Following a lengthy process of fighting for equal rights, same-sex marriage was legally recognized in Arizona on October 17, 2014. In 2015, a ruling by the Supreme Court made such marriages legal throughout the country. As a consequence, judges are bound to recognize and grant lesbian and gay divorce.
Same-sex divorce in Arizona is regulated by family law and Arizona Revised Statutes. Generally, the procedure is the same for both heterosexual and gay couples. In some cases, couples may even apply for an online divorce in Arizona, providing that they comply with specific requirements.
Among the peculiarities, which distinguish Arizona from other states, is a notion of covenant marriage. In a covenant marriage, the parties agree to obtain pre-marital counseling and accept more limited grounds for later seeking a divorce. Because this type of union has more strict rules, the marriage dissolution process can be more difficult. As for common-law marriage, it is not recognized in Arizona.
Same-sex divorce online
In order to file for same-sex divorce in Arizona, the couple has to submit a package of documents with the Superior Court. The marriage dissolution decree can only be obtained by a resident of the state. Therefore, if you are married to a same-sex partner, you can get a divorce in Arizona if either you or your spouse complies with the residency requirements.
Same-sex divorce paperwork in Arizona varies depending on each case. Typically, it is an attorney’s task to prepare it, but their services can be very costly. Fortunately, for spouses with an uncontested divorce, a so-called “do-it-yourself divorce” is a popular and easy way to prepare the documents without a lawyer.
For couples that do not want to deal with the hassle of divorce paperwork on their own, there is a quick and inexpensive option. Divorce over the internet is an affordable way to have your divorce papers prepared. For example, the service arizonaonlinedivorce.com offers its clients ready-made printable documents at $139. An additional benefit of online services is their guarantee of the court’s acceptance of the papers, since all forms used by online sites are updated continuously to keep up with state and county standards.
Same-sex divorce papers in Arizona
Before initiating the divorce process, same-sex spouses should study the local rules on how to file same-sex divorce in Arizona.
As a rule, one of the spouses has to submit a petition for marriage dissolution with the court. Other same-sex divorce forms in Arizona depend on each given situation.
The preparation of such documentation with the help of a lawyer can cost you a considerable amount of money. Fortunately, you can compile everything by yourself and, thus, reduce the expenses. Same-sex divorce papers in Arizona are mostly the same as for a heterosexual marriage dissolution. You can also obtain the information about documents for your specific case in the county clerk’s office.
Valid grounds for same-sex divorce in Arizona
Spouses can get a same-sex divorce in Arizona relatively simply since it is a no-fault marriage dissolution state. To dissolve a same-sex marriage and file for divorce in Arizona, spouses must both state under oath or in the petition that their marriage is “irretrievably broken” (according to Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-316). At the same time, Arizona law allows a spouse who is filing for divorce to provide the court with fault-based grounds, such as adultery or physical abuse ( Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-903).
Custody of the Child
In Arizona, every decision concerning custody is made in the best interest of a child. The judge considers all important factors related to physical and emotional well-being ( Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-403):
Relationship between the child and parents, siblings, and other individuals who influence the child’s life.
The health of all parties.
The child’s adjustment to social institutions, home, or school.
If either parent was charged with child abuse or domestic violence.
The wishes of a child if he or she is of a suitable age.
The court usually awards joint legal custody so that both parents have equal rights in the life of their child. There is also a notion of physical custody, which concerns the location where a child will live.
Following the family law, the judge also has the right to send both parents to a parenting class. Such a measure helps spouses to better understand and support their child during and after their marriage dissolution.
In the process of marriage dissolution, the court may order either of the parents to support their children financially. The amount of support is determined following the guidelines established by the Supreme Court. Relevant factors that a judge considers in his decision are as follows ( Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-320):
- The financial needs and resources of a child, custodian, and non-custodial parent.
- The standard of living during the marriage.
- The physical and mental condition of a child.
- Educational and healthcare needs of a child.
- Parenting time and connected expenses.
- Dissipation and mismanagement of community property.
Child support continues until the child reaches 18 years of age and graduates from school, or he or she reaches 19 years of age. In the event that a child has a physical or mental disability, the court may prolong the payments.
In Arizona, spousal support (or maintenance) is awarded to one of the parties disregarding the misconduct of the other spouse. In order to receive alimony, a judge must first recognize the need for it. Some financial information may be required from both spouses. Apart from that, at least one of the following conditions must be present:
- Insufficient or unequally distributed property.
- Inability to be employed because of lacking skills or due to age.
- The need to care for a child because of his/her age or condition.
The judge determines the amount of support and its duration, taking into account the following factors:
The standard of living before the marriage dissolution.
The length of marriage.
The age, health, and earning capacity of the spouse requesting support.
Financial resources of both spouses, including their property.
The contribution of the spouse seeking support to the earning ability of the other party.
The time needed for additional education for the requesting spouse to find employment.
Other factors ( Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-319).
Divorce laws in Arizona in regards to property are the same for same-sex unions and heterosexual couples. Arizona is a community property state, which means that all the assets, debts, and financial liabilities acquired during the marriage belong to both spouses. The separate property of each spouse is not subject to division and is usually given back to its owner. According to Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-213, this category comprises the property owned before marriage, property obtained “by gift, devise or descent” during the marriage, and everything acquired after the service of a petition for marriage dissolution.
How is property divided if parties cannot reach an agreement? In this case, the judge will divide assets and debts fairly (typically half in half). However, the court may consider the fact of dissipation of joint financial resources as a reason to compensate for the loss to the affected spouse. In the absence of an amicable agreement, the help of an attorney is usually advisable.
During the dissolution of marriage, as a way of avoiding a court trial, spouses may be referred to mediation to resolve disputes regarding issues such as: child custody, property division, or spousal maintenance. Usually, this process is conducted by a mediator who has been trained to help the couples reach an agreement.
Through the process of mediation, parties can resolve their conflicts effectively and in a confidential setting. An amicable agreement is always a better choice because it saves time and money, and allows the spouses to avoid a divorce trial. However, if the court finds anything in the settlement to be harmful, a judge may decline it.
Filing fees for same-sex divorce in Arizona
You can file for same-sex divorce in Arizona in the county that either you or your spouse is living. Any divorce proceeding begins with filing a petition for dissolution of marriage with the Superior Court and paying a fee. The amount of the filing fee varies by county. For example, it is $294 in Pinal County, $284 in Graham County, and $319 in Coconino. There is an option to apply for the delay of this payment. In this case, a spouse has to submit an application with the Clerk and prove the financial inability to pay.
How long will it take
Divorce for same-sex couples in Arizona is essentially the same for gay and heterosexual cases. According to Arizona Revised Statute § 25-329, there is a waiting period of 60 days after the service of the process to finalize the case. As a rule, after a petition was filed with the court, the copies of all documents are delivered to the other party. If you are married to a same-sex partner, you can get a divorce in Arizona, even if your spouse is out of state.
The decision on how to serve the papers also influences the length of divorce process. Even in the case of fast serving, the respondent spouse still has 20 days to file their response. If there is no contest between spouses regarding critical issues, the time to get a decree is usually less than 120 days. Cases with children are typically more protracted, especially when the couple has not reached an agreement on child custody and support.