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Arizona Divorce and Family Law Q & A
Q: How long does a typical Arizona divorce take?
A: In Arizona family law, an uncontested divorce, one in which the parties agree on all aspects of the divorce, usually takes about 90 to 120 days. Arizona has a 60-day waiting period following the filing and service of the initial dissolution documents. After the 60 days, the court, either pursuant to a hearing or upon submission, must sign the final dissolution documents. This is the reason for the additional time. If the dissolution is contested, it usually takes substantially longer, typically between six and eighteen months; however, some divorces take years.
Q: If one spouse moves to another state with the children, which state has the authority to rule on custody and visitation issues?
A: This is a common issue in divorce cases. Once a divorce has been filed and served, a court order called a Preliminary Injunction goes into effect. Among other things, this Injunction states that neither party may remove the children from Arizona without permission. However, if the children are removed prior to the divorce being filed, a number of factors come into play. Usually the strongest factor is the length of time that the children have resided in each place. Each situation is different, however.
Q: If the divorce isn't going to be final for months or more, are there any rules until then?
A: Yes. First, many rules go into effect via the Preliminary Injunction, as described above. This Preliminary Injunction is part of every properly filed divorce action in Arizona. Second, many parties to a divorce want more specific rules in place until the divorce becomes final. These case-specific rules are handed down by the court after one or both parties request temporary orders. A request for temporary orders may require a brief court hearing if the parties cannot agree. These temporary orders may address such issues as child support, custody, parental access, spousal maintenance (alimony), payment of debts, use of the marital residence and other issues. The temporary orders are only valid until the court finalizes the divorce.
Q: Can a parent move with the common children to another state after the divorce is final?
A: Under Arizona family law, it is possible that a parent with sole custody or one who is designated the primary physical custodian may be permitted to move from the state, as long as the reasons for moving are ones designated as proper according to divorce law. Some of these reasons include employment-related changes of the parent or the parent's new spouse, as well as health and safety considerations.
Q: May a parent with sole custody deny the other parent access to the child's school and medical records?
A: No, unless the court has issued its Order denying the access. In fact, under Arizona divorce law, an entity who does not comply with a parent's reasonable request for records must reimburse the requesting parent for court costs and attorney fees that parent incurs in forcing compliance with this family law. In other words, a non-custodial parent may request a child's records directly from a school or medical facility, as long as the request is done reasonably, and the records must be provided.
Q: Can't I just use a paralegal?
A: If your divorce is complex, contested or involves children, we don't recommend it. And we don't consider it a good idea to let a paralegal file the initial documents and then retain an divorce attorney later. It's preferable to let an attorney guide your divorce from the beginning. Of course, independent paralegal firms might disagree with our opinion.
Q: Any chance that my spouse will have to pay for my attorney's fees and court costs?
A: Yes. Under Arizona divorce law, the court may grant a party's request for attorney's fees after considering two factors: (1) the parties' financial resources, and (2) the reasonableness of the positions each party has taken throughout the proceedings. This means that a wealthy spouse may end up paying for a less well to do spouse's attorney fees. Likewise, a party who has been unreasonable has probably delayed the final resolution of the case, caused the other party to incur unnecessary fees and wasted the court's time. The court may use one party's unreasonable position, therefore, to justify an award of attorney's fees. There are no guarantees that a particular judge will award fees and costs, as this is a discretionary decision.
Q: Does Arizona recognize common law marriages?
A: No, although it may recognize a common law marriage from another state.
Wilcox & Wilcox, P.C. and its principles, agents or representatives, make no guarantees or representations as to the accuracy or currency of any information herein contained. Providing this brochure does not establish an attorney-client relationship. To create such relationship, both the attorney and potential client must sign a written fee agreement. This information is meant only as general information, may not apply to your case specifically and is not meant to be relied upon for purposes of taking legal action. You should contact an attorney in person for further and specific information. Our family law attorneys are licensed in Arizona only.
Prior to filing, either spouse may ask the court to order mediation in order to either save the marriage or to obtain an amicable settlement and avoid further litigation. After filing, either spouse may request that the proceedings be transferred to the Conciliation Court for mediation. If one spouse denies that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court my delay the case for up to 60 days and order the spouses to attend a conciliation conference.
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