Divorce in Arizona: everything you need to know
From filing and records to costs and more, this guide will take you through divorce in Arizona and help you make informed decisions
Arizona is a "community property" state, meaning most assets and debts acquired during the marriage are divided equally.
You must meet Arizona's residency requirements before you can file for divorce.
There are several options for a simplified "no fault" divorce in Arizona, depending on your situation.
Spousal maintenance may be awarded in some cases to help the lower-earning spouse temporarily.
A financial advisor can help you navigate your finances during a divorce and rebuild afterward.
Navigating a divorce is never easy, but understanding the laws and your options can help you make the best decisions for your situation. Like most states, Arizona has residency requirements you must meet before you can file for divorce. The state also has equitable division statutes aimed at splitting marital property down the middle during settlement.
Here’s what to know about getting divorced in Arizona:
What are the residency requirements for filing for divorce in Arizona?
In order to file for divorce in Arizona, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least 90 days prior.
In addition, you must have lived in the county where you plan to file for at least 30 days.
If you have recently moved to Arizona but do not yet meet the residency requirements, you may have to wait to open a case until you reach the timeline thresholds.
What are the different types of divorce in Arizona?
Arizona allows for no-fault divorce. This means neither spouse has to prove wrongdoing on the other’s behalf to dissolve the marriage. Rather, the state will grant the divorce as long as certain conditions are met.
There are a few potential options:
Simplified “no-fault” divorce
If you meet certain qualifiers, you may be eligible to use a simplified divorce process in Arizona:
Summary dissolution - You can file a joint petition for summary dissolution if there are no children and minimal assets/debts. This greatly speeds up the timeline.
Consent decree - If you and your spouse agree on all terms of the divorce, you can file paperwork reflecting your arrangement without needing a trial or hearing.
Default decree - Should your spouse fail to respond to divorce papers, you can seek a default judgment granting the dissolution.
Formal divorce trial
If you have contested issues that require resolution by the courts (like spousal support, custody, or complex property division), you may need to go through a full formal divorce trial and provide evidence to support your claims.
In such cases, it’s always advisable to retain legal counsel to help guide you through the proceedings. Expect the timeline to take around six months from filing paperwork to the final decree in a contested divorce case.
How much does it cost to get divorced in Arizona?
The costs involved in divorcing vary widely based on whether the divorce is contested and if children or substantial assets are involved. Simplified cases can cost a few hundred dollars in court fees, while complex litigation with financial discovery and custody evaluators can cost tens of thousands in legal fees alone.
Some key costs in an Arizona divorce may include:
Court filing fees: Around $320 to open the case.
Service fees: Roughly $45+ to serve your spouse with the petition.
Attorney fees: From $2,000+ for simple agreements up to $15,000+ if litigation over property or custody rights.
Mandatory mediation: If you have children together, there will be mediation costs to develop a co-parenting plan.
Expert evaluations: In high-conflict custody cases, evaluators may assess parental fitness at around $5,000 per parent.
Filing taxes as “married filing jointly” can also trigger more taxes owed during separation. So it’s key to plan for potential added tax liability.
How are assets divided in an Arizona divorce?
Arizona is a "community property" state.
This means most assets and debts acquired or earned during the marriage are considered jointly owned marital property, regardless of whose name is on the accounts or titles.
Upon granting the divorce decree, the court will equitably divide the community estate down the middle so each spouse receives roughly 50% of those assets and liabilities.
Separate property owned before marriage or received individually (like gifts or inheritance) is not split.
Some assets commonly divided include:
House or other real estate
Cars and other vehicles
Bank accounts and investments
401(k) or other retirement accounts
Personal property (furniture, jewelry, collectibles)
Debts accrued jointly are also divided, such as mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit cards, unpaid taxes, etc.
The division process aims for “substantially equal” division but does not necessarily mean strictly 50/50 across every account or item, especially if one spouse concedes certain assets to gain others.
Settlement agreements decide who gets allocated each asset and liability while keeping in balance their total value on both sides.
Can I get alimony or spousal support in Arizona?
Arizona courts may award temporary “spousal maintenance” to help support the lower-earning spouse for a period of time after divorce.
How much and for how long depends on the recipient's financial resources, their ability to work, the marital standard of living, and the length of the marriage.
There is no set calculator or percentage used to determine spousal support awards. Rather, judges make discretionary rulings based on the facts of each case. And unlike child support, maintenance is not assumed, nor is it necessarily automatic if one spouse is stay-at-home.
However, the longer the marriage lasted while one spouse sacrificed their earning capacity, the more likely and longer-lasting support may be ordered. The goal is to enable that spouse to eventually achieve financial independence while avoiding overly large burdens on the paying spouse.
But awards are not indefinite in most cases. State guidelines limit potential spousal maintenance duration as follows:
Up to 3 years for marriages under 10 years.
Up to 7 years for marriages between 10 to 20 years.
There is no preset limit for 20+ year marriages.
While ruling out formulas, Arizona law does list factors judges may consider in setting appropriate support levels like relative income and expenses, employability, and marital standard of living.
In sum, temporary support helps smooth the transition during what is often a difficult economic adjustment period. But the aim is for both former spouses to be self-sufficient after that ultimately.
How can I protect my finances when getting divorced in Arizona?
Taking steps early on to secure assets and manage financial affairs carefully can help reduce stress when dealing with a separation in Arizona:
Open individual bank accounts to ensure you have separate funds and are not vulnerable to withdrawals by the other spouse.
Gather financial documentation like tax returns and statements on debts, assets, income sources, etc., to understand the full marital estate.
Watch for unauthorized credit cards or debt taken out jointly - report any fraud or suspicious activity.
Hold off on large purchases that would impact the perceived marital estate value until after the divorce settlement.
Consider changing beneficiary designations on insurance policies and retirement accounts to avoid disputes should the worst occur.
Seek legal advice ASAP if you have concerns about hiding assets or domestic violence during proceedings.
While prudence with finances helps avoid issues, working with an attorney to understand legal rights and obligations can give much-needed peace of mind during a divorce. Counsel can also help ensure the settlement agreement adequately provides for your future needs after the marriage ends.
Arizona's "community property" laws mean most assets and debts are divided 50/50.
You must meet residency rules before you can file for divorce in Arizona.
Simplified "no fault" options exist, like summary dissolution for uncontested, simple cases.
Costs vary widely based on whether divorce involves litigation over assets, support, or child custody.
Courts aim for equitable distribution but do allow for discretion based on facts.
Temporary spousal support may help lower-earning spouses for a limited time.
Take precautions early to protect finances when planning for divorce.
Get expert financial advice
Going through a divorce in Arizona can be complicated and emotional. Understanding the legal landscape and financial implications from the start helps reduce stress during an already difficult transition.
Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.
Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.