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What to Expect In a Divorce

What to Expect In a Divorce

A full list of What to Expect in a Divorce would be far too much to cover in one blog.  Instead, this article will focus on the basic timeline of a divorce and some of the milestones along the way.  This article is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to provide answers to some preliminary questions that are common to divorce cases in Arizona.  One of the main points to start off with, is that in Arizona a “divorce” is really called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  For this article, it will be known as a “Petition” for short.

Much like any other case, a Petition is commenced by filing in the Superior Court.  Most commonly, this is the Superior Court in the County where the Petitioner resides.  The Petitioner is the legal term for their person who files the Petition.  The other Party who answers, is known as the Respondent.  There are many exceptions to this rule of where to file, however they go beyond the scope of this article.  Once a Petition has been filed, it must be “served” on the Respondent.  A Petition must be served according to Rules 41 and 42 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure, it cannot simply be given to the other person directly.  The most common method of service is to hire a process server who is licensed to serve the Petition.

Once the Petition is served, the Respondent will have a specific amount of time to file their Response.  The Response will set forth all of the things the Respondent agrees with or disagrees with in the Petition.  If a Response is not filed, the Petitioner can seek a default decree pursuant to Rule 44 Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.  If the Respondent does file a response, the discovery period will begin.  Discovery is the period of time, during which, the Petitioner and the Respondent are required to exchange information about the case with each other.  The length of the discovery period varies, but as a general rule the parties must exchange their initial information no later than 40 days after the Response has been filed.

During this time, the Court will generally set a Resolution Management Conference, or “RMC”, Pursuant to Rule 76, Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.  A RMC is an opportunity for the Judge to speak with the parties and determine what issues exist and where each party stands.  Typically, the Judge will also ask the parties if they wish to attend a settlement conference or mediation.  Settlement conferences and mediations are opportunities for the parties to discuss their case with someone other than the Judge to try and resolve any issues.  If the issues can be resolved, the parties can enter into a binding agreement pursuant to Rule 69 Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.  If the issues cannot be resolved, the parties will inform the Court and ask the court for a trial date.

The scheduling of a trial depends on many factors including the length of the trial, the availability of the parties and the availability of the Court, to name just a few.  On average, it may take 1-2 months to schedule a 1 day trial.  Once the trial is concluded, the Judge will sometimes make a ruling that same day, usually though, the Judge will issue a ruling several days, or weeks, after trial has concluded.

As evidenced by the above, even a simple Dissolution can take many months to resolve.  At a minimum, Arizona Revised Statute §25-329 states that a Court can’t enter any ruling until least 60 days after a Petition is served.  That is a minimum of two months.  Furthermore, the above scenario did not take into account a dissolution with children which has other steps involved.  Similarly, there are many other actions that can take place during or even after the Judge makes their final ruling.  All this is something that a person should be prepared for when involved in a Petition for Dissolution.  Platt & Westby has offices in Phoenix, Arrowhead, Litchfield Park, Scottsdale and Mesa Arizona.

If you are interested in discussing a new or existing Petition for Dissolution, contact our office by calling 602-277-4441 or visit to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.