Arizona Divorce Process
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Arizona Divorce Process

Find out what steps to take, and what to consider throughout a divorce process in Arizona.

Coming to the decision to terminate your marriage isn’t an easy one. If you’re contemplating divorce, you are going to need to decide what you want in terms of child custody, spousal support, and asset division. You are also going to need to choose if you want to hire a lawyer or handle the divorce by yourself.

This post offers an overview of the divorce process in Arizona. If following you having read this post you have questions, you should get a hold of a local Arizona family law attorney for advice in your area.

Getting a Divorce Initiated in Arizona

Either of the spouses are able to file for divorce – “dissolution of marriage”- in the state of Arizona. Your divorce starts as soon as the dissolution document is filed within the court.

Dissolution Petition

The primary dissolution document comprises of a Petition and Summons. The Petition notifies the court and your spouse what you are pursuing in the divorce. For instance, your dissolution petition is going to include any requests for alimony – “spousal maintenance”, – splitting of marital property, child custody and/or support, and attorney’s fees and expenses. The spouse that files for divorce is required to serve the dissolution petition to the other spouse using a process server or marshal.

Filing a Response

The spouse served with the petition – the “respondent” – can either agree to all conditions in the petition or file opposed papers. There is strict deadline for filing a response to a dissolution petition in the state Arizona. In a lot of cases, the respondent has twenty days for filing a response following them being served; thirty days when the responding spouse doesn’t live in Arizona. If you’re not sure concerning these timelines, get a hold of a local family attorney for guidance.

If one spouse disregards in filing a response to the dissolution petition, a court is able to enter a default judgment towards the unresponsive spouse. “Default judgment” means that the court progresses forward on your case without hearing from the unresponsive spouse and awards all of the filing spouse’s requests from their divorce petition.

Establishing Temporary Orders

A judge might enter temporary orders – “pendente lite orders” in Arizona) in divorce cases concerning children or in which one spouse has unsatisfied financial needs. Temporary orders are able to resolve custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and support matter such as who gets the marital home and who is going to pay the mortgage while your divorce is ongoing.

Couples can come to agreements on their own on temporary orders or leave the issues up to a judge to determine. Temporary orders continue until they are altered, or your divorce becomes finalized. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-315 (2020).

Custody Matters in Arizona

When parent’s get divorced, they are going to have to decide how to address parenting time – “physical custody” and “visitation” – and “legal custody”. If parents aren’t able to agree on legal and physical custody, a judge is going to make a custody decision based on the best interests of child.

Physical Custody

A parent that has physical custody lives with the child and makes daily decisions about the child’s well being, such as what the child is going to eat and wear, who their child can play with, and when the child is going to go to bed. Parents are able to share physical custody – “joint physical custody” – or one of the parents may have sole physical custody rights. Even if parents are sharing physical custody, they aren’t going to necessarily have the same amount of time with their child. For instance, under a joint physical custody timetable one parent might have three nights each week with their child and the other might have four nights each week.

A parent that has legal custody is able to make significant medical, educational, religious, or legal decisions on the child’s behalf. As with physical custody, parents can also share legal custody rights.

Legal Custody

A parent that has legal custody can make major medical, educational, spiritual, or legal decisions on behalf of their child. Just with physical custody, parents are also able to share their legal custody rights. Nevertheless, when parents can’t come to an agreement on a matter in the child’s life, such as where the child needs to go to school, the parent with primary physical custody has the final say.

Establishing Child Support in Arizona

Your child support payment is based mainly on each of the parent’s income and the number of children involved. Arizona has established child support regulations for judges to use when determining child support. Arizona also has also established a child support calculator in which parents can estimate their support responsibilities. In a lot of cases, a judge is going to issue a child support grant that follows the regulations. Nevertheless, in cases in which a child has considerable medical needs or costs, a judge can increase the child support grant and veer from the regulation amount. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-320 (2020).

Final Steps in Arizona Divorce Process

Following you having filed and served the divorce papers to your spouse, held temporary orders you are going to need to collect evidence to prove your case at trial or resolve things through mediation.


This process of collecting evidence is referred to as “discovery.” Throughout discovery you can request that your spouse answer written questions and to hand over you specific documents. Subject to the convolutedness of your divorce and your assets, discovery can be a short or lengthy process.

When you hire an attorney, they are going to submit and receive information on your behalf throughout discovery but is going to need your contribution along the way. They might use the below types of discovery in your divorce:

  • Interrogatories (written lists of questions)
  • requests for production (requests to hand over you copies of associated paperwork such as mortgage or credit card statements), and
  • depositions (an attorney is going to ask your spouse questions in face to face and under oath in which a court reporter takes down the deposition).


After you’ve collected some evidence for your case, you might feel ready for trial. A lot of judges Aren’t going to schedule a divorce trial until the spouses have attempted mediation. Through mediation they try to settle their case with the assistance of an unbiased, 3rd party mediator. Mediators can be attorney, but they are unable to give you legal advice. It’s up to the spouses if they wish to settle through mediation. Nevertheless, spouses that come to their their own agreements have greater control over their case than should a judge decide everything at trial.


If you both are unable to resolve your case, you’re going to have to head to trial. Trial is your opportunity to tell the judge your story. You are going to tell your story through your testimony, the testimony of other witnesses, and documentation referred to as “exhibits.” In a lot of cases, trial can be expensive and displeasing.

It’s challenging for lawyers to anticipate the outcome of a trial since every case is different. At trial a judge – that is a stranger and that might have a point of view, a disposition, and values totally different from yours – is going to split your income and assets and determine when each of you can see your children. The judge is going to enter a final order that you both must adhere to.

Oftentimes, the trial is not going to finalize your divorce case. When either of the spouses is displeased with the result of your trial, they can appeal the decision through a higher court. When you appeal, is adds additional time and cost to the process and is challenging to win.

How Much Does an Arizona Divorce Cost?

The cost of your divorce is going to be subject to the complexity of your case and your family’s unique circumstance. Particularly, cases in which a couple has no children and little assets are less costly than cases in which a couple is owner of a business, a multitude of homes, and can’t come to an agreement on child custody.

Spouses that handle their divorces on their own (devoid of attorneys) and can settle fast are able to get divorced somewhat inexpensively. When you hire an attorney, your attorney’s fees are going to add additional expenses to your case. Additionally, if your case is extremely complex, you might have professional costs for custody assessors, forensic accountants, and/or business evaluators.


  1. Kristina Otterstrom, A. (2020, December 4). The divorce process in Arizona. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from

Speak with Our Divorce Lawyers in Arizona Today

Regardless of the choice you make, it’s important you make the best choice for you when hiring a divorce lawyer. Remember: The decisions you make now can affect your future. Ultimately, choosing the best lawyer will depend on which lawyer feels best for you and your situation.

If you want to learn about Michelle N. Ogborne and see if she is the right attorney to represent you in your collaborative divorce in Arizona, contact us today!

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