In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree to the terms of their divorce. In such cases, many people feel comfortable proceeding without the assistance of counsel. Arizona is a no-fault state for non-covenant marriages. In Arizona, state law requires a 60-day waiting period from the date of service prior to obtaining a final decree despite the circumstances of the parties.
There are two types of uncontested divorces, a default and consent. Both processes begin the same. In fact, every divorce begins with an initial filing; the documents required to be filed with the Court to begin the dissolution process. The initial filing includes a petition and summons, among other required documents. The petition is you telling the Court what you seek in the divorce, including the division of property and debt, spousal maintenance and custody, parenting time and child support—if children are involved. The person who initiates the process is the Petitioner and that person will always remain the Petitioner throughout the case, as well as post decree, if modification or enforcement is required.
Once the initial documents are filed with the Court, the next step is service upon the other party, who is now called the Respondent in all subsequent documents. Service can be accomplished in a variety of ways in Arizona and Service is most commonly performed by a licensed process serverwww.arizonalegaldocs.com. However, you may also have the Respondent sign an Acceptance of Service if he or she is willing, which requires a notarized signature. Service by certified mail is also accepted by the Court as long as the Respondent signs the certified return receipt and it is filed with an affidavit. Additionally, there are alternatives for service, if required, that include publication, which is used as a last resort if the Respondent cannot be located. Once service is complete, a 60-day waiting period begins.
A default decree is obtained when the Respondent does not respond within the time allowed, which is set forth and explained in the summons that was served on the Respondent with the petition. If the Respondent fails to respond within the required time, the next step is for the Petitioner to file an Application and Affidavit of Default. The application notifies the court that the Respondent has not responded to the petition in the time allowed and that the Petitioner wishes to pursue the entry of a default. The application is filed with the Court and a copy is required to be mailed to the Respondent promptly. From the date of filing, the Respondent is allowed an additional 10 business days to respond. If the Respondent still does not respond within this time period, an entry of default will be entered.
The next step depends on the circumstances in your case. If your case does not involve children or spousal maintenance (alimony), you have the option to schedule a default hearing or file a Motion and Affidavit for a Default Decree Without a Hearing. If your case involves children or spousal maintenance, a hearing is required. Both processes require you to submit a default decree.
A consent decree may be obtained when the parties agree to the terms of their final decree. To do this, both parties must pay their filing fees (or have them waived or deferred by the Court.) There are additional requirements when children or spousal maintenance is involved. The parties are required to sign the decree and have their signatures notarized. The consent decree is then submitted to the judge assigned to the case. The judge will sign the decree, schedule a hearing, or send the decree back to the parties if corrections are required. Once signed by the judge, the decree is filed with the Court and copies provided to the parties.
The above article is not intended as legal advice. It is always best to seek legal advice prior to proceeding with any legal process. Additionally, the specific information provided in the article regarding the process of default and consent decrees are specific to Maricopa County, Arizona.
Kellie DiCarlo is the designated principal of Arizona Legal Document Services, L.L.C. with over 25 years of legal training and experience. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 480-516-4968. For more information regarding Arizona Legal Document Services, L.L.C., please visit www.arizonalegaldocs.com.