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Filing for a Contested Divorce in Arizona

Filing for a Contested Divorce in ArizonaPhoto from Unsplash

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Going through a divorce can be an emotionally overwhelming and time-consuming process. It can also prove to be equally as financially straining if the spouses cannot come to an agreeable resolution and are required to take their case to trial or extensive mediation. However, for some married couples, divorce is still the best path forward for both parties involved. Nobody gets married expecting it to end this way, but the reality is that divorce is quite common.

If you are thinking about ending your marriage, then it is crucial that you understand how the legal process works, how to properly file for divorce, and the various legal paperwork involved to proceed with your dissolution of marriage.

What Is a Contested Divorce?

In Arizona, a contested divorce is a type of divorce where the spouses involved are not able to come to an agreement on the terms for settling one or more of the financial or parenting-related issues that are critical to formulate the divorce decree. Some terms that are commonly disagreed upon are alimony payments, child support, parenting time, division of marital property, division of marital debt, and similar important elements associated with the dissolution of a marriage. The failure to reach an agreement on just one of these important issues can mean a contested divorce.

When spouses are unable to reach an agreement, then the case may be sent to trial, where the issues at hand will be decided by a family court judge. Because of the need to go to trial, these contested divorces are often far more expensive and can take substantially longer than uncontested divorces, where both spouses are able to reach a complete agreement regarding the terms of the end of the marriage. An alternative is mediation, which can help the couple avoid litigation but still takes time for a settlement to be reached.

Establishing Grounds to Filing for Divorce in Arizona

If you intend to file for divorce in the state of Arizona, you must be able to specify and establish the grounds on which you wish to dissolve your marriage. What this means is that you need to provide official legal justification as to why your marriage is irrevocably broken and should, therefore, be dissolved.

Arizona is a no-fault state, like many others in the US, which means that only one of the involved spouses needs to establish grounds for divorce in order for the court to grant them a divorce. These grounds can be as simple as irreconcilable differences, since neither spouse must prove that wrongdoing by the other necessitated the divorce. However, if you and your spouse have previously entered into a covenant marriage, then different rules will apply to you should either of you wish to file for a divorce.

A covenant marriage is essentially a premarital arrangement where both of the marrying spouses agree that their marriage will last for the rest of their lives. This agreement includes pre-marital counseling prior to their wedding, as well as marital counseling and other necessary steps when they are considering a potential divorce. There are only three states in the US that currently recognize covenant marriages, which are Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana. However, a covenant marriage can still provide legal grounds for divorce, but only in a limited number of scenarios.

Here are the scenarios in which a covenant marriage can legally file for divorce in Arizona:

  • A spouse has committed adultery
  • A spouse has committed a felony or is imprisoned
  • A spouse is habitually abusing alcohol or illegal substances
  • A spouse has committed physical, emotional, or sexual abuse against the other spouse or a child
  • Both spouses have lived separately continuously for at least one year from the time of abandonment or legal separation
  • Both spouses have lived separately continuously for at least two years total without reconciliation
  • Both spouses agree that their marriage has irreconcilable differences and wish for it to end

Once you and your to-be spouse agree to enter into a covenant marriage, the marriage becomes legally official at the time of your wedding. You cannot simply change your mind on that decision at the time of your divorce proceedings and must proceed with a covenant divorce.

Filing For a Contested Divorce in Arizona

In order to properly begin the legal process of divorce in Arizona, you must first file to dissolve your marriage in the county in which you or your spouse currently live.

Depending on the overall circumstances of your marriage, the legal documents that are required to be included with your divorce filing paperwork include the following:

  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage With or Without Children
  • Payment Information Program Order and Notice
  • Affidavit of Minor Children
  • Notice Regarding Creditors
  • Notice of Right to Convert Health Insurance
  • Summons
  • Preliminary Injunction
  • Family Court Cover Sheet
  • Sensitive Data Sheet

This is an essential first step in the divorce process and must be done properly before wishing to proceed any further. To do so, you must submit all required paperwork directly to the county’s Clerk of the Court, which typically includes a filing fee unless doing so would bring you financial hardship. In that case, you can request a fee waiver.

To ensure that your divorce filing and accompanying paperwork is filed accurately, completely, and in a timely manner, it’s highly recommended that you seek legal assistance. At Draft My Legal Docs, LLC, all your essential legal documents are drafted and reviewed by licensed attorneys. Your documents are customized to fit your unique case and available at a fraction of the price of hiring an attorney directly, oftentimes within 72 hours.

For more information about beginning the divorce filing process, check out our divorce guide.

Serving Divorce Paperwork in Arizona

Once your legal divorce paperwork has been properly filed with the county’s Clerk of the Court, your spouse must be provided with notice and informed that you have officially filed for dissolution of your marriage.

Here are some of the common ways that you can legally serve your spouse with divorce paperwork in Arizona:

  • Acceptance of Service – This is typically the most common approach, in which your spouse simply signs the paperwork in the presence of a notary to officially acknowledge that they have received and accepted the divorce paperwork.
  • Service by Mail – You can also send the divorce paperwork by mail to your spouse, but you must receive a signature from them with confirmation that they have received and accepted the papers.
  • Service by Process Server or Sheriff – If your spouse is not willing to sign the divorce papers in the presence of a notary or by mail, then you have the option to pay a professional process server or a registered sheriff to serve the papers to your spouse and ensure that they are received.
  • Service by Publication – This method is usually used as a last resort when your spouse has been unresponsive or unwilling to receive or accept the divorce paperwork, or you are unable to locate them. In this case, you can provide official notification by publishing the divorce papers via public means, such as a newspaper.

Once your spouse has responded to being served the divorce papers accordingly, the divorce proceedings will now be able to move forward. Your spouse will typically have a time period of 20 days to respond to or sign the divorce papers after having received them (30 days if they currently reside out of the state). If they fail to respond within that period of time, then your divorce may be granted by the court by default, which means that you could achieve a divorce on your terms.

Draft My Legal Docs, LLC can help serve your divorce documents to your spouse in compliance with Arizona law, as well as draft and review any other family law paperwork that you need in order to start or modify your divorce paperwork.

Legal Proceedings in Arizona Contested Divorce Cases

When spouses are unable to agree upon the terms of their divorce, whether during negotiation, mediation, or some other method, the contested divorce will then be brought to trial. During this litigation stage, both sides will present their various testimonies and evidence in court before a family court judge in order for an official legal ruling to be made.

Based on the presented evidence and specific circumstances of your case, the family court judge will make final decisions on all unresolved issues of the contested divorce.

Some of the common issues include the following:

  • Alimony or Spousal Support
  • Parenting Time
  • Child Support
  • Division of Marital Property and other Marital Assets
  • Division of Marital Debt

During the presentation of evidence and testimonies in court, the legal representation of either party will often use the following elements in order to strengthen their case:

  • Financial records of either spouse to provide transparency of income and verification of marital assets
  • Character witnesses testifying on a spouse’s character and overall credibility
  • Mental health experts, such as psychiatrists and psychologists, to testify on either spouse’s mental stability
  • Arguments of alleged misconduct, such as infidelities or substance abuse, during the course of the marriage

Divorce cases are known to be a lengthy, complex, and emotional process, especially given the argumentative nature of contested divorces.
Draft My Legal Docs provides 24/7 support, and our licensed attorneys are able to draft and review most documents within 72 hours. This can provide divorcing spouses with peace of mind that their legal paperwork can be handled in an efficient manner.

Contested Divorce FAQs


How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in AZ?In Arizona, a contested divorce can typically be anywhere from six months to two years in length, depending on how long it takes to resolve the particular disputes between the two parties. On average, most contested divorces in Arizona end up taking between about eight to twelve months. This time frame generally begins with the initial filing for divorce.
How Much Does a Contested Divorce Cost in Arizona?On average, a contested divorce costs between about $15,000-$20,000 in Arizona but can ultimately range anywhere from $5,000-$30,000 depending on the various complexities of the divorce. By contrast, an uncontested divorce is typically much cheaper by avoiding trial and is usually closer to $5,000 in cost, while a divorce mediator generally costs around $7,500, depending on the complexities of the divorce and the rates for attorney and court fees. You can avoid much of this expense by hiring a legal document drafting service to complete your documentation for you.
What Is the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Arizona?A contested divorce is defined as a divorce when the two spousal parties cannot come to agreeable terms in the dissolution of marriage without the help of an attorney. An uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses reach a complete settlement agreement regarding the terms of the dissolution of marriage. Uncontested divorces are generally preferred because they require far less time and money by settling outside of the courts and not going to trial.
Can You Fight a Divorce in Arizona?Yes, you are able to fight a divorce decision in Arizona by appealing a divorce judgment. Either spouse involved is able to appeal a divorce judgment; however, the appeal can only be concerned with the way that a judge applied the law in their family court ruling or mistakes during the trial. Appeals are not based on whether or not the outcome was favorable to the appealing spouse.

A Document Drafting Service Can Be an Affordable Solution


Divorce can be an incredibly difficult ordeal for anyone to navigate. Naturally, it is already an extremely personal and emotional process, and the official paperwork and various legal proceedings can add an inconvenient and rather unnecessarily time-consuming workload to your already full plate. Balancing these personal, legal, and financial responsibilities while maintaining your current professional duties can feel quite burdensome for any person, especially if children are involved.

Draft My Legal Docs is here to help you draft and review all the legal documents you need at each stage of the divorce process, whether you’re looking to file for divorce or modify already existing documents. Open 24/7, we offer customizable and affordable solutions that focus on efficiency while providing you with the peace of mind that all of your necessary legal documents are drafted and reviewed by licensed attorneys. Divorce is hard enough; so let us help make the paperwork easy for you.

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