People sometimes choose a legal separation rather than divorce, perhaps for religious or financial reasons. In Arizona, legal separation addresses all the same areas that a divorce does. The difference being that the couple’s marriage is not legally dissolved– and as such neither party can get remarried.
The other difference between an Arizona legal separation and divorce is that a legal separation may allow one spouse to continue to maintain health insurance coverage on the other spouse. In comparison, at the end of a divorce health insurance coverage of a spouse must terminate.
If you or your spouse file for an Arizona legal separation and either of you determines you instead want a divorce, Affordable Family Law can assist you in filing a petition to convert your legal separation to a divorce. It is only necessary for one party to desire to convert the case to a divorce.
In order to obtain an Arizona legal separation, there must be a legal marriage to separate. Also, one spouse must have been residing in Arizona for the past 90 days. If the couple has minor children, a major part of their case will be child custody. In order for the Superior Court to assert jurisdiction and address child custody, the children must have been residing in Arizona for the previous six months.
Reasons for Legal Separation
When it comes to separation, Arizona is a “no-fault” state. That means that separating couples do not have to provide the Court with a specific “reason” for their separation. As such, the Court doesn’t take reasons for the legal separation, such as infidelity, into consideration during an Arizona legal separation.
An Arizona legal separation addresses the same major areas as a divorce. Those areas are: division of any property, assets and debts obtained during the marriage, and an affirmation of property, assets and debts acquired prior to marriage to the party that owned them. If either party qualifies, spousal maintenance (alimony) will be determined. Finally, if the couple has minor children there will be orders addressing custody, legal decision-making, parenting time and child support.
To initiate an Arizona legal separation, one spouse must file a “Petition for Legal Separation” and the accompanying initial documents. In doing so, the filing spouse becomes the Petitioner in the separation case.
After the Petition for Legal Separation is filed, a copy of all documents filed with the Court. In addition, the petitioner must serve the papers to the other spouse, known as the Respondent. The Respondent can agree to waive formal process service and accept service of the Petition and accompanying documents.
Either way, the Respondent has 20 days (if served in Arizona) or 30 days (if served outside of Arizona) to file a Response to the Petition. The Response will contain the Respondent’s positions on each claim made by the Petitioner in their Petition. After the Response is filed, the Court will schedule an initial hearing. At the hearing, both parties will discuss any areas of agreement, disagreement, schedule services such as mediation, and set a Trial date.
If a Response is filed but both parties are able to reach an agreement regarding all issues without proceeding to Trial, they can submit a Consent Decree of Legal Separation. The decree will contain all of their agreements for the Judge to sign and make their separation final.
Proceeding Via Default
If the Respondent fails to file a Response within the time limit, the Petitioner can apply for default. After an Application and Affidavit for Default is filed with the Court, the Court gives the Respondent an additional ten (10) business days to file a Response or face the risk of the legal separation being granted on all the terms the Petitioner requested in their Petition. If no Response is filed, the Petitioner can proceed via default at the end of the Court-mandated “cooling off” period. The “cooling off” period lasts for 60 days after the Respondent is served with the legal separation papers.
Do I Need a Legal Separation Attorney?
First of all, no one is required to hire an attorney in order to get a divorce in Arizona. However, one’s need for a divorce or legal separation attorney depends upon each person’s unique circumstances. That being said, the majority of legal separation cases filed in the Arizona Family Court are done so without a legal separation attorney.
If spouses aren’t disputing custody and support of their children, or division of property for example, a legal separation attorney could be a costly and unnecessary venture. They might just need someone to guide them through the legal process and completion of the paperwork.
That is exactly what we do at Affordable Family Law. We gather all Court-required information up front. Based on that information, we then explain all available options and allow our clients to select the option that works best for them. From there, we prepare the petition and all the accompanying paperwork according to the Court’s rules. Our clients review and approve everything before anything is submitted to the Court. Finally, we educate our clients on their options for finalizing the legal separation in the most timely and cost-effective manner possible.
Make sure you explore all your Arizona legal separation options before hiring a costly legal separation attorney. If you and your spouse want to separate amicably, contact Affordable Family Law today to learn how we can help you achieve your goals for a fraction of the cost of a lawyer.
How do you obtain a divorce after legal separation in Arizona?
If you have a legal separation in Arizona and want to convert the separation to a divorce, Affordable Family Law can help you with that!
The process would start off with a new petition, but this time it would be a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The process would look similar to the legal separation process. There would be two big differences between the divorce process and the legal separation process. Firstly, the marriage would be legally dissolved and either person could remarry if they choose. Secondly, neither person would be able to stay on each others’ health insurance.