Divorce: Arizona Divorce Proceedings

I have a friend who moved his family (consisting of his wife and two elementary school age children) to Arizona in January of last year. He did so over his wife’s objections to leaving her extended family. About two months after moving to Arizona his wife grew too homesick to stay any longer. One day while my friend was at work, his wife packed her bags, loaded up her car and moved herself and their children back to Florida. Within a week after his wife left him, my friend decided to file for divorce.

Although I am not licensed to practice in Arizona, my friend contacted me about how to go about filing for divorce. His first question concerned whether he could legally file for divorce in Arizona when his wife and children now lived in Florida. His second question dealt with grounds for the divorce. Specifically, whether his wife leaving him for a little over a week and telling him that she would not return constituted grounds for divorce. His third question was whether he was required to obtain an attorney to represent him in his Arizona divorce proceeding.

Arizona Divorce: Residential Time Limits
The answer to his first question could be found with a simple appeal to the Arizona Divorce Statute. In Arizona, either spouse must have lived in Arizona for at least ninety (90) days prior to filing for divorce. This meant my friend would have to either file in Florida or wait an additional three (3) weeks before filing.

Arizona Divorce: Grounds for Divorce
Unlike some states, Arizona does not require that one of the spouses prove blame or responsibility in order to end the marriage unless the marriage is a “covenant marriage.” Instead, the court is simply required to answer in the affirmative the question of whether the marriage is "irretrievably broken." “Irretrievably broken” means the parties have differences or disputes that cannot be settled which are so serious that they have caused the marriage to totally and completely break down.

As my friend did not have a “covenant marriage” this post does not address that type of marriage. Suffice it to say that Arizona divorce law prohibits a court from granting a divorce after such a marriage unless one of the parties can prove adultery, abandonment, physical abuse or regular substance abuse or both spouses agree that the marriage should end. A “covenant marriage” is a marriage where both parties agree to limit grounds for divorce prior to their getting married.

Arizona Divorce: Self Representation
Arizona did not require that my friend obtain an attorney to file his divorce papers. However, I advised him that in addition to being without the benefit of an experienced attorney to guide him through the process, he would be required to abide by the same statutes, rules and procedures as an attorney would. This includes the proper and timely filing of legal documents, observing proper courtroom decorum and having at least a working knowledge of the divorce process. In the end, he chose to retain an Arizona divorce lawyer.

Another legal fact of interest is that in Arizona the court cannot grant a divorce until at least sixty (60) days after the other spouse is first served with the original court papers.
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