Guide to Prenuptial Agreements in Arizona

The Beginner’s Guide to Prenuptial Agreements in Arizona

Creating a prenuptial agreement in Arizona can save you. Think of it this way: setting yourself (and your spouse) up for your future is a much more vital component to preparing for marriage than picking out the perfect cake and venue. Having a prenuptial agreement in place can help protect both parties in the event of an unexpected divorce.

How Does Arizona Define a Prenuptial Agreement?

While you’ve probably heard the word prenup or prenuptial before, it’s important to understand precisely what a prenuptial agreement is. Keep in mind that a prenup may also be referred to by other names, such as  a premarital agreement. As the terms imply, these types of agreements must be made before marriage.

In the state of Arizona, a prenup is a contract created by a couple before marriage in which they settle issues about their assets in the event of a future divorce. While it may not be the most romantic part of any wedding planning, it’s essential for those with complex assets and property holdings, as well as those who want to protect their future livelihood. In general, the goal of a prenuptial agreement is to declare which assets should be assigned to whom before the marriage so that there are no issues or misunderstandings should the marriage later dissolve.

What Can Be Included in a Prenuptial Agreement?

What Can Be Included in a Prenuptial Agreement?

Many types of assets can be addressed by a prenuptial agreement.

Some of the important asset types that should be included in a prenuptial agreement include:

  • Investments and Bank Accounts — This is the most basic asset type that should be included in any premarital agreement. It’s important for those entering a marriage contract to seek premarital financial counseling to determine the ideal distribution of financial assets should the marriage end.
  • Furniture and Household Items — Any valuable, tangible property that either spouse will bring into the marriage or purchase during the marriage should be addressed in a prenup.
  • Businesses and Professional Practices — Businesses owned by either spouse or the couple can be protected with a prenup. Generally, businesses owned by a single spouse before the marriage are considered separate property, while co-owned businesses must be divided during divorce; however, creating a prenup enables you to set future expectations for your business should the marriage end.
  • Alimony or Spousal Maintenance — Prenups can address whether either spouse should or should not receive spousal maintenance if the marriage ends. However, spouses cannot designate a specific dollar amount of spousal maintenance in a prenup.
  • Vehicles – While prenuptial agreements often neglect to include vehicles, couples can decide whether to protect vehicles with a prenup.
  • Debts — It is incredibly important to organize debt before marriage. Should one member die or become incapable of decision-making, it’s entirely possible that debt collectors could try to seize the remaining spouse’s assets to pay the debt. With a prenuptial agreement, both parties can shield assets from the debts of the other partner.
  • Personal Property — This category can include a number of asset types, including collectibles like sports memorabilia, artwork, collections, antiques, or musical instruments. Creating a prenuptial agreement can help ensure that personal property remains yours in the event of a divorce.
  • Miscellaneous Provisions — A prenuptial agreement can include other provisions, as well. These typically involve attorney’s fees in the event of a disagreement, asserting that nothing other than what has been agreed upon in the prenup has been promised and relinquishing any such assertions made against the other spouse.

Why Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

There are a great many reasons a couple should obtain a prenuptial agreement. Distinguishing community property and separate property is incredibly important during Arizona’s divorce proceedings because it helps determine how assets are distributed to the spouses. A prenuptial agreement can clarify these decisions and help protect assets from division or redistribution during the divorce. Prenups also help determine who has control over any assets within the marriage.

A prenuptial is often essential for determining whether spousal maintenance will be awarded to one spouse if a divorce occurs. It can also affect how spousal maintenance will be distributed after a divorce. Prenups may help determine how life insurance benefits will be distributed in the event of the death of either spouse and consider any wills, legal arrangements, or trusts that exist when either party enters the marriage.

Finally, not only does a prenuptial agreement protect both parties and their existing property in the event of a divorce, but it also helps reduce the impact of an expensive and drawn-out divorce by making several important decisions well in advance. Divorces can become costly very quickly, especially if they require lengthy litigation. Creating a prenuptial agreement can minimize the length of divorce proceedings.

Who Should Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

Prenup statistics say it’s getting more common. While it may seem like drafting a prenuptial agreement is the same as expressing doubt that the marriage will last, it is simply a proactive step protecting both spouses if the marriage ends.

Anyone can benefit from a prenuptial agreement, but if you fit one of these categories, creating a prenuptial may be even more beneficial:

  • Either you or your spouse has substantial or complex assets
  • Either you or your spouse expects to receive a substantial inheritance
  • Either you or your spouse owns or co-owns a business
  • Either you or your spouse has children from a prior relationship
  • Either spouse holds significant debt
  • One spouse has far more assets than the other
  • One spouse is much older than the other
  • One spouse is unable to work whether due to age, physical or mental condition, or retirement status
  • One spouse is funding the education or career training of the other

How to Implement a Prenuptial Agreement in Arizona

Implement a Prenuptial Agreement in Arizona

In order to create a valid prenuptial agreement in the state of Arizona, it’s important to understand some key Arizona requirements.

Here are the most critical aspects to consider:

  • A prenuptial agreement should be signed well in advance. Ideally, the spouses will create and sign the agreement well before the wedding day. It will not become valid until the marriage occurs.
  • The agreement must exist in writing. A valid prenup cannot be a verbal or handshake agreement.
  • The agreement must reflect reasonable community and personal property disclosures and treat both parties fairly under Arizona law. In other words, it should benefit both parties.
  • Both parties must sign the agreement voluntarily and have it witnessed by a notary public.
  • The agreement cannot adjust marital rights within the contract. Decisions like child support and custody made within a premarital agreement can invalidate the agreement.

To create a legally valid Arizona premarital agreement, begin with an Arizona prenuptial agreement form. A legal form enables you and your spouse to move forward with creating a prenuptial agreement without individual representation from your respective attorneys while still ensuring the above requirements have been met.

Can Prenuptial Agreements Be Modified?

While you may create many drafts of your prenuptial agreement as you discuss its terms with your spouse and/or your legal representation, once the agreement has been signed and notarized, it is a legally binding document that will be upheld by the courts unless it is declared invalid at a later date. Therefore, changing its terms after it has been signed would be considered a breach of contract.

Before you sign your agreement, you can prevent a breach of contract by adding a provision to allow changes in the future, should conditions or circumstances change. Once you and your spouse have signed the agreement and marriage occurs, it is too late to add this provision. At this point, instead of altering an existing prenuptial agreement, you must create an entirely new postnuptial agreement with the new terms. Postnuptials must meet the same validation requirements as prenuptials.

Prenuptial Agreement Mistakes

While creating a prenuptial agreement can be simple, DIY prenuptial agreements are discouraged. This is because many people make mistakes while drafting, signing, or finalizing the agreement, and prenuptial agreements that do not adhere to Arizona guidelines will not be upheld by the court. In addition, many other people make the mistake of relinquishing their ability to protect their property while creating the prenuptial agreement, which can mean the agreement is more beneficial to their partner.

Common mistakes while creating a prenuptial agreement include:

  • Signing the prenuptial agreement under duress. When one spouse feels forced into signing a prenuptial agreement (or the other spouse demands compliance during the signing), the agreement is not valid. The parties should agree on the terms well in advance and sign voluntarily.
  • Creating an unfair prenuptial agreement. When one spouse’s benefits from a premarital agreement so grossly outweigh the other’s that the agreement is considered unconscionable, an Arizona court will likely invalidate the agreement.
  • Misrepresenting spousal assets and debts. If one spouse hides or misrepresents their assets and debts, the prenuptial agreement can be neither fair nor reasonable and will likely be invalidated.
  • Creating a prenuptial agreement that addresses child support or custody. Prenuptial agreements cannot deny, modify, or pre-plan child support and child custody rights or obligations. A judge is not likely to enforce this provision.
  • Drafting a spousal maintenance provision that makes the spouse eligible for state assistance. While prenuptial agreements can either waive or adjust spousal maintenance, a judge will not approve an agreement that waives spousal maintenance and shifts the responsibility for spousal support to the state.
  • Signing a prenuptial agreement while intoxicated or incompetent. If you or your spouse signs the agreement while using drugs or alcohol or while determined mentally incompetent, a judge will not uphold its contents.
  • Using only one spouse’s attorney to create the agreement. If you elect to use an attorney to create a prenuptial agreement for you, both spouses must procure their own attorneys to ensure fairness. Otherwise, one spouse holds a clear power advantage over the other.

Arizona Prenuptial Agreement FAQ

Prenuptial Agreement FAQ

Prenuptial agreements are among the most common legal documents we draft.

Here are some frequently asked questions we receive regarding prenups:
(Click the plus (+) to open the answers)

Q: Why Do People Get Prenuptial Agreements?

A: There are a few different reasons people consider creating prenuptial agreements. Primarily, these agreements protect both parties entering the marriage. They can help both parties understand what assets are being brought into the marriage and help each retain those assets should a divorce occur. Additionally, prenuptial agreements help reduce the time a divorce spends in litigation.

Q: What Are the Benefits of Having a Prenuptial Agreement?

A: Discussing a prenup may seem like a taboo, but the benefits speak for themselves. In the event of a divorce, a prenuptial agreement will prevent disagreements over the distribution of assets and debt. Decisions about property division and more can be made in a way that is cordial and considerate before the bad feelings a divorce can inspire. A prenup can protect not only your business but also any financial interests that you had before the marriage.

Q: Do Both Spouses Need an Attorney for A Prenup?

A: You do not need to hire an AZ attorney to create a prenuptial agreement if you use a professional legal document service. If you do choose to use an attorney, it is incredibly important for both spouses to secure their own attorneys. If both parties do not have legal representation, the party with the attorney has an unfair power advantage over the party with no representation. It’s possible that the courts may reject a prenup created by one spouse’s attorney.

Q: How Do You Ensure That Each Party Is Aware of Assets and Debts?

A: A prenuptial agreement is the best way for both parties to be aware of the other’s debts and assets before getting married. Because financial disclosures made in a prenuptial agreement must be fair and reasonable, the financial standing of both parties must be revealed. In this way, prenups work to protect both parties.

Q: What Terms Should Be Present in a Prenuptial Agreement?

A: Prenuptial agreements outline a variety of financial and physical assets that the parties will retain after a divorce, should one occur. Some of these assets include furniture or household goods, debts, investments, life insurance policies, potential bonuses or raises that parties may achieve in their employment, collectibles, vehicles, and more. This is not a complete list, but it is meant to demonstrate that a large variety of assets may be included in a prenuptial agreement.

Q: How Much Does It Cost to Get a Prenuptial Agreement in Arizona?

A: Drafting a prenuptial agreement can cost a great deal of money, depending on the route that the parties decide upon. Working directly with one attorney for each spouse will certainly be costly. However, you can access affordable prenuptial agreement services, so you have a premarital agreement in place at a reduced cost.

Q: Can the Terms of My Prenuptial Agreement Be Changed?

A: The terms of a prenuptial agreement must be outlined before the marriage date, then signed and notarized once the marriage is final. Once the prenuptial has been signed by both parties and notarized, the prenuptial cannot be amended without a signed provision from both parties. Provisions should be added to any prenuptial to allow for changes after a marriage has taken place. In most cases, a postnuptial agreement is necessary after the marriage takes place.

Q: What Happens If I Divorce Without a Prenuptial Agreement?

A: A prenuptial agreement helps protect both parties so that they can retain any assets they bring into a marriage. Without a prenuptial agreement, any financial and physical holdings will be subject to the equitable division of assets under Arizona state law. In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, the parties risk losing access to certain properties they would have protected with a prenuptial agreement. Divorce can also become incredibly costly due to drawn-out litigation without a prenuptial agreement.

Begin Drafting a Prenuptial Agreement

Drafting a Prenuptial Agreement

While the assistance of an attorney can be extremely helpful, you may have enough understanding of your assets and knowledge about the division process to begin drafting a prenuptial agreement. Legal document services can help save you the time, stress, and money necessary to draft a prenuptial agreement with a team of attorneys. Better yet, you’ll still have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your prenuptial agreement is being handled by professionals.

Our licensed attorneys personally draft and approve all legal documents, allowing you to secure the know-how of an attorney without the expense of a law firm. If you’d like more information about our affordable AZ prenup document services or assistance with any other legal document, contact us.

Postnuptial Agreements in Arizona

Understanding Postnuptial Agreements in Arizona

Postnuptial agreements in Arizona, like prenuptial agreements, exist to protect both parties in the event of a later divorce. Before many Arizona couples get married, they sign a prenuptial agreement to protect themselves—and one another—financially in the event of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement protects the individual assets each had before they married and can establish certain terms should a divorce occur. However, not every couple establishes a prenuptial agreement and may gain assets after marriage that were not subject to the premarital agreement.

However, creating a postnuptial agreement without the help of an attorney can be challenging. Making sure that the agreement is fair to both parties involved is the primary objective, so the agreement will be upheld in court should a divorce occur.

What Are Postnuptial Agreements?

A postnuptial agreement is a legal contract between a married couple that outlines how their assets will be divided in the event of a divorce. Like a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement identifies the assets each party owns and outlines their division should divorce occur in the future. However, while postnuptial agreements cover much of the same ground as prenuptial or antenuptial agreements, the latter is signed before the marriage ceremony takes place. Postnuptial agreements can be signed at any time after the marriage takes place.

A postnuptial agreement can cover financial matters, such as property division and spousal support, in the event of a divorce. It can also be used to establish ground rules in terms of finances for the marriage.

There are many reasons couples may choose to enter into a postnuptial agreement. For example, one spouse may have acquired significantly more assets than the other after the couple married. Another common reason for a postnuptial agreement is that one spouse receives an inheritance after the couple is married, and they wish to protect these assets in the event of a divorce. Additionally, couples who have been married for several years may decide to sign a postnuptial agreement to avoid potential disagreements about asset division should there be problems in the future.

It is important to note that postnuptial agreements are not just for wealthy couples. All marriages are eligible for a postnuptial agreement, and any couple may choose to create one if they so desire. While these forms of legal documents are straightforward enough, it is recommended that couples seek legal counsel before drafting a postnuptial agreement, as there are certain legal requirements that must be met for the agreement to be valid. Having an attorney also protects both parties from taking advantage of the other with an agreement that is cleverly written to appear fair enough to hold up in court but turns out to be one-sided.

How Can You Create a Postnuptial Agreement in Arizona?

Postnuptial Agreements in Arizona
There are a few things you should keep in mind when planning a postnuptial agreement to ensure it is fair for both parties.
  • Both parties should have legal representation. A neutral council or separate attorneys can ensure both you and your spouse understand the agreement and that neither side is being taken advantage of.
  • Discuss your goals first. Establish the intended goal of the agreement with your spouse, and then create terms that result in that primary goal.
  • Be clear about what you want the agreement to cover. The agreement should clearly and directly outline the assets protected in the event of a divorce. It should address both parties’ assets before and after the marriage as well as any potential income earned in the future over the indefinite time of the marriage.
  • The agreement must be enforceable. In other words, if one party is unable to uphold the terms of the agreement, it covers topics not allowed by the Arizona court, or it is unreasonable and unfair, the court will refuse to enforce it.
  • The agreement must be in writing and must be willingly signed by both parties, then notarized by a notary public.
An experienced attorney can help you navigate each of the considerations listed above so you can formulate a valid postnuptial agreement.

Preparing for a Postnuptial Agreement

The preliminary phases of postnuptial planning are the most tedious but also the most important. You and your spouse should use this time to decide which asset types you want to cover in the agreement. You will also need to gather all relevant financial information. This includes things like bank account statements, investment accounts, and property ownership documents. Once you have this information, you can begin to draft the agreement with the help of your attorney.

It is important to remember that fairness is relative. What may seem fair to one spouse may seem unfair to the other, especially if one spouse retains individual assets that give them financial advantages over the other.

There may be some disagreement among couples during this stage, so to ensure a healthy and productive discussion, consider these general principles that can help guide you in creating an agreement that is fair for both parties involved.

  • All assets and debts should be disclosed upfront. This way, each person knows every detail of the proposed agreement, and there are no surprises down the road.
  • Any assets acquired during the marriage should be divided equitably between the two spouses.
  • Any provisions regarding spousal maintenance should be reasonable and based on each spouse’s individual circumstances.
Take the time to consider these factors and craft an agreement that is fair for both parties involved. Many couples seek the help of an attorney to facilitate the discussion of postnuptial agreement terms, and it is perfectly normal to do so.

Postnuptial Agreements and Arizona’s Community Property Statute

It is especially important to request attorney assistance with creating your postnuptial agreement because Arizona is a community property state. This means that any asset purchased, acquired, or earned during a marriage, regardless of who paid for it, who uses it, or whose name is on the title, is considered marital property. All marital property is divided equitably during the property division stage of a divorce.

Thus, in attempting to divide assets prematurely in the event of a potential future divorce, care should be taken to write an agreement that will be deemed fair in the court’s eyes. If all goes well, in the event of a divorce, your contract will be upheld by the court. You and your spouse will achieve a fair distribution of assets without the need for extensive litigation.

What Happens if a Postnuptial Agreement Is Not Followed?

If a postnuptial agreement is not followed by either party after divorce or separation occurs, the court may not enforce the agreement. Because a postnuptial agreement is created after the marriage occurs, they are often more difficult to enforce. Postnuptial address assets that at this point may have become marital assets, as well as separate assets. As a result, depending on how much time has passed since the agreement was signed, circumstances may have changed significantly.

If either party disagrees with the postnuptial agreement by the time the marriage ends and disputes the agreement during divorce, the court must determine whether its terms are valid and whether to enforce the agreement. In many circumstances, the court may choose to enforce some portions of a prenuptial agreement but not others. If one party does not adhere to a postnuptial agreement, the court’s decision to uphold or invalidate the agreement will depend on whether circumstances have changed since it was created, whether the agreement was unfair, or whether the person simply wishes to renege on the contract.

Is There an Arizona Postnuptial Agreement Statute?

While Arizona does not have any written statutes regarding postnuptial law, Arizona courts do recognize these agreements as valid by virtue of precedent cases. Furthermore, postnuptial agreements are written in the hopes that the agreement made will enable the couple to settle the terms of their divorce outside of court. This means many postnuptial agreements never have to see a judge or face a court ruling.

Both prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements enable the couple to make decisions now rather than in the future when divorce looms. A solid postnuptial agreement signed now can help you achieve an uncontested divorce later, regardless of the lack of an Arizona statute dictating the terms of its enforcement. An uncontested divorce is cheaper, easier, faster, less stressful, and less hurtful than a divorce with drawn-out litigation.

What Should You Avoid Including in a Postnuptial Agreement?

There are many things that will negate the legitimacy of a postnuptial agreement. For this reason, you should employ the aid of an attorney while drafting your agreement, so you can avoid making mistakes like the ones listed below.

A postnuptial agreement should not include statements governing the following conditions:

  • Waivers of child support
  • Custody terms, visitation terms, specific schedules, or any parenting time arrangements that prevent one parent from seeking custody or maintaining a relationship with children from the marriage
  • Immoral, illegal, or unconscionable acts by either party
  • Prevention of domestic abuse victims from pursuing legal assistance and help
  • Acts of public policy violation performed by either party
  • Penalization of either party for filing for divorce or separation
  • Spousal maintenance waivers that put one spouse below the threshold for state assistance
If any of the above terms are included in a postnuptial agreement, the court can refuse to uphold the agreement. In some cases, the court may choose to enforce only certain parts of the agreement. For example, if the agreement was fair and equitable at the time it was made, but one spouse has since become financially disadvantaged, the court may only enforce the provisions regarding property division.

How Can Postnuptial Agreements Benefit You?

Postnuptial Agreements in Arizona
Postnuptial agreements are created because, if done well, they are beneficial to both spouses involved. Benefits include the following.

Postnuptial Agreements Reduce the Time and Expense Spent in Court

When couples divorce without a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, they often battle over property division in court, which can be a costly and time-consuming process. Creating a postnuptial agreement can help you avoid costly court battles by predetermining financial matters like property division before the divorce occurs, reducing the need for lengthy litigation.

A Postnuptial Agreement Can Strengthen the Financial Foundation of a Marriage

Writing a postnuptial agreement during a marriage forces both spouses to sit down and discuss their finances and what would, should, or could happen in the event of a divorce. In most cases, these discussions produce valid solutions to potential mishaps, and the resulting postnuptial agreement puts them in writing. When both spouses are on the same page about financial matters, they tend to carry that perspective with them throughout the marriage, even if divorce never occurs.

Postnuptial Agreements Can Build Trust in a Marriage

Creating a postnuptial agreement is a process that, as mentioned above, requires openness and honesty. During this process, couples will learn valuable insights about one another, whether they end up divorcing or not. In fact, having a postnuptial agreement can benefit a marriage by virtue of the fact that the outcome of one of the most contentious issues in marriage—finances—is already predetermined. By answering these questions in advance, they lose the power to come between two people in marriage. In addition, seeing the consequences of divorce in advance oftentimes dulls its appeal.

How Can Children Be Affected by Postnuptial Agreements?

Family matters like child custody and child support cannot be determined in a postnuptial agreement. These must be determined in Arizona family court at the time of divorce. However, postnuptial agreements can still affect children in multiple ways. For this reason, if children are involved, it is extremely important to consider their well-being when drafting a postnuptial agreement.

First, the division of property should not leave children without necessary resources like food, clothing, and other resources. Therefore, although your postnuptial agreement should not directly delineate child support, take care to make sure your agreement does not deprive them of adequate financial support. Drafting a fair and equitable postnuptial agreement can help you ensure your children are properly cared for regardless of the parenting time allotted to each parent.

In addition, if one spouse has children from another marriage, a postnuptial agreement can help to protect assets and inheritances belonging to their parent. In this way, postnuptial agreements can preserve existing children’s rights to inherit these assets if their parent should pass away during the marriage.

It is important to note that even if the court does not enforce your postnuptial agreement, it can still be used as evidence in divorce proceedings. Even though the postnuptial agreement will not necessarily define family matters, it could be useful in determining them. In other words, if there are any disputed issues in family court, such as custody or child support, the court may consider the terms of the agreement when making its decision. While this doesn’t mean the agreement is enforced, it could still be useful where children are concerned.

Drafting a Postnuptial Agreement?

Postnuptial Agreements in Arizona
A postnuptial agreement can be a useful tool in any marriage, even if you do not anticipate your marriage ending in divorce. However, before you and your spouse draft and sign a postnuptial agreement, you should consult with an attorney to ensure that it is valid and enforceable by Arizona Family Court.
How Is Paternity Established in Arizona?

Establishment of Paternity in AZ

If you are a father who has recently had a child in Arizona, it is essential you understand the legalities of paternity in Arizona to ensure you are extended the legal rights you deserve. By contrast, if you have been told you are a father in Arizona, it is critical to ensure this is the case, as you are expected to fulfill a number of legal obligations in the state. Similarly, if you are a mother, you must often establish paternity in Arizona so the state can ensure your child’s father fulfills his obligations.

Arizona so the state can ensure your child’s father fulfills his obligations. Since paternity cases often require some rather complex documentation, it is essential to ensure you are as prepared as possible for what awaits you. While many people choose to hire an attorney with experience in Arizona Family Law, representation can be expensive. Understanding the process of paternity establishment and securing professional paternity documents from Draft My Legal Docs can help you successfully complete your own paternity case in Arizona.

What Is Paternity in AZ?

In the state of Arizona, establishing paternity is the legal process to determine and name the biological father of a child. While most biological fathers are assumed solely due to their relationship with the child’s mother, it can be incredibly important in other cases to establish paternity legally. For example, if a couple is unmarried, establishing paternity is an important first step in claiming parental rights for the child in question.

Without the establishment of paternity in Arizona, the father has no claim on parental rights, and the mother of the child has the power to withhold visitation if she wishes.

What Are the Benefits of Establishing Paternity?

Establishing paternity can have major benefits in the state of Arizona for both the child’s parents. Without the establishment of paternity, the parental rights afforded to both legal parents are forfeit. That typically means that no visitation or physical custody can be enforced, both components of what Arizona calls “parenting time.”

If there is no legal paternity established, the father also has no part in decisions about the child’s upbringing, including decisions about education and the child’s health. The father is not afforded access to healthcare records or allowed to participate in decisions regarding how healthcare should be handled, including mental health. These are all components of legal custody, or what Arizona calls “legal decision-making” rights.

Additionally, without the establishment of paternity, a child may not have access to any health insurance or life insurance benefits, father-linked social security or government programs, or father-linked survivor’s benefits. Without establishing paternity, the state also may not be able to assess child support payments.

How Is Paternity Established in Arizona?

How Is Paternity Established in Arizona

Establishing paternity can happen in three different ways—presumptive paternity, voluntary acknowledgment, and adjudication.

Presumptive Paternity

Presumptive paternity simply means that a particular man is presumed to be the father.

In the state of Arizona, this can be the case for four distinct reasons:

  1. The father was married to the mother, or the child was born within ten months surrounding a marriage, even if it ended in divorce, annulment, or death
  2. The couple is unmarried, but the birth certificate is signed by both
  3. The couple is unmarried, but both voluntarily sign a document to acknowledge the paternity
  4. A DNA test conducted during pregnancy has previously asserted that the probability of paternity is at least 95%

Voluntarily Acknowledged Paternity

In this situation, none of the above documentation was in place during the pregnancy or at the time of the child’s birth, but both parents acknowledged the child’s paternity soon thereafter. This means that both voluntarily sign a formal acknowledgment of the paternity document, which must then be either notarized or witnessed to become valid. This form must be filed with the courts, as well as the DES (Department of Economic Security) and the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services). Such a form can also be used to negate the presumptive paternity of the married party if the mother is married, but the father of the child is not the mother’s husband.

Adjudicated Paternity

This option is utilized when the court has ordered an establishment of paternity in Arizona. This is otherwise known as a paternity lawsuit. A default judgment can be ordered if the presumed father either fails to respond or fails to file the appropriate paperwork in a timely manner. After the court’s judgment, child support will likely be ordered retroactively. Presumed fathers can also rebut the presumed paternity by filing a legal request with the court.

How Much Time Does a Parent Have to Establish Paternity?

It’s important to understand that there is a timeframe in place for establishing paternity as it pertains to child support. It can be filed or claimed either before or after the birth of the child. However, in order for the state to assess current or retroactive child support payments, paternity must be established before the child turns 18 years of age. Other than child support, other kinds of benefits like survivor’s benefits or life insurance benefits may have their own requirements for establishing paternity.

Mothers, however, have one year after the birth of the child to establish paternity via a paternity suit. However, if other factors are in place, as they often are in paternity and child support cases, this statute of limitations may be extended.

What Do You Need to Establish Paternity in Arizona?

In order to establish paternity without presumed paternity or a written acknowledgment of paternity, information about the putative father must be provided.

For example, for a mother to begin establishing paternity, she’ll likely need the following information:

  • Name, social security number, date of birth, and address of the father
  • Address and name of either a recent or current employer of the father
  • Names of friends, family members, or any organizations that the father has or does belong to
  • A photograph or a detailed physical description of the father
  • Written letters or other kinds of statements in which the father has alleged or suggested that he may be the father

Whether you are a father requesting parenting time, visitation, or legal decision-making rights or a mother requesting adjudication of paternity for child support purposes, you must ensure that:

  • The child has resided in Arizona for six months (or since birth)
  • You (or the assumed father) are an Arizona resident, you agree to have the case heard in Arizona, you lived with the child in the state, you provided funds for the child’s birth, or you informally acknowledged potential paternity in the state
  • You file a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity with DCSS, or
  • You file a petition to establish paternity with Arizona Family Court

How Does the Court Conduct a Paternity Hearing?

After either parent files a petition to establish paternity, the court will hold a hearing meant primarily to give the parties an opportunity to agree on the paternity of the child. If such an agreement occurs, legal paternity is established, and the process ends. If either party does not appear or there is no agreement, the court will schedule an evidentiary hearing.

At the evidentiary hearing, the putative father, the mother, and the child must submit DNA samples, typically obtained before the hearing via a cheek swab. Again, if the father fails to respond to the request for DNA or fails to appear, he may be subject to a default judgment and the assumption that he is, in fact, the father. DNA will establish with 95-99% certainty whether or not the man is the father of the child.

What Are the Next Steps After Paternity is Established?

After paternity is established, a child custody hearing can take place to resolve both child support and child custody matters. At this point, the father may be granted parenting time by the courts and thus be able to participate in decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. However, until paternity is established, custody cannot be enforced.

In other words, in many cases, paternity must be established for the father to participate in the child’s life and pay child support. After paternity is established, the parents can create a parenting plan that can be approved by the court. Without an establishment of paternity, child support, parenting time, and decision-making rights are informal only and cannot be enforced by the court.

Informal Parenting Agreement Vs. Court Ordered Parenting

An informal agreement between two parents can work in the short term. However, it can get complicated quickly and is not typically suitable for long-term arrangements. When there is a conflict, a court cannot enforce the terms of an informal parenting plan.

For example, a father can be at the mercy of the mother in terms of visitation and decisions regarding the child’s upbringing without a court-ordered agreement in place. It may also be the case that the father refuses to honor the informal agreement and won’t return the child to the mother after his parenting time is over. One parent may even be able to leave the state without permission from the other parent without a legally established custody or parenting time agreement.

With a court-ordered parenting agreement, a parenting plan can be stable over the long term and enforced by the court. This kind of arrangement benefits both mother and father, but it especially benefits the child. With a court-ordered parenting agreement, time and expectations are established, so all know what to expect.

Arizona Paternity FAQ

Arizona Paternity FAQ

Q: Who Can Establish Paternity in Arizona?

A: The mother, father, guardian, and even a conservator may file a petition with the courts in Arizona to establish paternity. Additionally, the state or a public welfare agency may also file a petition to establish paternity. This petition can be filed before the child is even born, but it may also be filed after the birth of the child

Q: How Can Paternity Be Challenged in Arizona?

A: In the state of Arizona, it’s possible for not only the mother or father to contest the acknowledgment of paternity but also the child. However, it’s important to note that the grounds for challenging paternity are limited to duress, fraud, or a mistake of material fact. The person who is contesting must also provide proof there are grounds for such a case.

Q: What Are the Consequences of Establishing Paternity?

A: While establishing paternity isn’t necessarily a negative situation as the term consequence may imply, one major concern could be child support payments. However, if a mother wishes to establish paternity to gain access to child support benefits, she will likely also have to relinquish not only time with the child but also some legal control over the various aspects of the child’s upbringing. Potential consequences can differ depending on the unique circumstances involved.

Q: How Does Establishing Paternity Affect the Child?

A: Establishing paternity can affect the child in a number of ways. By establishing paternity, a child may gain access to benefits that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to claim. Additionally, knowing who their father is affords the child access to medical family history or a better understanding of any potential health concerns. Establishing paternity allows the child to build and benefit from a relationship with their father and helps them learn more about themselves through the bond with their second parent.

Beginning the Arizona Paternity Process

Begin the Paternity Process

Paternity cases can be exceedingly difficult for everyone involved, but they can also help to answer many questions and provide essential rights and benefits for parents and children alike. Fortunately, establishing paternity can be achieved without hiring a specialized attorney. Draft My Legal Docs is here to help you with the forms to establish paternity in Arizona.

All our documents are drafted and approved by licensed attorneys, and we work to save you time and money by providing the accurate documentation you need for your paternity case. Contact us today to get started.

Essential AZ Family Law Documents at Draft My Legal Docs

Arizona Divorce Guide and FAQs

Since the turn of the millennium, there has been a steady decrease in divorce cases in Arizona. However, there has been an almost equal decrease in marriages. The unfortunate conclusion we can draw from these two statistics is that divorce frequently occurs here in AZ. Of course, divorce has become just another part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier for those affected. In fact, divorce is hard, especially as you’re navigating through the Arizona court system.

If you are thinking about filing for divorce, you will need Arizona family law documents drafted by an attorney. The choices you make now will directly impact the outcome of your divorce, the well-being of any children, and your future in general. Thus, it is imperative that you have all you need in order before filing, and that includes the documents necessary to carry out your divorce in AZ.

Without them, things can get complicated—you may even delay your proceedings or be unsuccessful in elements of your case like child custody and visitation, property division, spousal maintenance, and more.

Arizona Divorce FAQ

Knowledge is by far the most important asset you can gain immediately before embarking on the divorce process. Understanding and knowing the laws in Arizona and your rights in an Arizona divorce are key components to surviving the process with as few issues as possible. Below, we’ve compiled the answers to all the most frequently asked questions about divorce in Arizona.

How Is Divorce Defined in Arizona?

Legally, a divorce is a legal termination of the marriage contract. In Arizona, it gives both parties the right to set up plans for the custody of any children, the payment of necessary child support, the division of assets and debts, and the establishment of spousal maintenance (alimony). A divorce also affords both parties the right to marry someone else.

What Should Someone Considering Divorce in Arizona Do First?

Divorce can be stressful and emotional. First, you must prepare yourself for the emotions that are to come. Then, make a commitment to put any children you may have first and consider how your words and actions affect them. Next, gather all the financial records and legal documents you have before you file.

As you move on in the divorce process, be sure to make informed decisions, not emotional ones. Try looking at the situation as a business transaction instead of an emotional end to a relationship. In the same vein, maintaining a formal or business-style line of communication will prevent text or social media warfare, where you might put something in writing your partner can use as ammunition. This type of communication can be used in court and may decrease your credibility in front of the judge.

What Are the Requirements to Get a Divorce in Arizona?

One of the parties must have resided in Arizona for 90 days. If one party is a member of the US Armed Forces and is thus residing in Arizona, the residence must be maintained for at least 90 days before either party can file for divorce in Arizona. After the divorce is underway, both parties do not need to stay in the state unless children are involved—the other spouse and the court must approve moving children out of the state before the divorce is finalized.

What Documents Does the Plaintiff Need to File for Divorce in Arizona?

  • Application and Affidavit for Default
  • Proof of Service
  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
  • For parents of minor children, use the Dissolution of Marriage with Children form.
  • Legal parenting decision-making and custodial time request
  • Proof of completion of the Parent Information Program

Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Divorce in AZ?

No. In fact, you can use this website to draft legal documents necessary to file for divorce. Parties representing themselves in court do so “pro se” or “in propria persona.” Assuming there is no issue of domestic violence, there is nothing stopping you and your partner from working together to come to an agreement on the divorce’s terms. If you cannot resolve a dispute, it will then be necessary for the court to intervene and decide for you. In either case, a judge will approve the plan and finalize the ruling.

What Do You Need To Know About Divorce in Arizona?

Arizona is a “no-fault” state when it comes to divorce. “No-fault” laws state that neither party needs to be held at fault for the failure of the marriage for the divorce to be approved by a judge. The reason behind the divorce request is not an issue of the court. One party must simply state that he or she wants to divorce and file the necessary petition to dissolve the marriage.

Arizona does not allow bifurcated divorce. A bifurcated divorce means a judge can sign off on the divorce while allowing issues such as child support and custody, property division, and alimony to be decided later. In Arizona, a judge must ensure that any divorce decree fairly addresses the division of community assets and debts, child custody and support, and spousal maintenance before signing off on the divorce.

A jury is not present when an Arizona divorce goes to trial. If a party disagrees with the final decision set forth by the AZ family court, they may appeal in a timely fashion.

What Is a Spouse Entitled to in a Divorce in Arizona?

What Is Spouse Entitled to in a Divorce in Arizona


Since Arizona is a community property state, marital assets will be divided equally between spouses. Non-marital property, including those brought into the marriage by one spouse, property received as a gift from another person, and inherited property is not subject to division. While a precise 50/50 division is not always possible, the court will divide the property as equitably as possible, given any premarital agreements or decisions made in mediation.

What Is the Best Tool for Handling an AZ Divorce on Your Own?

Understanding divorce is the best way to effectively handle a divorce on your own. It is vital to know and understand your and your spouse’s rights and the protections in place for minor children within Arizona law. Assistance from Draft My Legal Documents can offer education as well as tools to ensure you have the correct legal documents in place.

How Do You Initiate Divorce in Arizona?

Initiation of a divorce begins when one spouse files a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” with the Superior Court clerk and pays the required filing fee. The court must then serve the other spouse a copy of the petition and summons. He or she then has 20 days from the service date to respond by filing a written response (the court allows 30 days for out-of-state service).

What Is Service of Process?

Proper service of process is essential to divorce proceedings in Arizona. If papers are not served to one of the parties properly, the court order is considered unenforceable and invalid. The plaintiff in the case is entitled to an appropriate window of time to obtain legal representation.

There are four means by which the service of process is considered acceptable:

  1. Service by Acceptance—Completing the Acceptance of Service form serves as proof of service.
  2. Service by US Mail or National Courier—When papers are served, the defendant signs for them. An affidavit of service with signature confirmation serves as proof of service.
  3. Service by Private Process Server or County Sheriff—The opposing party receives the papers via a private process server or a sheriff personally. The server or sheriff then files an Affidavit of Service as proof of service. If the other party is out of state, an Affidavit Supporting Out-of-State Service serves as proof of service.
  4. Service by Publication—If other methods of service are unsuccessful, legal notice of service by publication will suffice. A court will accept an advertisement published in a newspaper of general circulation announcing the petition. An Affidavit Supporting Publication serves as proof and gets filed after the notice has been published.

What Is a Petition to Divorce?

A petition for divorce must be filed under oath, as it makes certain statements about both parties and the marriage.

  • Personal info about both parties
  • Location and date of marriage
  • Confirmation that no significant domestic violence has occurred
  • Confirmation that the marriage is irretrievably broken
  • One of the parties has lived in Arizona for a minimum of 90 days
  • Personal details of all minor children involved, including unborn children
  • Both parties have come to an agreement on a parenting plan arrangement
  • Assets, debts, community property, and separate property and division of
  • Marital debts and division of
  • Income tax and division of
  • Request for Spousal maintenance, aka alimony
  • Written agreements, if any
  • Child support order, if any
  • Attendance of parenting class
  • Name change request

Can a Name Change Request Be Granted After the Petition Is Filed? [H3] Yes, the requestor must file an “Application for Change of Name for an Adult” as a separate civil action. In most cases, the change can be made as part of the divorce decree. Only name changes reverting to the maiden name are valid as part of the dissolution of marriage.

What Happens After a Divorce Petition Is Filed?

The Superior Court of Arizona must try every family case of divorce in AZ. The expediency of this phase of the process depends on court schedules, contested/uncontested status, mediation, if any, an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), the ability of both parties to come to an agreement, and more.

What Is a Preliminary Injunction?

A preliminary injunction goes into effect automatically as soon as Arizona divorce proceedings commence (upon service of the Petition and supporting documents onto the opposing party). This injunction is a court order that limits the activities of the involved parties while their divorce is pending. Unless one of the spouses consents in writing or the judge grants permission, neither spouse can take unilateral action against the marital estate.

Examples of prohibited actions include the following:

  • Neither spouse is allowed to hide earnings or community property from the other.
  • Neither spouse is allowed to take out a loan on a property that is considered community property.
  • Neither spouse is allowed to sell items that are community assets or give them away without the other’s written consent. The only exception will be if they are doing so to provide for food, shelter, clothing, court fees, or attorney fees associated with the divorce.
  • Neither party shall threaten, physically abuse, or harass the other spouse or involved children.
  • Neither party shall remove involved children from the Court’s jurisdiction without written consent from the other spouse or permission in a court order from the judge.
  • Neither party shall remove the spouse or children from insurance policies, and each party must maintain all insurance coverage throughout the divorce.

How Long Do You Have To Be Separated Before Getting a Divorce in AZ?

Arizona does not require a married couple to legally separate before initiating a divorce. However, there is a 60-day period that must pass between filing and serving papers and the finalization of the divorce decree. Often, depending on the court’s caseload and schedule, this period will last longer than 60 days.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Divorce if Both Parties Agree?

The Arizona Conciliation statute states that for the first 60 days following a petition for divorce, the filer’s spouse may request free marriage counseling and attempt to save the marriage. This statute also requires that a 60-day period must pass between petitioning the divorce and a judge signing off on the divorce decree. An uncontested divorce, or a divorce in which both parties agree on terms, can take anywhere from a minimum of 61 days to 120 days or more, depending on the disputes that must be resolved in court. Contested divorces with numerous disputes, complex financial holdings, and other complications can take even longer (often 6-8 months).

What Is a Contested Divorce?

If an uncontested divorce is one in which neither party “contests” or disagrees with the terms outlined in the petition as filed with Arizona courts, then a contested divorce is one in which one of the parties contests the terms of the filed petition. A contested divorce is a more complicated process and requires a trial before a judge. The judge then determines the fair terms of the various decisions made in the final divorce decree.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Arizona?

Once you have completed your petition, filing the papers with the court requires a fee of $349. Then you must serve your spouse with the papers. Serving the papers to your spouse can be completed via a process server (typically around $100), a police officer, a sheriff’s office, or other services. The server must complete an Affidavit of Service declaring when and where the papers were served. Alternatively, your spouse can sign a notarized Acceptance of Service. With the necessary paperwork, filing fees, and court fees, an unassisted divorce can cost close to $700. By contrast, an uncontested mediation or collaborative divorce will cost closer to $2,500-$8,000 with attorney’s fees. Contested divorces with a final trial on the disputed issues can range anywhere from $10,000 to well over $100,000 (complex cases with significant assets and/or high conflict child custody issues) with attorney’s fees.

How Soon Can Divorcees Remarry After a Divorce Is Finalized?

Arizona does not have a post-divorce decree period that delays remarriage. However, a remarriage automatically voids a spousal maintenance agreement unless otherwise stated in the divorce decree.

What Is a Premarital Agreement or Prenup?

A premarital agreement or prenuptial agreement establishes the rights and responsibilities of both spouses upon getting married. It also delineates those rights and responsibilities should the marriage end in divorce or if one of the parties dies during the marriage. In other words, it typically outlines how assets will be divided in the event of divorce. In Arizona, the couple must finalize any premarital contract before they exchange wedding vows at a civil or religious wedding ceremony.

These types of contracts are legally binding in Arizona. Terms will be honored in Arizona family court if a couple is divorcing and has a prenuptial agreement in place.

Does Arizona Allow Same-Sex Divorce?

When same-sex marriage officially became the law of the land in 2015, so did same-sex divorce. While same-sex divorce should be treated in the same manner as opposite-sex divorce, unfortunately that is not always the case. Unrefined interpretation of newer laws doesn’t always have precedent and is at the discretion of the presiding judge, who may or may not have experience with this type of divorce.

Therefore, it is often recommended for same-sex married couples who wish to divorce to work towards settlement of issues to mitigate the costs and stress associated with going to trial. The factors briefly mentioned in the paragraph above could have detrimental effects on the well-being of both spouses and any involved children. The rulings of the court could potentially be more detrimental to moving forward than if you agree to settle outside of court. Use mediation or collaborative divorce to come to an agreement on as much as possible before proceeding to court. In any divorce case, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, it is less expensive, faster, and easier, in general, to settle outside of court.

Same-sex divorces can be handled easily with our document prep service so long as there are not complex legal issues at hand. However, if you have any difficulty understanding or interpreting the laws or coming to an agreement with your spouse, find an experienced LGBTQ attorney and schedule a consultation. New laws are often difficult to understand and enforce, so be fully informed and aware of your rights before embarking upon a same-sex divorce in Arizona.

What Is a Military Divorce?

A military divorce must deal with the law and circumstances overlaying marriage and divorce when either spouse is a member of the military or is a military retiree. Whenever civil court proceedings involve members of the US Armed Forces, certain state and federal laws are uniquely applied that are not applied to non-military divorce cases.

These laws redefine almost every aspect of family law, from calculating child support to determining the degree of ability to share child custody. In some cases, the laws make divorce proceedings easier for spouses. It is highly recommended that you further explore and educate yourself on laws regarding military divorce if you or your spouse are active or retired from the military. These laws apply specifically to your unique situation and may, in fact, benefit you and your family.

What Is a Separation Agreement in AZ?

A Separation Agreement is a completely uncontested agreement that does not require a trial. Rather, the judge signs off on it without question, so long as it was constructed with the complete agreement of both parties. It serves to delineate financial matters like property division, support, and more while the couple remains legally married.

Can I Get a Divorce for a Common-Law Marriage?

Arizona does not consider a couple to be married just because they live together; and therefore, do not recognize common-law marriages within the state of Arizona. However, the state does grant divorces for common-law marriages recognized in another state.

What Is an Annulment of Marriage in AZ?

A marriage that is annulled is voided as if it never happened in the first place. Both parties are considered to have single status as if they had always been single and never married. For a marriage to qualify for an annulment, a judge must determine certain attributes of the union were in place. Attributes can include:

  • One party did not consent to the marriage or only consented under duress
  • One party was mentally ill and lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage, either permanently or temporarily
  • One or both parties were intoxicated at the time of the marriage
  • One or both parties were underage and lacked parental consent
  • One party remains unable to consummate the marriage
  • The parties are siblings, parent and child, aunt/uncle and niece/nephew, or other close relatives

What Is Legal Separation in Arizona?

A decree of legal separation is an alternative to getting a divorce for many people. For certain personal reasons, a couple may hesitate to file for a divorce decree and may choose to file for a legal separation instead. While a legal separation is sometimes an alternative when religious, financial, or personal factors mean divorce is out of the question, a legal separation can create the same conditions as divorce, including property/debt division, custody/child support, and financial matters. However, parties who are legally separated may not remarry, as the marriage is still legally valid.

How Do I File for Legal Separation in Arizona?

File for Legal Separation in Arizona

To File a Legal Separation Without Minor Children:

Complete the following forms and make two additional copies (three sets):

  • Summons
  • Preliminary Injunctions
  • Petition for Legal Separation Without Minor Children
  • Notice Regarding Creditors

File one set (original paperwork) with the courthouse two hours or more before the location closes. Serve a second set to your spouse. Save the third set for your records.

Note that a judge will not approve a legal separation if one of the parties does not want one.

To File a Legal Separation With Minor Children:

  • Complete the “Family Department Sensitive Data / Cover Sheet”
  • Complete the Child Support Worksheet online (Print 1 copy of the completed worksheet)
  • Make two copies of the following documents:
    • “Summons”
    • “Preliminary Injunctions”
    • “Petition for Legal Separation with Minor Children”
    • “Affidavit of Minor Children”
    • “Order and Notice for the Parent Information Program”
    • “Notice Regarding Creditors”
    • “Parenting Plan”
    • “Child Support Worksheet”

Separate your documents into three sets. File your paperwork with the courthouse at least two hours before closing. Serve your spouse with papers and keep a copy for yourself.

What Is the Caption on Divorce Papers?

All documents relating to an Arizona divorce case include a header and a caption. This caption will appear on all paperwork, such as discovery papers, motions, pleadings, and more, and remains the same throughout the case other than the title of the document (e.g., “Petition,” “Motion,” “Notice of Hearing,” etc.).

Page one of the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage document displays a caption that contains the following information:

  • Contact info for the petitioner and attorney info, if represented
  • Superior Court for the Arizona county of filing
  • Identifies the Petitioner (Plaintiff) and Respondent (Defendant)
  • Case number
  • Atlas number assigned by child support enforcement agency to cases involving minor children
  • Case title: “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) with Children” or “Without Children”

What Is Discovery in Arizona?

Discovery in Arizona can vary depending on the case and the specific facts involved. However, discovery is the process where each party involved in a legal case like divorce exchanges information and evidence with the other side. This process can help both parties better understand the issues in the case and prepare for trial.

Discovery must meet the following four conditions:

  1. The information must be relevant to the case.
  2. Privileged information is not considered discoverable
  3. Parties cannot inundate each other with requests for discovery
  4. Parties cannot use discovery to harass or embarrass the other

Can Posts on Social Media Be Used as Evidence in My AZ Divorce Case?

Yes. You don’t have to stop posting altogether but do keep in mind everything that you post online could be used against you in court. Child custody evaluators will gather social media evidence to validate or undermine your credibility and honesty to establish the potential for responsibility (or irresponsibility) of custody. Keep all mention of your divorce proceedings off social media until it is finalized.

Will I Get in Trouble if I Record My Spouse’s Phone Calls?

Arizona Electronic Communications Statute, ARS 13-3005, allows the recording of telephone conversations if one party consents to the recording. Therefore, you can consent to the recording of your own telephone conversations. Recording a telephone conversation between your spouse and a third party without their knowledge is illegal. However, you must keep in mind that you could violate the privacy laws of another state if you record your telephone call with an out-of-state participant without his or her consent.

Am I Allowed to Listen in on My Spouse’s Phone Conversations to Find Grounds for Divorce?

Eavesdropping is considered a crime, and it occurs when you listen to, amplify, or transmit any part of a private electronic or oral communication without the permission of at least one of the engaged parties. If you knowingly listen to someone else’s phone call with a third party, even if one of the people talking is your husband or wife, you could be charged with criminal activity. It is illegal to eavesdrop on others’ private conversations if you are doing so in a manner that is wrongful, deliberate, and intentional. This type of intentional interference with oral or electronic communications can result in criminal charges, potentially even felony charges, under ARS § 13-3005.

How Can I Protect My Credit Score During a Divorce?

There are a few things you can do to protect your credit score during a divorce.

These include:

  • Keeping up with your payments on any joint accounts
  • Making sure any joint accounts are closed or transferred to one party
  • Making sure any joint accounts are closed or transferred to one party
  • Disputing any negative information on your credit report
  • Keeping track of your credit score so you can catch any changes early on

Is There Any Way to Make My Partner Pay for My Arizona Divorce Attorney?

Divorce Attorney
In some cases, the court has the discretion to order one party to pay all attorney fees. In other cases, the court will award attorney’s fees, such as when the complaint is not written in good faith or is not based on facts or law. Costs are likely to be awarded if the complaint is filed for improper reasons, such as to increase the costs of litigation, to extend/delay the case for some reason, or if the other party’s position is unreasonable. There may also be an order for one party to pay the other’s attorney fees if there is a significant difference in income between the spouses. A good way to save money is to educate yourself about family law relevant to your specific situation.

If the separation agreement contains a written statement that one party will be responsible for fees, relieving the other party of that responsibility. If the judge agrees, they will sign the decree and order the payment of the fees. Again, both parties must agree.

Are Divorce Attorney Fees and Court Fees Tax Deductible?

In 99% of cases, no. You can only deduct expenses that contribute to the collection of gross income. However, we recommend you consult with a tax professional for advice specific to your situation.

What Is a Default Divorce in Arizona?

A default divorce is a common way to dissolve a marriage when time isn’t a concern. These types of divorces often occur in Arizona when couples have no minor children. An “off the record” agreement, in some cases, is enough for two people to settle their differences and part ways. In a default divorce, when both sides agree completely on all family matters, the defendant may simply and consciously not respond to the petition.

In other situations, if one party is unreachable or refuses to participate in the divorce, a default divorce may be the only option. If the papers were properly served to the second party and no plea was filed in response within 60 days, the petitioner then files an Application for an Affidavit for Default, which is followed by a 10-day waiting period.

If you are the petitioner, make sure to create two copies of the application and the affidavit. You must hand deliver or mail one copy to the other party, file one copy with the courts (the original), and keep one copy for your files.

After ten days have passed, the petitioner schedules a default hearing and appears in court. This hearing is a requirement in a default divorce case.

The petitioner submits all pertinent paperwork to the court, including the following documents and forms:

  • Application and Affidavit for Default
  • Proof of Service
  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
  • Legal decision-making and parenting time request
  • Parent Information Program Certificate

The divorce process then continues by mail if the judge grants the motion. When all documents have been submitted, and the review process of the court is complete, the judge orders a default divorce. The final decree is mailed to both parties.

What Is a Collaborative Divorce in AZ?

A collaborative divorce is another means of resolution for dissolving a marriage when there is a dispute between the two parties. It avoids the step of taking the case to trial. The sides agree to resolve their differences by negotiating and do so with the help of various professionals. Professionals may include attorneys, negotiation coaches, financial advisors, and more.

What Is a Partial Agreement Divorce in AZ?

In a partial agreement divorce, the divorce proceeds to court even though the spouses do not agree on all its terms. Because the settlement process is crucial to any divorce, both spouses are expected to try to resolve the issues left between them by negotiating one thing at a time to the best of their ability. Once an issue is settled and agreed upon, it is marked off the agenda for the trial. Anything that is not determined in mediation will be settled in the trial before the judge.

What Is Mediation?

During a divorce, parties may need someone to help them work through their differences to come to an agreement and finalize the divorce. When parties are unable to come to terms with the agreement independently, a court may order alternative dispute resolution (ADR), also known as mediation. Spouses may also choose to work with a mediator voluntarily from the beginning. Through private mediation or the court’s Conciliation Services, a parenting plan is often the first order of business during many mediation arrangements.

What Is an Arizona Covenant Marriage?

A covenant marriage is unlike a standard marriage in that it entails additional formalities and requirements beyond those included in a traditional standard marriage contract. The marriage license indicates the election of a covenant marriage by the couple and initiates marital counseling as a prerequisite to marriage. In congruence with this, it is also more complicated to dissolve a covenant marriage than a typical no-fault divorce. However, an uncontested divorce can still occur if both parties agree to dissolve the covenant marriage.

Get Essential AZ Family Law Documents

You can file for divorce without an attorney and save money on legal fees—but you don’t have to do it alone. Draft My Legal Docs can offer support and guidance throughout the entire divorce process.

Essential AZ Family Law Documents at Draft My Legal Docs

When you’re ready to begin completing the documents necessary for your uncontested divorce, take our questionnaire to determine which documents you need.

3rd Party Adoption

Exercising Third-Party Adoption Rights in AZ

Child custody can be an exceedingly difficult issue to understand. Often, due to the most unfortunate circumstances, a third party may need to seek intervention from the courts regarding custody, visitation, or placement in a home. In some situations, these children are not biologically related to the people they are being placed with. While the person seeking this decision is often a relative of one of the biological parents of the child, a close family friend, or even an ex-stepparent of the child, this can still put a great deal of strain on all parties involved.

Most frequently, Arizona’s third-party adoption or visitation rights are proposed because the biological parent or parents cannot care for the child but may have refused to allow family or loved ones any kind of visitation with the child or children. In this case, the Arizona family court must get involved in determining what is in the best interest of the child and make an official custody ruling and adoption decree.

Third-Party Adoption Rights in Arizona Explained

A third-party adoption happens when the seeking party isn’t a biological parent of the child or children but is instead a relative or close family friend. Third party adoptions stand in contrast to foster-to-adopt or general adoption situations, where the child is adopted by an unfamiliar non-relative. This can happen when either of the parents does not want to maintain custody or is deemed incapable of caring for the child or children.

These two situations tend to occur because of very unfortunate circumstances. Sometimes, parents choose to relinquish their rights, but other times, more aggressive legal action is taken when the parents are determined to remain unfit to care for the child or children.

Reasons this can happen include:

  • Abandonment or desertion
  • Abuse or extreme neglect
  • Ongoing substance abuse
  • Inability to provide for the child or children

These situations can be incredibly dangerous and damaging for the minors involved. Often, the child or children remaining with a family member or friend is a preferred solution to minimize the negative impact on the children. When relatives are capable of petitioning for adoption, the Arizona family court must decide what is in the best interest of the child or children involved.

What Is Considered the Best Interest of the Child?

Best Interest of the Child

Determining the best interests of the child and arranging custody and adoption in accordance with that determination is the primary concern of family courts. As such, it is the determining factor in adoption, custody, and visitation hearings. When it comes to the best interests of the child, the court prioritizes the welfare and safety of the child or children, specifically “all factors that are relevant to the child’s physical and emotional well-being.”

Some of the factors the court considers regarding the child’s best interests include:

  • Any potential relationship that the child may have with the petitioning adult
  • Any relationships or interactions with siblings or other family members that may affect the child after the adoption
  • The child’s current school, home, or community attachments (in the event they need to be relocated)
  • Whether the child is of a reasonable age or maturity level to help in the decision-making process
  • The physical and mental health of all individuals involved
  • Any history of substance use, abuse, or neglect

These are all crucial factors in determining who can be granted third-party visitation, custody, or adoption. It is worth noting that often, parents do not wish to terminate their rights, and it is difficult to award custody or adoption rights to a third party. For this reason, most third-party cases in Arizona involve visitation rights only.

Important Factors for Third-Party Custody in AZ

In addition to the child’s best interests, these factors are considered when a third-party petitions for custody of a child or children.

  • Whether a third party has been acting in loco parentis for the child
  • Whether allowing the child to remain in the care of either parent would be extremely detrimental to their well-being
  • A legal decision was not made within one year prior to the current filing by the petitioner
  • Whether one of the child’s parents is deceased, the parents are unmarried, or divorce filings are pending

What Is in Loco Parentis?

In loco parentis is a Latin term that means “in place of a parent.” In the legal world, it refers specifically to a non-parent who takes on the typical roles and responsibilities of a parent.

Indicators an in loco parentis situation exists include whether:

  • The child has treated that person like a parent.
  • The person has a strong, meaningful relationship with the child.
  • That relationship has been established for a considerable length of time.

An individual acting in loco parentis could be a grandparent, aunt, uncle, stepparent, sibling, or another third party who has stood in as a parent to the child for an extended period. In loco parentis situations frequently happen in Arizona. The courts often hear cases where a party has been acting as a parent for a child, especially with blended families.

The Arizona Third-Party Adoption Process

The Adoption Process

The adoption process can be complex, even for a close friend or family member. It’s also important to recognize that third-party adoption and third-party visitation are quite different things. Visitation allows a third party to have visitation rights with a child they have a documented close relationship with—this typically applies to family members who had previously been kept from seeing the child by one or both parents. However, the parents retain parenting time and legal decision-making authority.

By contrast, a third-party adoption gives all parenting time and legal decision-making authority to someone other than the biological parents of the child. The person will then act in the interest of the child concerning medical care, schooling, religion, and other legal matters. They also take responsibility for the child’s life and must provide care for the child. This is a permanent decision that does not expire.

Third-party adoption takes place in a series of steps.

Placement with the Petitioner

Gaining legal custody or demonstrating dependence of the child is the first step in pursuing a third-party adoption in Arizona. This can be difficult, as it must be proven that the third party stands in loco parentis of the child. The third party must also show proof of the inability of the parents to care for the child and that the child may be being neglected or otherwise harmed. The petitioner and everyone in the petitioner’s home must also complete fingerprinting, submit to a federal criminal history record search, and submit to a DCS record search.

If the above-listed conditions for third-party child custody are met, the child or children can reside with the petitioner. The petitioner is then responsible for parenting and legal decision-making for that child or children. After six months, the petitioner can then petition for third-party adoption.

During this stage, petitioners must submit the following:

  • Adoptive Placement Agreement
  • Application for Adoption
  • DHS Certificate of Adoption, first two portions

Filing Final Petition Documents

For the Arizona family court to finalize the adoption, the petitioner must submit the following documents:

  • Social Study Report (at least ten days prior to the final hearing)
  • Communication Document
  • Current federal criminal history record or fingerprinting document
  • DCS registry records check document (results reviewed within 24 hours of the hearing)
  • Original Consent of Department to Adoption
  • Petition to Adopt
  • DHS Certificate of Adoption in full

Filing a petition for adoption with the courts is the next step necessary for adopting the child, but this must occur after the required six months. However, expedited adoption is possible if the child, the parent, or the petitioner have a debilitating or terminal illness; if the child is 16, free for adoption, and consents to the adoption; or if the court finds that there are other special circumstances.

The petitioner must also show notice of any proceedings and a copy of the petition to the following parties:

  • The legal parents of the child
  • The guardian or guardian ad litem(“GAL”) of the child
  • Any third party with decision-making authority for the child
  • Any agency or person who retains the child’s physical custody
  • Any person who has claims to decision-making authority for the child
  • Any other party who has appeared previously in any actions for the child

If the parents don’t object to any filings, custody rights go much more swiftly. If they do, parental rights must be terminated for the proceedings to continue. Additionally, the court cannot have made a ruling within the past year regarding legal decision-making for the child. Because Arizona doesn’t allow for shared custody between legal parents and third parties, all the requirements to terminate the parental rights must be met before proceeding.

Court Hearing and Finalization

After the Petition to Adopt has been filed, the court will provide written notification of a hearing date. Testimony regarding the biological parents’ fitness to parent (if the parents are contesting the removal of their rights), as well as the fitness of the petitioner, will be heard by the court. Information regarding the child’s best interests and why remaining with the petitioner is in the child’s best interests will be used to make the final decision. If the adoption is approved, the Order of Adoption will be submitted with the date of finalization.

Arizona Third-Party Adoption Rights: FAQs

If you have been considering establishing 3rd party adoption rights in AZ, these frequently asked questions can help you get started with the process.

Do Stepparents Have Any Custody Rights

Q: Do Stepparents Have Any Custody Rights?

While a stepparent may have been acting as a parent during the full course of a marriage, they, unfortunately, retain no legal rights to a child unless they have completed legal adoption for the child. This, however, doesn’t mean that visitation rights wouldn’t be in the best interest of the child in the event of a divorce. The same could be said for third-party adoption. If a stepparent feels that they can prove the inability of the legal parent to care for the child, then they may begin the adoption process to terminate the legal parent’s rights and gain legal decision-making authority for the child.

Q: Do Grandparents Have Custody Rights in AZ?

A: Under appropriate circumstances, grandparents and even great-grandparents have visitation as well as custody rights. Grandparents must apply for third-party visitation or custody by understanding AZ family court facts.

Q: How Do I Get Custody of My Niece in Arizona?

A: The first step is to understand all the criteria that must be met to initiate a third-party adoption and apply for placement. Submitting background check requirements, filing a Petition to Adopt with the courts, and submitting a petition fee is the next major step. Finally, the court will conduct an adoption hearing to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child and potentially finalize the Adoption Decree.

Q: What Are the Requirements for Adopting a Child in Arizona?

A: One of the basic requirements for adoption in Arizona is that the petitioner must be at least 18 years of age. The petitioner, as well as any other adults in the household, must also be able to pass a local criminal background check as well as a federal background check and DCS search. As always, the adoption must be determined to be in the best interests of the child.

Q: How Do I Know If I’m Eligible to Adopt a Child in Arizona?

A: To be eligible to adopt a child in Arizona, you must:

  • Meet the minimum age requirement of 18
  • Own or rent an apartment or home
  • Be able to pass local and federal criminal background checks
  • Pass a DCS records search
  • Own a Level 1 Fingerprint Clearance Card that has been issued by the Department of Public Safety in Arizona

Q: What Are the Rights of the Birth Parents in Arizona?

A: While both parents must consent to place a child in someone else’s care, that doesn’t necessarily terminate any contact they may have with the child in the future. Different types of adoptions allow varying levels of contact between biological parents and children, and you can decide the level of contact you are comfortable with. Additionally, for a third-party adoption to take place, parental rights must first be terminated before a new custody arrangement can be awarded or established. Parental rights are protected under the 14th Amendment, and the courts take this very seriously.

Q: How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Child in Arizona?

A: The final amount it costs to adopt a child in Arizona depends on several factors. First, it depends on whether a party goes through an agency. You’ll likely have to pay agency fees that are determined by the agency itself. If parental rights must first be terminated, lawyer fees and court costs apply. Other expenses, such as travel costs and living expenses, are often a factor as well, so costs to adopt may be as high as $50,000.

Q: What Are the Resources Available to Adoptive Families in Arizona?

A: There are a variety of resources available to adoptive families in Arizona. Various governmental agencies can assist adoptive families, as well as religious resources, advocacy and information resources, and support groups. Depending on the location of the family, additional region-specific resources may be available.

Legal Documents for Third-Party Adoption Rights in AZ

A third-party adoption, like any adoption, is a decision the Arizona court never takes lightly. As a result, the court considers a variety of critical factors before impacting a child and family’s lives forever. For that reason, before proceeding with a third-party adoption, consider any requirements to make sure it is the best option possible for the child.

If you are considering establishing 3rd party adoption rights in AZ or need more information about how to proceed with a case, Draft My Legal Docs is here to help you ensure you have all the necessary documentation for an AZ legal case. Whether it’s offering guidance, providing facts and figures, or giving advice on necessary paperwork, we can find the answers. We assist with proper procedures that allow you to not just narrowly drift pass legal obstacles but absolutely thrive during the legal process.

Legal Document Services for Arizona Court

Preparing for a Family Court Case in AZ

Arizona family law cases can become extremely complex, as they often deal with intense emotions, personal struggles, disagreements, or discord among family members and spouses. If you decide to represent yourself in Arizona family court, it’s essential that you prepare well in advance for the various legal aspects involved. If you wait until the day of your hearing, you risk becoming blindsided by these roadblocks—you may even endanger your case by neglecting the various documents you’ll need to complete.

Here’s everything you need to know about family court in Arizona and what you can do to prepare yourself for the legal proceedings ahead.

What Is Arizona Family Court?

Arizona family court is a specialized court of law created to handle cases dealing with family and domestic relations, otherwise known as family law. One of its main priorities is to help settle disputes that occur within families and find solutions that work for all parties. Common AZ family court questions are related to divorces, separations, spousal maintenance claims, child custody disputes, property division proceedings, child support matters, adoptions, paternity disputes, and more.

How Does a Family Court Case Work in Arizona?

Legal Document Services for Arizona Court

While the precise workings of a family court hearing will vary depending on the type of case you’re filing, conducting hearings and trials in family court generally proceeds in five steps.

1. Trial Preparation

Before entering the trial preparation phase, you’ll need to begin your case by filling out an initiation form that matches your case type. For example, you may need to file a petition for legal separation, a petition for dissolution of marriage, a petition to establish child support, or something else. From there, you will be assigned a court date when your hearing will take place and you’ll enter the trial preparation phase.

Your court date will take place according to the time available on the court’s calendar, and you will receive a slot on the docket when the judge has time to hear your case. This can take time, and you’ll want to spend most of it preparing to represent yourself. You should determine your goals and objectives for your case, locate and complete all documents required for your specific type of case, and gather evidence that will support your argument. For example, you may need financial documents, affidavits from childcare providers, doctors’ statements, and more.

2. Trial Begins—Opening Arguments Shared

Once your trial date finally arrives, it will begin with both parties sharing their opening arguments with the petitioner—the party that initiated the case—going first. The purpose of opening arguments is for both parties to outline their respective positions on a matter for the court without interruption or argument from the other side. If you choose to represent yourself, you should add the preparation of your arguments to your trial preparation list.

3. Evidence and Witnesses Are Presented

After the opening arguments are presented from both sides, the judge will ask to hear evidence backing each party’s position. Again, the petitioner will go first. This is where most of the preparation you did will be critical, as you’ll need to make a convincing, effective argument to win your case.

Your argument must be backed by a preponderance of evidence, which can be presented via witness testimonies, legal documents, records, photographs, video, and more. After the petitioner calls and questions a witness, the respondent can cross-examine. When the petitioner has finished calling witnesses and presenting evidence, the respondent can do the same. At this time, the respondent can cross-examine.

4. Closing Arguments

After all evidence has been presented and all witnesses that were listed have testified, the closing arguments of both sides will then be made in court. Closing arguments are used to reiterate the argument of both parties, summarize the evidence that backs their claim, and try one last time to convince the judge to choose their side. At this time, the judge may ask any questions they have that are applicable to the case.

5. Final Decision

When closing arguments are complete, the case will then be submitted to the judge so they can make a final decision. It’s possible that the judge may make their decision immediately after closing arguments, but it’s common for a judge to review evidence in their chambers before deciding. In cases with complex documentation and financial histories, including division of property and child support cases, the judge may take time to review the documents and announce the decision later. When the judge makes their decision, they will deliver it to the court, and the case will be closed.

Being Prepared for an Arizona Family Trial

When it comes to representing yourself in court, it is critical to prepare well for your hearing. You must be able to present a convincing argument to the judge, back that argument with evidence or witness testimony, and respond to the opposing side’s evidence. In addition, you’ll need to prepare a variety of legal documents and file them properly by the expected date. Without adequate preparation, your chances of success are severely diminished.

Just a few of the ways preparing for your trial can benefit you and your case include the following.

Helps You Develop a Strong Argument

One of the most critical aspects of trial preparation is developing a solid argument that will help you secure the judge’s decision. You need ample time to determine your goals for the case, decide what argument you will present, and assess how you will convince the judge. Ask yourself questions like, “What do I want out of this case?” and “What is the best possible outcome for me?” Once you have created a strong argument, you can then move on to backing it up.

Gives You Time to Gather Evidence

Sometimes, gathering evidence can take a significant amount of time, especially if your case involves finances or an exhaustive records search. Preparing for your trial as soon as possible is the best way to give yourself enough time to gather the evidence you need. If you are looking to use witness testimony, it’s also crucial to speak with them as soon as you are able.

You Can Complete and File All Required Paperwork

Each family court case requires different legal forms, all of which must be filed correctly and in a timely manner. For example, a divorce case must include a formal petition for dissolution of marriage filed by one spouse and then legally served to the other. If there is no initial petition, a couple cannot get divorced. If you begin preparing for your trial early, you can give yourself enough time to identify the required documents you need for your case and complete and file them properly.

You’ll Know What to Expect

Taking the time to properly prepare for your trial can also help you get a better idea of what to expect when the proceedings begin. Court proceedings can be intimidating for anyone, but they can be especially nerve-wracking when you’re representing yourself. With proper preparation, you can learn how the court process works, what to expect, and how to deliver a compelling argument confidently.

Tips to Prepare Yourself for Arizona Family Court

Arizona Family Court

Some of the best things you can do to get ready for your upcoming Arizona family court case include the following:

Gather Documents

There is no such thing as being over prepared for a family court case. If you are representing yourself, make sure you plan as thoroughly as possible for each phase of your upcoming case. Plan your arguments, plan what you’ll ask witnesses, plan how you will present your opening arguments, and plan how you can effectively convince the judge of your position. The more time you take to plan your case, the smoother it will go.

Organize Documents

No matter what your family law case involves, you’ll need to complete and file a variety of legal documents throughout your trial. It’s vital that you keep your documents organized so that when they are needed, you can quickly present them. It’s recommended to keep documents for evidence, such as printed records, separate from documents you may be reading and documents you’ll need to file with the court. If you’re disorganized, it can make your case more difficult than it needs to be—and may also have a negative effect on your case.

Identify Strong Evidence

Making sure that you have convincing evidence to back your claims in court is crucial. Without evidence, there’s an extremely low chance you’ll be able to convince the court to take your position, especially if your case is a complex dispute. Taking the time to gather pieces of evidence and witnesses that can back your claim will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Secure Opening and Closing Arguments

Your opening and closing arguments play critical roles in your case. Because they are the first and last words a judge will hear from you, you’ll want to take the time to make sure you form an argument that’s efficient, convincing, and memorable. Your opening argument should clearly state your position and tell a story through facts that help the audience better understand how you plan to outline your case. Your closing argument should include a summary of your evidence, critiques of any holes in the other party’s case, and an overall conclusion of your argument that convinces the audience of your position.

Prepare Witnesses

If your case involves calling any witnesses to testify, it is important to make sure they are prepared for trial as well. However, keep in mind that you shouldn’t rehearse with the witness to the point where your witness begins to recite answers; otherwise, it can look like witness tampering. Make sure your witness is comfortable, ask them some questions, and help them understand how the trial will go, and your witness will be adequately prepared.

Documents You May Need for AZ Family Court Case

We provide a wide variety of legal forms and documents for residents of Arizona. When you’re going through a family law case, you’ll need to complete paperwork before, during, and after your case.

To Initiate Your Case

  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (with or without Minor Children): These are the official forms that must be filed if you decide that you want to get divorced in AZ.
  • Petition to Enforce: This form is often used to initiate a case where one party hasn’t been following a court-ordered agreement.
  • Petition to Modify: If you want to request a modification to a previous court order, you need to file this form to initiate your case.
  • Petition to Establish: These petitions can be used to initiate multiple kinds of family court cases, including paternity, child custody, and child support cases.

During Your Case

  • Petition for Temporary Order: If you’re waiting for the judge’s final decision and believe you need a temporary order in place until that decision is made, you’ll need to file this document.
  • Property Settlement Agreement: These agreements are used to clearly establish how property and other assets will be divided and show that both parties consent.
  • Rule 69 Agreement: When two parties involved in a case reach an agreement, they need to legally confirm it by filing this document with the court.

After Your Case

  • Motion for Clarification: After a trial ends, you can file a Motion for Clarification to have the order clarified or corrected if some aspects are unclear.
  • Notice of Appeal: If you don’t agree with the final decision regarding your case, you have 30 days to file an appeal to have it reviewed.
  • Motion for Relief (from a Judgement or Order): If you have a legally justified reason, you may be able to file this document to request relief from a previously filed court order.

Legal Document Services for Arizona Family Court

Legal Document Services for Arizona Court


Draft My Legal Docs is pleased to offer legal document drafting and preparation services to help Arizona residents successfully navigate their court proceedings. As trained Arizona attorneys, we understand how complex family courts can become. To help, we offer a full slate of 50+ legal documents to assist you throughout your family law case.

The complex nature of family law cases is why we are so dedicated to providing the help you need to ensure your case is handled properly. Whether you’re looking to initiate a legal case or preparing for an upcoming trial, contact us today to see how our legal document services can help.


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