Arizona Contested Divorce Process Timeline

Stephen R. Glazer

4Divorce is a heartbreaking, exhausting process, and the legal proceedings make the emotional aspect much more difficult. When a divorce is contested, it means that the spouses disagree about how aspects of the case should be settled, like child custody, child support, and property division.

It can seem like the steps of divorce, especially contested divorce, are countless, so having a detailed understanding of them before you’re in the middle of it can help ease your anxieties. Another way to help you feel assured is to hire a qualified and talented attorney who can treat you and your case with compassion.

Filing for Divorce: The Initial Step

When you are the one who knows that you need to end the marriage, you’ll be the one to file for divorce. If your spouse was the partner who filed for divorce, you will be served with the papers. Regardless of your position, filing for divorce is the first step that triggers the process.

As the filer, you don’t need to name a reason for wanting to divorce, as Arizona is a no-fault state. What you should do is hire an attorney before doing anything. They can help you draft a petition for divorce that is legally valid and outlines the terms that you want. The petition needs to include many provisions, from child support and custody to alimony. Unfortunately, the divorce can’t happen immediately after you file the petition—you’ll have to wait 60 days, according to Arizona law.

Serving or Getting Served

After you or your spouse has made the move of filing for divorce, the next step is to serve the papers or be served them. As the person who filed, you have a number of options for how to serve your ex. You could:

  • Have them sign the papers in the presence of a notary.
  • Mail them the papers and make sure that they’re mailed back and signed.
  • Hire someone to do the serving for you.

As the one who’s been served, you have to respond within 20 days in Arizona or, if you’re out of state, 30 days. If you can agree to the terms that your spouse outlined, your divorce will be uncontested. If you want to fight against your spouse’s wishes, it means that your divorce is contested. This makes the entire process much longer, harder, and more exhausting, but you should fight for what’s right for you and your family if you need to.

Temporary Orders

Contested divorces may take up to around two years at most, so you and your family need to have arrangements for things like child custody during this time. Temporary orders solve this problem—they determine anything from alimony to child support until a final divorce decree is made. You’ll want to file a motion for the court to create a temporary order for a number of reasons, including if you are dealing with disputes with your spouse or need financial support.

Disclosure and Discovery

In disclosure, spouses will disclose all debts, expenses, property, income, and anything else that’s necessary. Because their property will be divided, hiding any of these things can result in legal consequences. The process of discovery involves lawyers or spouses requesting different pieces of information from each other, and if one side suspects the other of not being truthful, this may make the discovery process longer. A lawyer could request a subpoena, ask you for specific documents, or interview one of you on the stand.

Mediation and Negotiation

In a divorce, each side wants something, and spouses and lawyers can work together with a mediator to try to come to agreements without going to trial. Mediation will often be mandatory and ordered by the divorce court. The mediator is someone who is completely neutral and unbiased and works to help the couple make compromises that they can both agree on. If mediation is completely successful, there will be no need for trial—the mediator will draw up a final agreement.

Trial and Judgment

If mediation doesn’t resolve every issue, you’ll have to go to trial to make sure that you and your spouse come away with a divorce agreement. A lawyer can call on people to testify, use witnesses, and present evidence to the court to try to get the judge to rule in their client’s favor regarding whatever issues are still not agreed upon.

After the trial takes place, the judge presiding over your case will issue the final divorce decree. Ex-spouses are required by law to follow whatever the terms are, which will determine things like property division, spousal and child support, and child custody and visitation.

The total time that the entire process takes depends on many factors. Mediation may be the longest step in some cases, while the trial will be the longest in others. After everything is complete, it’s possible for three months or two years to have gone by.


Q: How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Arizona?

A: The timeline of a contested divorce can differ by a very large amount of time. If everything goes smoothly and quickly, the whole process could be over within a few months, or it could take multiple years to complete. Consulting an experienced attorney can help you get a better idea of the timeframe of your divorce process.

Q: How Do I Contest a Divorce in Arizona?

A: Contesting a divorce means that you don’t agree with the terms of the divorce petition that your spouse served you with. To fight for what you want, you’ll have to negotiate with your spouse through mediation. If you don’t come to an agreement through this route, you must go to trial and contest the divorce that way. For the greatest chance of coming away with a decree that benefits you, you should work with a qualified, experienced divorce lawyer.

Q: Can You Refuse a Divorce in Arizona?

A: You can refuse to sign divorce papers, but this does not mean that the divorce will not happen. Instead, you will have to go through a contested divorce. Arizona does not require fault to be proven in a divorce, so if your partner wants a divorce, they have the right to go through with it.

Q: How Does Adultery Affect Divorce in Arizona?

A: In Arizona, divorce is no-fault, so fault does not need to be proven. This means that adultery does not need to be considered, and it will not have a big impact on a divorce. Cheating by you or your spouse won’t change anything like property division, child support, child custody, or alimony.

Choose a Reputable Divorce Law Firm for an Optimal Outcome

The attorneys of Glazer, Hammond, Ruben & Smets, PLLC, have several years of experience in divorce cases, allowing them to compassionately guide you through divorce while fighting aggressively for you and your children. You need a talented lawyer to fight for you when you’re going through divorce. To discuss your case with our team, contact our office today.

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