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The Grand Canyon State attracts over five million visitors each year to its most famous natural wonder, the OK Corral in Tombstone. Just kidding! The setting for one of history’s most famous good ol’ Western shootouts comes in second to the Colorado River’s magnum opus. But speaking of shootouts between two scorned folks, Arizona divorce laws are a bit trickier to navigate than those of other states.

Arizona is one of three states in the U.S. that recognizes two distinct types of marriages. Covenant marriages, first introduced in Louisiana, limit couples seeking divorce. They don’t allow for no-fault divorces, and they’re typically more about religion and involve lengthy promissory prenups alleging the couple will seek counseling and meditation to keep the family intact and prevent divorce.

Only about 1% of people choose to get married this way but if you are in this group, the grounds for divorce are different from a non-covenant marriage.

Non-covenant marriages are just like the ones we’ve come to know. Some would call these marriages typical. 

Grounds for Divorce Under Arizona Divorce Laws

Those who chose to enter into a covenant marriage, divorce is a bit more complicated and difficult. You may have to go through mediation and counseling before a divorce will be granted. Remember that a covenant marriage does not allow for no-fault divorce.

As such, the only grounds for divorce in a covenant marriage under Arizona divorce laws are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Felony committed by one spouse for which they are sentenced to death or imprisonment
  3. Abandonment for at least one year
  4. Physical or sexual abuse of the other spouse, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the home or acts of domestic violence or emotional abuse
  5. The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years
  6. Habitual abuse of drugs or alcohol
  7. Or for the other 99% of you who chose a non-covenant marriage, you may file for divorce based upon irretrievable breakdown of the marriage

Waiting Period

You must wait 60 days from the day the divorce was filed before the court will grant the final dissolution of marriage decree. It’s a long time to wait, but anyone who has been through a divorce can tell you the process may take longer than this.

Residency Requirements

Under Arizona divorce laws, either you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days before you may file for dissolution of marriage.

Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties

An action for dissolution of marriage is filed in the state’s Superior Court. Said action is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The finished product is called a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. The spouse who files the action is called the Petitioner and the other spouse is called the Respondent.

Legal Separation

A Decree of Legal Separation may be granted for a non-covenant marriage upon a finding that either party was a resident of the State of Arizona at the time the action was commenced and that either or both of the parties desire to live separate and apart or that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

A Decree of Legal Separation may be granted for a covenant marriage based upon the following grounds (which are almost identical to the grounds for dissolution of marriage):

  • Adultery
  • Felony committed by a spouse for which they are sentenced to death or imprisonment
  • Abandonment of one spouse for at least one year in which the spouse refuses to return
  • Physical or sexual abuse of the other spouse, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the home or acts of domestic violence or emotional abuse
  • The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years
  • Habitual intemperance or ill treatment of the other spouse of such a nature as to render their living together intolerable
  • Or habitual abuse of drugs or alcohol

Mediation

Arizona divorce laws permit the either party to opt for mediation prior to the filing of an action for annulment, dissolution, or legal separation for the purpose of preserving the marriage or as an attempt to reach a settlement between the spouses as a way to avoid unnecessary litigation.

Alimony/Spousal Support

Alimony may be granted to either spouse, according to Arizona divorce laws upon a finding by the court that the party seeking alimony:

  1. Lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs
  2. Is unable to support himself/herself through appropriate employment or lacks earning ability in the market adequate to support himself/herself
  3. Is the caretaker of a child whose age or condition is such that it would be unreasonable to seek outside employment
  4. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse;
  5. Had a marriage of long duration or is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining adequate employment

Alimony may be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital fault, after consideration of the following factors:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age, employment history, earning capacity, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking alimony
  • The ability of the paying spouse to meet his/her own needs while meeting the needs of the spouse seeking alimony
  • The comparative financial resources of each spouse
  • The contribution of the spouse seeking alimony to the earning capacity of the other spouse
  • The extent to which the spouse seeking alimony has reduced his/her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse
  • The ability of each spouse to contribute to the educational needs of any children of the marriage after dissolution
  • The time necessary for the spouse seeking alimony to acquire sufficient education or training to enable that spouse to find appropriate employment
  • Any excessive or abnormal expenditures, or the destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community property

Distribution of Property

Probably one of the most difficult parts of a divorce – especially if you’ve been together for many years – is the division of property. One good thing about the Arizona divorce laws is that they let you keep whatever property you brought with you into the marriage.

The bad news is the courts will then divide the rest of the property according to what they believe to be fair and just, without regard to marital fault.

Of course, there is always the option of trying to sort things out with your spouse beforehand, through mediation, as mentioned above.

Child Support

As is the case with alimony, child support is also a decision made by the courts and the court may decide for either or both parents of a child to pay an amount reasonable and necessary to support any minor child of the marriage, without regard to marital fault.

Arizona divorce laws establish child support guidelines, which set the presumptive correct amount of support owed. Any deviation from the guidelines must include a written finding by the court that the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust.

Factors the courts will consider in deviating from the guidelines include:

  • Financial resources and needs of the child
  • Financial resources and needs of the custodial parent
  • Financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent
  • Standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved
  • Physical and emotional condition of the child, and the child’s educational needs
  • Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community property
  • Duration of visitation and related expenses.
  • The parent or parents responsible for paying child support must also provide medical insurance for the child and are responsible for any non-covered medical expenses

Child Custody

If you cannot come to an agreement with your spouse regarding child custody, the decision will be left to the courts. The court may order sole or joint custody without regard to the sex of the parties.

In determining the best interests of the child, the court will consider all relevant factors, including:

  • Wishes of the child and the child’s parents
  • Interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child’s parents, siblings and any other person with a significant relationship with the child
  • Child’s adjustment to home, school and community
  • Mental and physical health of all individuals concerned
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent
  • Which parent is or was the primary caregiver of the child
  • Any other relevant factors

Visitation Rights of Grandparents

A child’s grandparents or great-grandparents may be awarded visitation rights with the child upon a finding that such visitation would be in the best interests of the child and any of the following are true:

  • The parents have been divorced for at least three months
  • A parent of the child has been deceased or missing for at least three months; or
  • The child was born out of wedlock

Name Change

A request to restore to a former or maiden name may be made prior to the signing of the decree for dissolution of marriage and will be granted by the court upon the dissolution.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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