information gathered during the discovery process to build your case. This includes creating a pretrial statement and getting exhibits ready. Your attorney will also discuss the trial timeline, your role as a witness, and other attendees with you.

  • The Final Hearing

The final hearing is one of the last steps in the divorce process. At the hearing, you will testify about different aspects of your marriage, finances, and children, and experts may also testify. Your lawyer will help you prepare for this crucial hearing to reduce stress and anxiety. It is an opportunity to tell your story to the judge and explain your needs and desires.

  • Post-Trial Motions and Appeals

After the final hearing, your lawyer may file post-trial motions to address any unfair practices or new information. You will wait for the judge’s decision, which could take weeks or months. If you are not satisfied with the ruling, you can appeal it. If there is no appeal, the divorce is final, and you must follow the court’s orders.

2. What Factors Do Arizona Courts Consider When Determining Child Custody?

When determining child custody, Arizona courts consider a variety of factors, including:

  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The child’s wishes;
  • How the child interacts with each parent and any other kids or other adults in their respective households;
  • The mental, emotional, and physical health of each caregiver to the child;
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and surrounding community;
  • Which parent has been primarily responsible for providing care for the child in the past, as well as each parent’s current and future potential relationship with the child;
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child to maintain frequent and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  • Whether either party has attempted to use duress or coercion to force the other parent into reaching an agreement regarding legal decision-making or parenting time of the child;
  • Whether either party has raised a false allegation of child abuse against the other parent;
  • Whether either parent has been convicted of a domestic violence offense or has a substance abuse problem;
  • Whether either parent has unnecessarily protracted litigation concerning the issues of legal decision-making or parenting time;

The court may also appoint a court-appointed advisor or parenting coordinator to assist in making custody decisions.

Other Arizona Child Custody Considerations if a Parent Wants to Move the Children

Sometimes, a parent may desire to relocate their children to a different state or a significant distance away from the other parent. According to Arizona law, if either parent proposes to move the children over 100 miles from their current residence, the judge must consider additional child custody factors before making a decision regarding child custody orders and the child’s move. These factors include:

  • The factors listed under sections 25-403;
  • Whether the relocation is proposed or opposed in good faith and not intended to interfere with or frustrate the relationship between the child and the other parent or their access to the child;
  • The potential benefits of the move for enhancing the quality of life for the custodial parent or the child;
  • The likelihood of the parent who will have custody after the relocation to adhere to parenting time orders;
  • Whether the move will provide a reasonable opportunity for parenting time with both parents;
  • How the move or the decision not to move will impact the emotional, physical, or developmental needs of the child;
  • The motivations of the parents and the validity of their reasons for supporting or opposing the move, including whether either parent seeks a financial advantage regarding child support obligations;
  • The possible effect of the relocation on the child’s stability.

3. What Is the Difference Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce in Arizona?

In Arizona, married individuals have the option to pursue a legal separation instead of a divorce with mutual agreement between parties. Legal separation refers to an arrangement where a couple lives apart while remaining married. The five factors that must be met for a legal separation to be valid in Arizona are specified in A.R.S. § 25-313. In contrast, a divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court of law. Unlike legal separation, there is no agreement requirement for a divorce in Arizona. One party only needs to show that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The two main differences between legal separation and divorce are the length of time a party must live in Arizona to commence legal action and the requirement of mutual agreement for legal separation. To commence a legal separation action, a party only needs to live in Arizona. However, to commence a divorce action, one must live in Arizona for 90 days prior to filing a petition for divorce. Additionally, legal separation requires mutual agreement between parties, while divorce does not.

Both legal separation and divorce have similar effects on the marital community and child custody. They terminate the marital community, require a judicial determination regarding custody of the children, and require an equitable division of community property. The only difference is that in a legal separation, the parties remain legally married but separated, while in divorce, the marriage is completely dissolved.

The procedure for obtaining a legal separation or divorce in Arizona is the same. One party must file a petition with the court, then serve the documents to the responding party. Both cases proceed according to the Arizona Family Law Rule of Procedure. At any time during the litigation, either party can request to convert a petition for legal separation to a petition for dissolution of marriage.

Our Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Arizona family law procedure can be complex and overwhelming, especially for those who have no experience with the legal system. The top 3 most common questions regarding this area of law have been answered in this article, providing valuable insights into the process of filing for divorce, determining child custody, and modifying court orders. It is important to understand the laws and regulations governing family law cases in Arizona to ensure that your rights and interests are protected. Seeking the guidance of a qualified attorney can help you navigate the legal system and achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Are You Looking for a Family Law Attorney You Can Trust?


Looking for attorneys who can handle your family law case with passion and expertise? Look no further than GillespieShields. Our team of legal experts specializes in various legal fields, but our true passion lies in helping families navigate Arizona Rules and Family Law Procedures. From divorce and custody battles to adoption proceedings, our attorneys are dedicated to giving you the peace of mind you deserve.

At GillespieShields, we understand that every family is unique and so is every case. That’s why we take the time to listen to your concerns and answer any questions you may have during our private, one-on-one consultation. We’ll guide you through the complex landscape of Arizona’s family laws, discuss your unique situation, and explore possible court outcomes.

We believe in fighting hard for families; our track record speaks for itself. If you’re looking for experienced attorneys who truly care about your family’s future, contact GillespieShields today for your consultation!


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