Superior Court >Family Court

Pre Decree: Frequently Asked Questions
What happens in a dissolution or divorce? State laws require that you wait 60 days from the date of service before you can proceed with a divorce. After the 60 days from the date of service passes, the steps necessary in obtaining a divorce will greatly depend on your situation.

A dissolution (divorce) where the parties have been married for a relatively short period of time, have no children, and little property or debt can be less involved. A divorce where the parties have been married for a long period of time, where there are minor children, or where there is a significant amount of property or debt to be divided and the parties are in disagreement may take additional time.

If both parties agree to all issues within the case, the time for processing the case will be less. If the parties are in complete disagreement, the time it takes to get divorced will be prolonged.

return to top

Where can I get more information? It is important to get legal advice from a lawyer. Maricopa County Superior Court Self-Service Center has forms and instructions that you can use. The person filing for the divorce is called the Petitioner. The person responding to the divorce is called the Respondent. The instructions and forms are broken down into 4 different packets.
    • Packet #1 — Introduction and First Court Papers
    • Packet #2 — How to serve the first court papers
    • Packet #3 — How to respond to a divorce, set a default hearing, submit a consent decree or prepare for trial
    • Packet #4 — How to compete the divorce process, including the decree (final papers).
You may also complete required forms online through ezCourtForms. return to top

What is ezCourtForms? ezCourtForms is an Interactive program that will help you complete needed forms. You can use these forms instead of the forms from the Self-Service Center. Information and forms are available at: http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/ezCourtForms/ How do I start the divorce? Completing and Filing the Petition. Part 1: The first step in your case should be to speak with a lawyer to get legal advice. This will help you determine the best course of action for you.

In Arizona, a divorce is called a Dissolution of Marriage. To start your dissolution or divorce, you must complete a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” and file it with the court. When you file the petition for dissolution, you will be given a case number. Your case number will begin with an FC if your case involves children or an FN if your case does not involve children. Always keep this number with you when you call or come to court. “Pre-decree” petitions are those filed before a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, Legal Separation or Annulment, or Judgment of Paternity is entered.

The Petition is an important legal document and should be completed carefully. The Petition should include all the information about what the Petitioner is asking for on all issues in the divorce because the court cannot grant anything that has not been requested properly. With the petition, the petitioner must also complete additional documents that must also be filed with the court. There are numerous documents that are required to be served on the other party: “Family Court Cover Sheet”, “Summons,” “Preliminary Injunction,” “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) With or Without Children,”“Sensitive Data Sheet,”“Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance,” “Parent Information Program Order and Notice,”“Affidavit of Minor Children,”“Notice Regarding Creditors.”

The web sites below provide instructions and forms on how to start the divorce. Make sure you read all of the instructions.

TO START THE DIVORCE PROCESS WHEN NO CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED

TO START THE DIVORCE OF A NON COVENANT MARRIAGE WHEN CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED

return to top

How do I file the divorce papers with the Court? After you have completed the petition and other documents, you will need to file the paperwork with the Clerk of Court at the courthouse. There are rules that you must follow when you file papers with the court. For information on how to file divorce papers with the court go to:
TO FILE THE DIVORCE PAPERS WITH THE COURT

There is fee when you file for divorce. After you have filed your court papers with the Clerk of the Court, you must serve the papers on the other party. “Service” means that you deliver the papers to the other party through a registered process server or a law enforcement officer or by having the other party sign a document to accept service. There are specific rules about how to serve the other party that must be followed.
How do I serve the Respondent with the divorce papers? Part 2 : Service is required because it is the way that you give legal notice to the other party that you have filed court papers. “Service” means that you deliver the papers to the other party through a registered process server or an authorized law enforcement officer (in Maricopa County, the Sheriff's Department) or by having the other party sign a document to accept service.

There are certain rules that you must follow to serve the other party with the divorce papers after you have filed the papers with the court. Make sure you read and follow all of the instructions.
  • Service of the Papers - These files contain general information and/or court forms and instructions about serving court papers on the other party.
There are numerous documents that are required to be served on the other party:
  • “Family Court Cover Sheet”
  • “Summons”
  • “Preliminary Injunction”
  • “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) With or Without Children”
  • “Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance”
  • “Notice Regarding Creditors”
Once you have completed service, you will need to file proof of service with the Clerk of the Court. Proof of service shows that you have given a copy of the divorce petition to the other party. return to top

How long do I need to wait after service? After the papers are served, you must wait a certain number of days before you can file any other papers. The waiting period varies, depending on the type of service and where the other party resides. The waiting period is the time allowed for the Respondent to file a response to the Petition for Dissolution. If the Respondent does not respond within the time allowed, the case may be able to proceed by default.

After a“Petition for Dissolution of Marriage”is filed, the Petitioner must serve the Respondent with a copy of the petition within 120 days. Alternatively, a Respondent may sign an “Acceptance of Service” form. Generally, if the Respondent lives in Arizona, he or she must be personally served by a registered process server or authorized law enforcement officer (in Maricopa County, the Sheriff's Department). You may also serve by means of postal or commercial delivery by which you can obtain and file with the Court a copy of the Respondent's (and no one else's) signature of receipt of the package containing the court papers. If the Respondent lives out-of-state, he or she may be served by means of mail, or commercial delivery, by which you can obtain and file with the Court a copy of the Respondent's (and no one else's) signature of receipt of the package containing the court papers. After service of the petition, the Respondent must file a response within 20 days if he or she lives in Arizona. If the Respondent lives outside of Arizona, he or she would have 30 days to file a response. If service was completed by publication, the waiting time is 60 days after the 1st day service was published.

Click here to go to the Default Time Table

What happens if the Respondent files an answer or response? PART 3: The Respondent can file a reply or response to the petition. There is a fee for filing a response.

A response is a written document filed by the Respondent that gives the Respondent a chance to rely and agree or disagree with the requests made by the Petitioner in the Petition. The Respondent must file the response with the Court within a certain number of days and must make sure the Petitioner receives a copy of the response. See complete instructions and paperwork on how to file a response.
Response with children.
Response without children.

Depending on the Response, you may be required to attend a hearing or conference. If a hearing is set, you will receive a notice from the court. You must come to that hearing or conference.

You may also receive an Order from the court telling you and the other party to attend an Early Resolution Management Conference (ERC). You both must come to that conference. The purpose of the ERC is to determine whether the Petitioner and Respondent agree on any parts of the divorce. If there are agreements, the Family Law Case Manager will assist you in completing paperwork that outlines your agreements. This will expedite the divorce process for you.

What is a default hearing? The Court may grant the requests made in the Petition without the Respondent participating, if no response has been filed. You can set a default hearing if the other party has not filed a written response. A default hearing is scheduled when you want a divorce, other judgment or order of the Court when the opposing side does not respond in writing to your petition or motion. A default hearing cannot be set for at least 61 days after the date the petition (and other documents) were served on the Respondent.

return to top

How can I get a default hearing? no response is filed, you may be able to get divorced by default. See complete instructions and paperwork on how to file for default.

If you want to set a default hearing, you must complete the “Application and Affidavit of Default” and file it with the Clerk of the Court. You must be sure service of the petition was complete, and that the other party did not file a written Response or Answer with the court.

At the time you file the “Application and Affidavit of Default” with the Clerk of the Court, make sure you have two (2) copies of the “Application and Affidavit of Default” date-stamped by the Clerk. You must mail or hand-deliver one copy to the other party the day that you filed the “Application and Affidavit of Default” with the Clerk of the Court. After you have given the other party a copy of the “Application and Affidavit of Default” you must wait 10 court days.

If the other party still does not file a written Response or Answer in 10 court days, you may be able request a default hearing date.

To request a default hearing, call 602-372-3332.

Click here for a set of questions you will be asked before your hearing can be set.

return to top

What should I take with me to the default hearing? If a default hearing is set for you, you must take your final divorce papers with you to your hearing. Your final divorce paper is called a Decree of Dissolution. You will also need other documents listed below. The relief that you asked for in your Petition must be the same as in the Decree. See complete instructions and information on what to take to your default hearing.

Bring to your default hearing: Dissolution/Legal Separation/Annulment

  • Completed Decree of Dissolution, Legal Separation or Order of Annulment and 2 copies
If your case involves children:

  • Parent Information Program Certificate if it has not already been filed
  • Signed Parenting Plan and 2 copies
  • Completed Child Support Worksheet and 2 copies
  • Wage information/pay stubs for both parties, and other financial information such as childcare costs, medical insurance premiums etc.
  • 9 x 12 envelope addressed to the other party with 3 standard current postage stamps
  • Copy of any prior Child Support Orders/Birth certificate for children
What if we agree on everything? If you agree on all the issues, you may submit a Consent Decree. See complete instructions and paperwork for consent decree.

return to top

What is a Consent Decree? The Court enters a consent decree when all parties have agreed on how to resolve everything required for a divorce, legal separation or annulment. You must agree in writing to issues such as division of property and debt, spousal maintenance (if any), Legal Decision Making, visitation, and support (if you have children). All parties must sign the written decree.

The Respondent still must be served with the petition (or the Respondent must sign an Acceptance of Service or Waiver of Service). The signed consent decree and other required paperwork cannot be submitted to the court until at least 64 days have passed after the date the Respondent was served with the divorce papers.

Make sure your documents are completed correctly before presenting them to the court. If they are not completed correctly, the Court will not be able to sign the documents.

How can I get a Consent Decree signed by the court? After you have waited the required time frames, paid the response fee, and attended the Parenting Information Program (if you have children) you can submit a consent decree by mail or you can set a hearing on the Internet at http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/ezCourtForms/, or call 602-372-3332 to schedule a time to come to court and have your paperwork signed during a hearing.

Effective March 1, 2005, you can choose how you want to obtain your final judgment or decree if your case is filed at the Downtown Phoenix Courthouse, Southeast Courthouse, Northeast Courthouse or the Northwest Courthouse.
  • Consent Decree by Mail: If you want a Consent Decree signed without coming to the courthouse, you can mail your paperwork to Family Court Administration, 201 W., Jefferson, 3rd floor, Phoenix Arizona 85003 (Phoenix or Northeast cases) or 14264 W. Tierra Buena Lane, Surprise, Arizona 85374 (Northwest cases). For Mesa cases you can submit your paperwork to Family Court Administration, 222 E. Javelina Drive, Mesa, Arizona 85201 to Suite 1300.

    You can also submit the paperwork at the above address between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The final judgment/decree will be mailed back to you in the envelopes you provide. This process takes approximately one week.
  • Consent Decree on Demand: You can schedule a hearing time to have your consent decree signed* on the Internet at http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/ezCourtForms/, or by calling 602-372-3332. If you call to schedule your hearing before noon, your hearing can be scheduled for as soon as the following day. **
At the time of your hearing, you will report to the Default room on the 3rd floor at 201 W. Jefferson at the Downtown Phoenix Courthouse. You must prepare and bring your documents signed by all parties with you to your hearing. Please note that you may be at the Courthouse for up to 2 hours.

* All paperwork will be reviewed for deficiencies. If deficiencies are found, you may not get your documents signed that day.

** Available Downtown Phoenix only.

You must meet the following requirements:

  • 60 days must have passed since service was completed
  • The response fee must be paid
  • Both parties must have attended the Parent Information Class if your case involves children.
return to top

What documents need to be completed to ask for a Consent Decree? The following paperwork is required to be signed and notarized by all parties when submitting a consent decree:

  • Original Consent Decree of Disolution/final Orders and 2 copies
  • Two self-addressed stamped 9 x 12 envelopes
For cases with children you will also need:
  • Original Parenting Plan and 2 copies
  • Original Child Support Worksheet and 2 copies
  • Original Child Support Order and 2 copies
  • Original Order of Assignment and 2 copies
  • Judgment Data Sheet
  • Original Parent Information Program Certificates or conformed copies
What if we disagree on everything? If you disagree on relief asked for in the Petition you may need to consult with an attorney for advice. You may also want to file a response within the required timeframe.

If after consultation with an attorney and/or attending a Early Resolution Conference you still cannot agree, you may need to ask for a Trial. In cases where a petition/complaint and an answer/response have been filed with the court, you can file a “Motion to Set and Certificate of Readiness”. This tells the court that you want to go forward with the trial and that discovery is completed.

return to top

What is a trial? A trial in your case will decide the issues that you and the other party have not resolved. The primary issues to be resolved in any family court case involving one or more children include a determination of: 1) Legal Decision Making and parenting time rights with respect to any minor child; and 2) An appropriate child support order including provisions for medical insurance, medical costs of all children not covered by insurance, and an allocation of any federal tax exemptions applicable to the minor children; and 3) Whether any party should be awarded any reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in this matter. If your case is one for dissolution or separation of a marriage, the court will also determine: 1) An equitable division of community property; and 2) Responsibility for payment of any community debts.

See complete instructions and paperwork on how to ask for a trial.

How do I prepare for a trial? There are 6 things you must do to prepare for a trial.

1. You must attend the Parent Information Program.
If your case involves one or more minor children natural to or adopted by you and the other party you are required to attend a Parent Information Program in accordance with A.R.S. §25-351. In such event you are directed to complete an approved Parent Information Program and file proof of completion of the program prior to, or at the time of, trial.

To assist you in completing the Parent Information Program requirements, a "Parent Information Program Notice" which details the procedures and requirements of the program, and includes a list of approved parent information classes is available to the parties at the Self-Service Center, or the Domestic Relations filing counter at the court or visit this web site: Parent Information Program (PIP)

2. You must complete Disclosure and Discovery Requirements.
You are required to complete all disclosure requirements required by Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure Rule 49, including an exchange of all relevant information, documents and exhibits you intend to use at trial as required by Rule 49, but no later than 30 days prior to your scheduled trial date.

You are also required to promptly comply with all requests for relevant information in this case made by the opposing party. In this regard, you are directed to sign all necessary consents and releases reasonably required to obtain any relevant documents or records from any person, company or institution possessing any relevant information.

If a party is forced to incur attorney's fees or other costs to obtain documents or records by subpoena or other legal process after reasonable request of the other party to obtain such information in a more efficient or economical manner, the Court will consider a request for payment or reimbursement of such fees and costs at the time of trial.

3. You must complete the Joint Pre-Trial Statement.
You and the opposing party are required to file and provide the assigned judge with a copy of a Joint Pretrial Statement pursuant to the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, Rule 76, no later than 20 days prior to trial.

The Joint Pre-trial Statement shall include the following attachments:
  1. A current Affidavit of Financial Circumstances completed by each party together with a written statement as to whether the parties stipulate that the affidavits of both parties may be considered as testimony by the court as if marked as exhibits and entered into evidence pursuant to In Re Marriage of Kells, 182 Ariz. 480, 897 P.2d 1366 (App. 1995).
  2. A current Parent's Worksheet for Child Support Amount completed by each party pursuant to the Statewide Child Support Guidelines.
  3. If there are disputed Legal Decision Making, access or visitation issues, a specific proposal for Legal Decision Making and visitation.
  4. If the parties have a natural or an adopted minor unemancipated child in common, proof of compliance with the Parent Information Program requirements of A.R.S. §25-351 et seq.
  5. If there are disputed issues regarding division of property, a current and detailed inventory and appraisal of property and assets of the parties, together with a summary proposal by each party as to how the property and assets should be divided. If possible, the court prefers a one-page statement of all property except personal property items valued at less than $500 each.
  6. If there is a disputed issue regarding the payment of attorney's fees by either party, an affidavit of the attorney's fees claimed submitted in accordance with the requirements of Schweiger v. China Doll Restaurant, Inc., 138 Ariz. 183, 673 P.2d 927 (App. 1983).
The failure of counsel or any party to appear at the time of trial, or to timely present the Joint Pretrial Statement in proper form, including each and every attachment required, shall, in the absence of good cause shown, result in the imposition of any and all available sanctions pursuant to the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, Rule 76D, including proceeding to hear this matter by default based upon the evidence presented by the appearing party.

4. You must have your Exhibits.
If either party has more than 5 exhibits to be marked, arrangements shall be made with the Clerk of the Division that will try your case at least 5 days prior to trial to schedule a time to deliver said exhibits to the Clerk. Duplicate exhibits shall not be presented. The parties shall also provide the Court and the adverse party with a separate copy of all exhibits.

The parties shall indicate in the Joint Pretrial Statement which exhibits they have agreed will be admissible at trial as well as any specific objections that will be made to any exhibit if offered at trial which is not agreed to be admitted. Reserving all objections to the time of trial will not be permitted. At the time of trial all exhibits that the parties have agreed will be admitted and all exhibits for which no specific objection is stated in the Joint Pretrial Statement shall be summarily admitted.

5. You must submit your proposed Findings of Fact.
Any party filing a request for findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, Rule 82, shall submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to this Division no later than 30 days prior to trial. Any controverting findings of fact and conclusions of law proposed by the adverse party shall then be submitted no later than 10 days prior to trial.

6. If you notify the Court if you reach a Settlement.
Counsel and the parties are reminded of their obligation to give prompt notice of any settlement to the Court as required by the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, Rule 70.
return to top

Where can I read more information? For more detailed information you can read the Self-Service Guide for Divorce Cases at:

http://supreme.state.az.us/dr/Text/DivorceinAZ.htm

Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time Children are your first priority when making decisions concerning their lives. Research tells us that children of separated or divorced parents do better if both parents stay actively involved in their lives.

Remember: Conflict is not good for your children. The way you and the other parent act may affect them. The more you and the other parent can deal with each other without conflict, the better it will be for your children.

As part of the divorce process, parents or the Judge will decide if major decisions regarding the children’s health, education, religion can be made by both parents or one parent.

In most cases, the children will likely spend time with each parent after the divorce. Arrangements regarding when and how the children will spend time with each parent are referred to as “Parenting-Time.”

What does the Judge consider when determining Legal Decision Making and Parenting Time? Arizona has statutes (rules) A.R.S. 25-403 that have specific factors that the Judge follows when deciding the best interests of the children. There are other factors that may not be written in the statutes, but may be important. These factors include but are not limited to the following: The court shall determine Legal Decision Making, either originally or on petition for modification, in accordance with the best interests of the child. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including:

  1. The wishes of the child's parent or parents as to Legal Decision Making.
  2. The wishes of the child as to the custodian.
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the child's parent or parents, the child's siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest.
  4. The child's adjustment to home, school and community.
  5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
  6. Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and meaningful continuing contact with the other parent.
  7. Whether one parent, both parents or neither parent has provided primary care of the child.
  8. The nature and extent of coercion or duress used by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding Legal Decision Making.
  9. Whether a parent has complied with chapter 3, article 5 of this title.
  10. Whether either parent was convicted of an act of false reporting of child abuse or neglect under section 13-2907.02
return to top

What are the types of Legal Decision Making in Arizona? 25-402. Definitions

  1. "Joint Legal Decision Making" means Joint Legal Decision Making or joint physical Legal Decision Making, or both.
  2. "Joint Legal Decision Making" means the condition under which both parents share Legal Decision Making and neither parent's rights are superior, except with respect to specified decisions as set forth by the court or the parents in the final judgment or order.
  3. "Joint physical custody" means the condition under which the physical residence of the child is shared by the parents in a manner that assures that the child has substantially equal time and contact with both parents.
  4. "Parenting time" means the condition under which a parent has the right to have a child physically placed with the parent and the right and responsibility to make, during that placement, routine daily decisions regarding the child's care consistent with the major decisions made by a person having Legal Decision Making.
  5. "Sole Legal Decision Making" means the condition under which one person has Legal Decision Making.
If we agree on Joint Legal Decision Making what paperwork do we need to complete? You will need a parenting plan, signed by both parents that includes:

  1. Each parent's rights and responsibilities for the personal care of the child and for decisions in areas such as education, health care and religious training.
  2. A schedule of the physical residence of the child, including holidays and school vacations.
  3. A procedure by which proposed changes, disputes and alleged breaches may be mediated or resolved, which may include the use of conciliation services or private counseling.
  4. A procedure for periodic review of the plan's terms by the parents.
  5. A statement that the parties understand that Joint Legal Decision Making does not necessarily mean equal parenting time.
See a sample parenting time plan and instructions.

return to top

How do I determine the best parenting time plan for my child(ren)? Each family situation is unique. Each child is unique. The Arizona Supreme Court developed Model Parenting Time Plans for Parent/Child Access to give parents options and suggestions regarding how to select the appropriate parenting plan. The Model Parenting Time Plans can be found at the web site listed below.

What is the Parenting Information Class (PIP)? Parent Information Program (PIP) is a mandatory class that provides information to divorcing parents, or parents involved in other domestic relations actions, concerning what their children may be experiencing during this emotionally difficult period. There are certain agencies providing the PIP class in person, and an online class.

How can I find out more information regarding Legal Decision Making and parenting-time? The Arizona Supreme Court has more general information about Legal Decision Making and parenting time at this web site: http://www.supreme.state.az.us/dr/pdf/custvis.pdf

I am supposed to take a class on parenting skills. Who do I contact? The Self-Service Center has a list of providers who offer classes on parenting skills. See listing of resources.

return to top

The other parent is mistreating the children. How can I protect them? If you believe the children are in harm contact Child Protective Services at 1-888-SOS-CHILD and your local police department.

You can ask for an Order of Protection that includes the children or request Legal Decision Making and ask for an emergency hearing. If you are married, you cannot ask for Legal Decision Making unless you have a divorce, annulment or legal separation filed with the court. You can contact an attorney for legal advice, or go to the Self-Service Center for emergency paperwork.

What is Supervised Parenting Time? Supervised Parenting Time is when contact between a parent and the children occurs with a third person responsible for observing the parent and children interact and seeking to ensure the safety of those involved. "Monitored Visitation", "Supervised Child Access", and "Supervised Child Contact" are other terms with the same meaning.

What is Supervised Exchange? Supervised Exchanges is when a third person supervises the transfer of the children from one parent to the other. Supervision is limited to the time of exchange or transfer. Supervised Exchange is needed to make sure that the two parents or other individuals exchanging the children do not have direct contact with one another.

How is child support determined in Arizona? The current Arizona Child Support Guidelines follow the Income Shares Model. An income shares model is a model that takes into consideration the income of both parents. The guidelines allow for the children to supported at the same level as when the parents and child(ren) were living together. Each parent contributes his/her proportionate share of the total child support amount.

return to top

How can I learn more about the Arizona Child Support Guidelines? The guidelines are posted on the Arizona Supreme Court web site for you to review. Click here for the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.

How can I estimate how much child support I will pay/receive? ezCourtForms has an interactive child support calculator that will help you estimate child support.

See more information on Child Support Services at the Clerk of the Superior Court-Maricopa County.


It is important to know the value of all community property and debts because the court is required by law make a finding that the division of community property is fair (not necessarily equal).

Is Arizona a Community property state? Arizona is a community property state because of our state law. Community property generally means that spouses equally share ownership of anything purchased, acquired, or paid for during the marriage no matter who uses the property, who paid for the property or what name a title is under.

What are examples of community property and debts? Examples of community property include: real estate, home furnishings, vehicles, bank accounts, investment accounts, credit card debts, student loans, car payments, and some retirement plans. All property or debt that either spouse acquires during the marriage is likely considered community property or debt unless it can be proven that certain property was acquired as a gift or inheritance.

return to top

What laws govern Community property?
Article 2
Property Rights and Contract Powers
Property acquired during marriage as community property; exceptions
Separate property
Management and control
Liability of community property and separate property for community and separate debts
Ownership of property acquired after moving into state
Surrogate parentage contracts; prohibition; Legal Decision Making; definition
Should I list all the marital property and debt in the divorce decree? It is important that you list all the marital property and debt in your divorce decree. If you do not list the property and debt, your final divorce paperwork may not show what property and debt each spouse will receive after divorce.

Does the court offer counseling to help my marriage? Conciliation Counseling is offered by the Superior Court under the authority of Arizona law (ARS§ 25-381) for those spouses who are considering or who are in the process of divorce.

return to top

What is a legal separation? In Arizona, in legal separation the marriage is not ended.  A legal separation usually divides marital property and debts. Community property rights usually terminate in a legal separation case. Legal Decision Making, parenting time and support of children are also usually determined. 

To obtain a legal separation, you will need to tell the court that your marriage is irretrievably broken and/or that one party desires to reside separate and apart from the other. The court cannot grant a legal separation decree if either party objects. If there is an objection, the court can hear the case as a divorce case.

State law: A.R.S. 25-313. provides:

The court shall enter a decree of legal separation if it finds each of the following:

  1. That one of the parties at the time the action was commenced was domiciled in this state or was stationed in this state while a member of the armed services.
  2. The conciliation provisions of section 25-381.09 and the provisions of article 5 of this chapter either do not apply or have been met.
  3. The marriage is irretrievably broken or one or both of the parties desire to live separate and apart or, if the marriage is a covenant marriage, any of the grounds prescribed in section 25-904.
  4. The other party does not object to a decree of legal separation. If the other party objects to a decree of legal separation, on one of the parties meeting the required domicile for dissolution of marriage, the court shall direct that the pleadings be amended to seek a dissolution of the marriage.
  5. To the extent it has jurisdiction to do so, the court has considered, approved or made provisions for Legal Decision Making, the support of any natural or adopted child common to the parties of the marriage entitled to support, the maintenance of either spouse and the disposition of the property.
return to top

How do I file for legal separation? If you want to file for legal separation you should seek the advice of an attorney. You may also obtain needed paperwork from the Self-Service center. Visit the website:

Can a legal separation become a divorce? Yes. A legal separation can be converted to a Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) either before or after the case has become final. If you are the petitioner and the case is not yet final, you can file an amended petition to convert the legal separation to a dissolution under the same came number. If you are the respondent and the case is not yet final, you may indicate in your response that you wish to convert the legal separation into a dissolution case.

If you are the petitioner or the respondent and your legal separation case is final, you can file a petition for a dissolution of marriage using the same case number assigned to the legal separation case. There will be an additional filing fee for the new petition for dissolution of marriage.

return to top

What is Spousal Maintenance? Spousal Maintenance is money paid for support of a spouse. Spousal Maintenance can be agreed on between the parties or ordered or by the Court in a divorce or legal separation. Not every divorce or legal separation involves spousal maintenance.

How do I ask for Spousal Maintenance? If you want the court to consider whether spousal maintenance is appropriate in your case, you need to ask for spousal maintenance in the petition for dissolution if you are the petitioner, or in the response if you are the respondent. You can also ask for spousal maintenance in a petition for legal separation.

Under what circumstances can spousal maintenance be paid? Generally, the parties can agree or the court can order spousal maintenance be paid by one spouse to another. The court will follow the state law when determining if spousal maintenance is appropriate:

A.R.S. 25-319.

A. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation, or a proceeding for maintenance following dissolution of the marriage by a court that lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, the court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse for any of the following reasons if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:

  1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse's reasonable needs.
  2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
  3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.
  4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
return to top

How much will be paid for spousal maintenance and for how long? Generally, an order or agreement for spousal maintenance is for a specific period of time. Spousal maintenance can end when the spouse who receives the support remarries, dies, or when the amount of time for which it is ordered or agreed upon has ended. The state law provides:

ARS 25-319.

B. The maintenance order shall be in an amount and for a period of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and after considering all relevant factors, including:

  1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
  2. The duration of the marriage.
  3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
  4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse's needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
  5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
  6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
  7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse's income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
  8. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
  9. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse's ability to meet that spouse's own needs independently.
  10. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.
  11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
  12. The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
  13. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.
Are Spousal Maintenance payments taxable? It is possible that spousal maintenance may be deductible by the paying spouse and may have to be included as income by the receiving spouse. If you have questions about the tax consequences of a spousal maintenance order you are seeking, you should consult a qualified tax attorney or accountant.

return to top

Can I dismiss my dissolution/divorce case? If you are the Petitioner and service has not been completed, you can submit a Notice of Dismissal. If service has been completed you can file a Motion to Dismiss your divorce. If both of you agree to dismiss your divorce, you can submit a Stipulation to Dismiss your divorce. You can pick up the form from the Self Service Center or you can download the form, complete it, and return it to the Court. You will need to determine which form you will need.
return to top

I just received a Notice of Lack of Service and Intent to Dismiss. What do I do? The notice is informing you that you need to serve the other party. "Service" means that you deliver the papers to the other party through a process server or by having the other party sign a document to accept service. Your action could be dismissed without any further notice any time after if you do not take the steps listed below.
  1. SERVE THE OTHER PARTY WITH THE COURT PAPERS AND FILE THE PROOF OF SERVICE. If you have served the other party, you must be sure that the proof of service has been filed with the Clerk of the Court at the Filing Counter immediately. If you need to obtain the form and instructions to serve the other party, go to one of the Self-Service Centers (see locations) or from the Self-Service Center Web site.
  2. MOTION AND ORDER TO EXTEND TIME FOR SERVICE. You may file a motion to ask the Judge for more time to serve the court papers before the court automatically dismisses your case. The order granting the extension must be SIGNED by the Judge BEFORE the dismissal date indicated on the notice (download form).
  3. VOLUNTARY DISMISSAL OF YOUR CASE. If you want to dismiss your case instead of waiting for the Court to dismiss it, forms and instructions are available at Family Court Administration. You can also download the form and mail it to the Court.

return to top

I received a notice that my case may be dismissed. What do I do? The notice and intent to dismiss is sent to you if more that 120 days has passed from the date the Petition was filed. Your case will be dismissed unless you take steps to prevent the dismissal. If temporary orders have been issued, THESE ORDERS WILL END WITH THE DISMISSAL of your action. If a paternity case has been dismissed and the parties have agreed to paternity and now have temporary orders for support, Legal Decision Making, etc, you may not have a final order of paternity. Temporary orders for support, Legal Decision Making, visitation, etc. will also end.

If you do not want your action dismissed for lack of prosecution, you must do one of the following:

  1. Submit a final decree/order and have it signed by a Judge or Commissioner prior to the dismissal date.
  2. If a response has been filed, file a proper motion to set you case for trial or conference.
  3. If a response has not been filed, a proper default hearing must be scheduled by calling 602-372-3332 or online at http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/ezCourtForms/
  4. If you need more time to complete your case, you must file a motion to as the Judge for additional time (download form). The Judge must sign the Order granting your motion prior to the dismissal date listed on the notice.

return to top

click here for Self-Service Center
click here to view Town Hall Summary Report
click here to view Family Court Announcements
click here to view Family Court Videos