What Makes a Divorce Uncontested?
Like other states, Arizona authorizes uncontested divorce. Known as “divorce by consent decree,” it does not require proving either spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. There is no trial or litigation and the court’s only functions are to review the parties’ proposed agreements for fundamental fairness and issue a final decree. Although an uncontested divorce is fast and inexpensive, not all marriages qualify.
For a divorce to be uncontested, the parties must be in accord as to all material issues, including the division of marital assets and debts and the payment of spousal maintenance (alimony). The parties must also be in full agreement as to child custody, parenting time and child support.
Even if all issues are resolved, there are other requirements that must be met. If the couple was married in Arizona, the type of marriage may affect the ability to obtain an uncontested divorce. Arizona has two types of marriages: non-covenant and covenant. A non-covenant marriage can be dissolved by a consent decree. The parties need only agree that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” A covenant marriage, on the other hand, has special licensing requirements and can be dissolved only on fault-based grounds, such as adultery, criminal conduct, abandonment, spousal abuse, domestic violence or abuse of drugs or alcohol.
Arizona also has residency requirements that affect the parties’ ability to file for an uncontested divorce. One or both spouses must reside in Arizona for at least 90 days before filing. In addition, any minor children of the marriage must generally live with the one spouse in Arizona for at least six months prior to filing. Note that there are exceptions to this rule. A qualified Arizona divorce attorney can provide guidance in a specific case.
If the spouses qualify for an uncontested divorce, they can make a joint submission to the court that includes a property settlement agreement, a parenting plan and a proposed consent decree. However, things can still go awry. For example, there may be a chance that one party is hiding assets or is acting in bad faith concerning child custody. If such issues come to light, the parties may be referred to mediation through the court’s Conciliation Services program or through a private mediation provider. If necessary, the court will hold hearings, make factual findings and enter appropriate orders.
Based in Scottsdale, Clark & Schloss is one of Arizona’s most highly regarded family law firms. Our legal team guides each client through all stages of divorce no matter how difficult the circumstances. Feel free to call us at 602-789-3497 or contact us online for a consultation.