Once you start down the path of divorce, immediate overwhelm is sure to set in. What’s going to happen now? How long will it take? Do we have to go to court? The short answer is “It Depends”. There are several different routes to the same ultimate conclusion but the view along the way is dramatically different on each path. The journey you embark on is largely dependent on how cooperative you and your spouse can be. If you can sit at a table together with a neutral third party and work things out, your road will be far less bumpy.
If however, the emotions are just too high or there has been abuse or manipulation, then the litigation route may be your only choice. This is by far, the bumpiest, longest, most expensive route to take but sometimes necessary.
On the other end of the spectrum is Pro Se, or do-it-yourself. The State of Arizona makes it very easy, almost too much so, to do your own divorce from their self-service website. This was actually the route I took and BOY did I regret it! When you do this, the judge will pretty much sign whatever you submit whether it’s complete or not. I failed to include some critical pieces that ultimately cost me thousands and thousands of dollars. I don’t recommend this. Use a family law attorney to do your document preparation if nothing else.
So as you can see, if I actually got into the details of the process in each method, this would be a VERY LONG BLOG! So let’s just focus on litigation right now. Here’s the typical process:
- The initial petition is filed by the “petitioner” with the court and the other party, the “respondent”, is either served the documents or receives them voluntarily and signs an Acceptance of Service verifying receipt. In Arizona, this is the date that your marital community is severed.
- The respondent then has 20 days to file a response with the court. Typically the initial petition has a proposed property settlement, but not always. The response then is the other party’s chance to say what they agree with or disagree with.
- Next comes discovery and disclosure. Each party must complete an Arizona Affidavit of Financial Circumstances and a written statement of explanation. Each party must fully and completely report ALL financial information.
- If there are disagreements, the court will likely schedule an Early Resolution Conference. This is basically a fancy name for a mediation session with a Family Law Case Manager to try to resolve any differences.
- If you have minor children, you will both have to attend a Parenting Information Program class about how to help your children through the process. This is actually a VERY good class.
- Any agreements reached are filed with the court in a Joint Pretrial Statement. Any remaining disagreements are then left for a trial date.
- Trial date is set and the judge will rule on any remaining issues.
There are a lot more little subtleties and detours that can take place along the way but that’s it in a nutshell. Depending on the discovery process and the complexity of your situation, the whole process can take anywhere from 2 months to years! My best advice is to be cooperative with your spouse and focus on your future, not the past.
Do you live in Arizona and are you considering divorce? If so, please contact our team for a complimentary consultation to discover a smarter divorce solution for you and your family. You can also read one of our client stories to learn how Smarter Divorce Solutions can save you money and positively impact your divorce process.