Divorce in Arizona: Part 1

‘Covenant marriage’ requires specific grounds in otherwise no-fault, community-property state

May 03, 2011

By Mike Hinshaw

We also discuss some state law in “Getting a divorce in Phoenix“; also, please see related articles “Divorce in Arizona, Part 2“;  and “Getting a divorce in Tucson.”

Only one reason needed for no-fault divorce

From a state-law perspective, the first thing to know is that Arizona is both an almost purely no-fault state and a community-property state. The state bar offers an online Legal Resource Guide, which includes a section on divorce. According to the guide,  “The only ground for a divorce in Arizona is that the marriage is ‘irretrievably broken’ with ‘no reasonable prospect for reconciliation.’ This is a ‘no-fault’ state, which means that it is not necessary (and usually not even allowed) to say which person caused or wants the divorce.”

Division of property, debt should be ‘equitable’

As far as dividing property and debt, “Arizona is a community property state. That means that all property and all debts acquired during the marriage are presumed owned by both parties together, regardless of in whose name the property is held. This presumption ends when divorce papers are filed and served on the other party.

“Arizona law says that the property is divided “equitably,” which usually means equally. After all the property is taken into account, the intent is that each party ends up with approximately half of the total property value, including all retirement and 401(k) accounts. It is important to have advice from a tax professional to understand the potential tax consequences caused by the property division.”

Unfortunately, spouses are usually held accountable for half of the other spouse’s debt–even if ignorant of the debt.

Legal separation and ‘covenant marriage’

Legal separation is an option in Arizona. However, an unusual wrinkle in Arizona law is provision for a “covenant marriage,” which is designed to make divorce more difficult, that is, to slow down so-called “quickie divorce.” Three other states have made provision for covenant marriage: Louisiana (the first to do so), Arkansas and Kansas.  You can use the preceding pair of links for more info, but the takeaway is that both legal separation and divorce is more restricted for covenant marriages; the no-fault provisions do not apply and are not available.

Separation can be converted by Court into divorce petition

Also, notice this warning, which covers state law, from the Maricopa Superior Court: “If the other party does not want a Legal Separation, the Court may change the Petition for Legal Separation into a Petition for Divorce if you and/or your spouse have lived in Arizona for the last 90 days prior to filing the Petition for Legal Separation.”

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