In our modern culture “divorce” has lost much of the stigma that previous generations had attached to it. No longer is divorce seen as a moral failing, something to be avoided at all costs. Instead, many people see divorce as a smart and sensible solution if two incompatible people are married to one another. As society’s attitudes toward divorce have relaxed, so too have the procedures necessary for obtaining a divorce. In fact, it is possible that two parties who are in agreement on certain matters can file and obtain an uncontested divorce.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An “uncontested” divorce is so named because of the amicable manner in which divorce-related matters are resolved. Unlike the stereotypical picture of a divorce – where both parties contentiously litigate every single issue – the parties in an uncontested divorce may remain pleasant with one another. Parties to an uncontested divorce understand that their marriage is not in their best interests and that it would be better for each of them to simply go their own separate way. They typically do not harbor any ill will toward the other party and are committed to the idea of treating the other party fairly in the divorce process.
Obtaining an Uncontested Divorce
There are several steps that need to be completed before an uncontested divorce will be granted. Spouses seeking an uncontested divorce should:
- Discuss the matter with one another in a frank and open manner. Arizona is a “no fault” divorce state, so long as the parties had not entered into a covenant marriage. If they have not, then neither party will need to show any fault in order to be granted a decree of divorce. The parties should discuss how they wish for their property to be divided (including assets and debts), what parenting time schedule they would like to adopt, and what child support amount is appropriate given the child support guidelines promulgated by the State.
- Draft and file initial pleadings with the court. It does not matter which spouse files the divorce petition first, but the spouse that does will be responsible for making sure a copy of the divorce petition is filed with the court and a copy given to the other person. These initial pleadings only contain basic information about the parties, their assets, and their debts, but the recipient party should still carefully review these pleadings for errors.
- Prepare the agreed-upon orders. One party should draft a written order containing the agreed-upon property division and parenting plan terms. This should then be presented to the other party for his or her review and signature. Once the case is before the court, the signed copies can be presented for adoption by the court. While a court is not technically required to adopt an agreed-upon order, most will do so – especially if the parties are seeking an uncontested divorce and have shown they carefully considered the matters contained within the agreed-upon order.
- Wait 60 days, which represents the minimum amount of time divorcing spouses must wait before appearing before an Arizona judge will entertain a petition for divorce. The time is measured from the date the petition for divorce is filed with the appropriate Arizona court. When the case does come before the court after 60 days, the parties will briefly present the terms of their agreement and jointly ask that the court adopt those terms as part of their divorce.
Uncontested divorces represent an opportunity for separating spouses to obtain a legal decree of divorce without having to worry about expensive lawyers or long delays between hearings.