In the state of Arizona, many divorces can proceed through the legal system efficiently without either party hiring a lawyer. Arizona is what’s known as a no-fault divorce state, so couples do not need to file a specific reason for their divorce. In the eyes of the Arizona court system, an adult simply no longer wishing to be married is sufficient cause for proceeding with a divorce. This process of unilateral divorce has increased the divorce rate in states like Arizona.1
Couples with complex estates may be better served by hiring an AZ lawyer specializing in high asset divorce before heading to divorce court. This will also be true if there are contentious child custody issues that need to be worked out.
However, if your shared property is simple to divide, your marriage has been fairly short, and you and your ex are amicable about making the split work for everyone involved, you may be able to proceed without the extensive services of an attorney. 2 This leaves more assets on the table for you to divide between yourselves to start your new lives. It also creates a more accessible path out of bad marriages for citizens of modest means. 3
Situations where you may want to consider obtaining the services of a lawyer for your divorce include:
- Extensive debt
- Child custody and child support issues
- Large, complex estates with questions about who owns what
- Alimony or child support battles
If none of the above apply to you, it’s a good sign that you and your ex may be candidates for a simple, low-cost DIY divorce. This process can be begun by finding and completing the proper forms.
Alternatives to an Arizona Divorce Lawyer:
- Completing and filing your own paperwork and representing yourselves in court
- Hiring Arizona divorce paralegal services to help you correctly prepare and file forms without the steep costs associated with retaining a divorce attorney
Arizona Divorce Forms
When you decide to proceed with filing your own divorce in Arizona or any other state, the single most important aspect is getting all the paperwork right. You not only need to obtain the correct forms and fill them out properly, but you also need to know how and when to serve them to other parties and file them with the court.
This will often seem daunting to someone with no legal experience, at least when you first begin to research the process. You may even second guess your choice to proceed without legal counsel when you see the list of forms that can be needed for a divorce proceeding.
While it is true that all of the paperwork and supplementary materials necessary to complete a divorce can sometimes be tedious and confusing, and the help of a skilled attorney can indeed be a valuable resource, most couples with simple, uncontested divorce situations are quite capable of filling out the paperwork for themselves.
They will be equally capable of representing themselves in the simple court proceedings that typically ensue in amicable divorces where both parties are on the same page about the end of the marriage, the division of assets, and parental responsibilities.
Retaining the services of a paralegal professional with experience in divorce and family law can also be a cost-effective way to get help with divorce paperwork while still representing yourself in court and not investing in the full cost of retaining a divorce attorney.
Our informative blog will also be an invaluable resource as you move ahead and dig deeper into the process of conducting your own divorce. Your local public library is another excellent resource for self-help materials on preparing and filing a divorce.
Divorce Paperwork: Arizona Courts Are Another Resource
The Maricopa County Superior Court has a self-serve area with basic divorce forms and instructions that can be obtained at no cost. Other Arizona courts may offer similar materials — check with your local court clerk. Basic divorce forms can also be found online. While these materials are free, the filing party (or the plaintiff) will still need to pay any court filing fees or costs related to serving the papers to the defendant (which must be performed in a specific, legally verifiable way).
What to Consider When Filing Your Own Divorce in Arizona
Even fairly simple divorces tend to have their own complexities and considerations to be made. Every marriage and every family are different, after all. Here are some of the potentially tricky situations you may have to consider, some of which may require additional, specialized paperwork.
Minor and Dependent Children
Children are often the innocent victims who feel the brunt of the emotional trauma in a divorce. All divorce proceedings must be approached with the best interest of any involved children in mind. Custody, legal authority over decision-making, the division of parenting time, and child support will all need to be worked out. There are legal standards that must be met, so the court will need to approve any plan agreed upon between you and your ex-spouse.
Spousal Maintenance or Alimony
Spousal maintenance, also called alimony, is a legal instrument by which the party in a divorce with the more significant income remits their ex-spouse a regular payment so that they can maintain their standard of living while rebuilding their lives. If you and your ex-spouse had a simple life with an equal division of assets and have no wish to set up spousal maintenance payments, it will make the divorce faster and simpler to process.
In the State of Arizona and many other states, child support will largely be determined by a court-established formula. The purpose of child support is similar to alimony in that it is meant to be of an adequate amount so that it allows the children of divorced couples to maintain their standard of living after the divorce. When completing paperwork related to child support, it is essential that you fill out all information about your finances and living situation completely and accurately. Any false or misleading information on such documents intended to either make you look like the better parent or make your income appear less than it truly is will subject you to serious liability if disproven in court.
Married couples share bank accounts on a routine basis, but they also often share credit cards, mortgages, and car loans. When a marriage ends with shared debts on the line, the divorcing couple must decide who will take responsibility for them — and if they can’t decide, the courts will. We don’t always think of debtors as a factor in divorce, but they can be major factors and stand to gain or lose a significant amount.4
If the couple owns one or more businesses together, the terms of the divorce will need to establish what happens with these business assets. This will begin with determining the value of the business and what share of the business can rightfully be claimed by each party. Whether the business was established during the course of the marriage or brought into the marriage by one of the parties will also play a major role.
Separate and Commingled Property
Sometimes court intervention is needed to determine what property belongs to which party in a marriage, and what property should be considered community property. 5 The value and ownership of all such property needs to be established if the parties cannot amicably divide such assets among themselves to the court’s satisfaction.
Assets and Financial Instruments
Bank accounts, retirement accounts, and investments all need to be considered just like business interests and real property. The better you and your ex-spouse can do dividing such assets up among yourselves before filing for divorce, the cheaper and faster your divorce will likely be.
If any of the above situations apply to your divorce you may want to enlist the services of a qualified attorney. If, however, you can come up with a plan to amicably work out these issues with your ex, you may be able to continue representing yourself in the divorce case.
Representing Yourself in an Arizona Divorce
If you choose to represent yourself in divorce court in the State of Arizona, you will essentially be treated as though you are an attorney. This means you will be expected to know the area of the law in which you’re practicing — in this case, family law, and divorce specifically. Make sure to read up on every step of the process before you ever serve your ex-spouse the initial divorce papers.
Know exactly what to expect, and make sure you have the following tasks in order.
- Knowing which documents are necessary, and obtaining or drafting them
- Understanding where to file which documents
- Meeting important deadlines for filing documents and responding to notices
- Keeping a court schedule and not missing hearings or appearances
Something as simple as missing a deadline can jeopardize the success of your DIY divorce and even lead to you being limited in your ability to further participate in your case on your own behalf. If you should accidentally fail to appear at a scheduled hearing, the consequences may be similarly dire as the case will likely proceed without you being there to speak for yourself.
Timeline for Initiating a Divorce Without a Lawyer in Arizona
To be able to file for divorce in the State of Arizona, you and/or your spouse need to be a resident of the state for at least 90 days. If you do not meet these criteria, you should look into the divorce laws for the state you previously held residence or wait until you meet the 90-day Arizona criteria before proceeding with your divorce.
In the State of Arizona, the first action to be taken in a divorce case is for one spouse (who henceforth becomes the plaintiff) to file a document called a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” with the court clerk and pay the necessary filing fee. This fee can vary by county or jurisdiction and is routinely in the hundreds of dollars.
At this time, the other spouse (who takes on the role of defendant) must also be served with a copy of the petition, which will include a summons to court. The defendant then has 20 days from the date they were served the papers to file their written response to the court. This window is extended an additional 10 days if the party being served is out of state. In amicable cases where the spouses are working together to get the divorce processed, the formal service process can be waived through a notarized legal instrument called an “Acceptance of Service.”
*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published March 14, 2018 and has been updated July 25, 2022.
- Friedberg, L. (1998). Did unilateral divorce raise divorce rates? Evidence from panel data. American Economic Review, (88) 3, 608-627 Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://www.nber.org/papers/w6398
- Sales, B. D., Beck, C. J., & Haan, R. K. (1992). Is self-representation a reasonable alternative to attorney representation in divorce cases. Louis ULJ, 37, 553. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/stlulj37&div=33&id=&page
- Yegge, R. B. (1994). Divorce Litigants Without Lawyers. Family Law Quarterly, 28(3), 407–419. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25739993
- Ratner, J. R. (2010). Creditor and debtor windfalls from divorce. Est. Plan. & Cmty. Prop. LJ, 3, 211. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/epcplj3&div=16&id=&page
- Patton, M. (2005). Quasi-Community Property in Arizona: Why Just at Divorce and Not Death. Ariz. L. Rev., 47, 167. Retrieved May 30, 2022, from https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/arz47&div=12&id=&page
Jonathan Roeder is one of the founding partners of Reppucci & Roeder. He is an Arizona native who has dedicated his life and career to the service of others. After graduating salutatorian of his high school class, Jonathan attended beautiful and prestigious Pepperdine University, where he majored in Political Science. During his tenure at Pepperdine University, his passion for helping others grew after securing a clinical position with a residential treatment center for juveniles with substance addictions. Post-graduation, Jonathan returned to Arizona and served as a residential manager for mentally and physically disabled homes.