Should My Spouse & I Legally Separate Or Divorce In Arizona?

Key Differences Between Divorce & Legal Separation

If your marriage is troubled, you may be considering making it official so you can move on. A divorce, or a dissolution of marriage, might not be your only option to end the marriage. Depending on your circumstances, a legal separation may be preferable. Annulments are only available in very limited situations. Ending your marriage through any means is a stressful experience, so you want to make sure you pick the right option the first time. You don’t have to make this selection on your own. Our experienced Arizona family law attorneys offer free consultations to let you know whether you should file for divorce or legal separation. Fill out our online form or call 480-833-8000 to schedule today.

Legal separation process in Arizona

What Is The Difference Between A Divorce & Legal Separation?

When you file either a divorce or a legal separation, a judge is assigned to your case to oversee issues like property division, spousal support, child support, and child custody. This will come with significant legal expenses with either option. But after a divorce, the spouses are no longer married. Spouses remain legally married after a separation, meaning they can’t get remarried to new partners. That also means that spouses can get legally separated and then divorced, but not divorced and then legally separated. They would have to remarry for that to occur. Separated spouses continue to have access to insurance and tax benefits because they are still legally married. Arizona is a community property state, and the spouses will stop accruing community property after both a divorce and a legal separation.

Why Would I Pick A Legal Separation?

When you have to go through all the same legal procedures for a legal separation that you would in a divorce, you may be wondering when a legal separation would actually be the preferable option. Legal separation can be better for spouses who aren’t completely sure about getting divorced. In some cultures and religions, it is unacceptable to get divorced, so a legal separation provides a workable loophole. Because you have to deal with all the same issues as divorce, a legal separation is also more feasible when the spouses agree on property division, spousal maintenance, child support, and child custody. Some spouses may be confident that they’ll never remarry and want to keep the insurance and tax benefits. No matter your reasoning, a legal separation could be better for you than a divorce in many ways. You can discuss your options with a dedicated Gilbert divorce lawyer by scheduling your free consultation at 480-833-8000.

What If I Am In A Covenant Marriage?

Arizona is one of the three states that offer covenant marriages, so you might need to know how that changes a divorce and legal separation if you’re reading this. They represent a small percentage of marriages in Arizona and require a special declaration in the marriage license application and premarital counseling. In a covenant marriage, if both spouses don’t agree to a divorce, it will only be granted under limited conditions. Some of those conditions include incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse, and infidelity. The conditions for a legal separation from a covenant marriage are set forth by A.R.S. § 25-904 and are almost the same as the requirements for a covenant marriage divorce.  Getting a separation or divorce from a covenant marriage is far more complicated than from a standard marriage. You will need to provide evidence and testimony as to why you want a divorce rather than filing a no-fault divorce. Discuss your options with an Arizona divorce attorney for free by calling 480-833-8000.

Family Law Requirements For Arizona

In Arizona, you or your spouse must reside here for at least 90 days before you can file a dissolution of marriage or legal separation here. Your divorce can’t be granted until at least 60 days have passed from when your divorce petition was filed. If you have minor children with your spouse, your children must reside in Arizona for at least 180 days before you can file child support or child custody cases here. Once you have child support or child custody orders in place, they can’t be modified for at least 12 months, unless the child is in danger.

Property division orders are permanent and almost impossible to overturn. Spousal support could be permanent or could last for a set amount of time. Arizona is a community property state, so contributions to the marital estate can be both financial and non-financial. That means that all assets and debt acquired during a marriage should be split between the spouses equally if they divorce, regardless of how much each of them earned during the marriage. Property that is acquired before the spouses marry, or at any time when they receive it by gift or inheritance, is considered that individual spouse’s separate property.

Service Of Process

After filing a petition for either a legal separation or a divorce, you are required to have it served on your spouse. If you know where your spouse lives, you can have it done by a sheriff or a registered process server. You will need to ask the judge for permission to use alternative service methods if you can’t locate your spouse. Your spouse will have a deadline of 20 days to file a response to the petition if they live in Arizona. If your spouse lives in a different state, they will have 30 days to file their response. If your spouse doesn’t respond within 20-30 days, you can ask the court to proceed by default. If your spouse doesn’t respond to the application and affidavit of default within 10 days, you can request a hearing where the judge will grant everything you asked for in your petition for legal separation or dissolution of marriage. For any questions you have about serving your spouse or applying for a default, call 480-833-8000 to schedule your consultation with our firm.

Low Budget Legal Services For Arizona Separation Or Divorce

Because of all the issues that must be resolved in both, filing for legal separation or for dissolution of marriage is a complicated process in Arizona. Filing a legal separation could be a huge waste of time and effort if you are just going to want to be divorced in a few years. But a divorce done improperly could impact your financial situation for years to come. It could also affect how much time you get to spend with your children and the overall role you play in their lives.

Unless you’re familiar with Arizona family law and are confident in your ability to deal with opposing counsel and the court, you should probably hire a lawyer to act as your legal advocate in this matter. The divorce team at My AZ Lawyers can represent you at a fraction of what our competitors cost. We offer low payment plans to get your case started, and monthly payment plans that make skillful family law representation more affordable. It all begins with your free and confidential initial consultation. Call 480-833-8000 or fill out our online form to let us know when you’d like to speak to one of our experienced divorce lawyers.


Contact Professional Family Attorneys In Arizona

Arizona Offices:

Mesa Location:
1731 West Baseline Rd., Suite #100
Mesa, AZ 85202

Office: (480) 448-9800

Phoenix Location:
343 West Roosevelt, Suite #100
Phoenix, AZ 85003

Office: (602) 609-7000

Glendale Location:
20325 N 51st Avenue Suite #134, Building 5
Glendale, AZ 85308

Office: (602) 509-0955

Tucson Location:
2 East Congress St., Suite #900-6A
Tucson, AZ 85701

Office: (520) 441-1450

Avondale Location:
12725 W. Indian School Rd., Ste E, #101
Avondale, AZ 85392

Office: (623) 469-6603

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