Arizona Divorce Basics

When marital problems turn your thoughts to the possibility of divorce, ordinary activities become more complicated. A spouse’s absence is increasingly awkward to explain away to the children, other family members, friends, and coworkers. Concentrating at work becomes more difficult because of unmanageable stress at home.

If you are contemplating a divorce, or if your spouse has already served you with court papers, then you need the advice and representation of an experienced divorce attorney. In many ways, your future and the impact of divorce on your children will depend upon the decisions you now must make.

Our team of dedicated Arizona divorce attorneys always take a personalized approach. Every family law solution involves careful consideration of a client’s unique circumstances. An attorney with Stewart Law Group will listen to your side of the story and discuss your goals. On accepting the case, your attorney will invest the time necessary to really learn about you and your concerns, about the children and their needs, and about your financial situation.

From there, the attorney will strategize and develop legal solutions to resolve all property division, child custody, parenting time, and family support issues with the best potential for a favorable outcome for you and your children.

Divorce Terminates the Marriage Contract

Divorce Attorney PhoenixFrom a legal standpoint, divorce is the method of terminating a marriage contract between spouses. Divorce gives parties the right to determine the future care and custody of their children; the right to divide their marital assets and debts; the right to arrange for child support and spousal maintenance (similar to alimony). Lastly, with the divorce final each is free to marry someone new.

While state laws vary in how they address these issues, the basic principles courts follow when considering requests for divorce are relatively uniform. If you are thinking about filing for divorce in Arizona, then speak to an attorney with our law firm. Every case accepted receives personal attention, careful meticulous preparation, skilled negotiation, and aggressive litigation. Our legal team will achieve the best possible solutions for you and protect your marital assets.

Marriage and Divorce Rate in Arizona

Source: CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System

Navigating Family Law Proceedings in Arizona Courts

Before deciding on divorce, set time aside to learn how dissolution of marriage proceeds in family court and the key issues that must be addressed. Divorce is uncharted territory for most people and can be intimidating, another reason to hire an attorney to guide you through each proceeding. Absorbing accurate information about the process could ease your anxieties considerably. Stewart Law Group’s website is the perfect place to start.

In this discussion, we introduce you to several important legal concepts including:

  • The difference between divorce and legal separation;
  • The difference between a no-fault divorce and divorce from a covenant marriage;
  • The difference between an uncontested divorce and contested divorce;
  • The special characteristics of a military divorce;
  • Continuing health insurance coverage under COBRA; and
  • Availability of divorce self-help.

For many years, our divorce attorneys have successfully represented clients throughout the greater Phoenix area. When our attorney represents you, he or she will quickly identify key legal issues and develop the legal strategy best suited to achieving a positive outcome in your case. By applying well-honed professional skills to your situation, we can protect your rights and help you make a successful transition to a new life.

Legal Separation in Arizona

Some spouses conclude that living together in the marital home is impossible, but they are unwilling to go so far as to dissolve their marriage. Instead, they would rather legally separate. In Arizona, legal separation may be sought if both spouses agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that they should live separately and apart from each other. A decree of legal separation is possible when spouses have minor children, too. Although the parties will not be free to marry other people, all the same issues must be resolved in legal separation proceedings. That is, health insurance coverage for dependents, legal decision-making and parenting time, division of community property, spousal maintenance, and the like.

If either spouse objects to legal separation, then the judge will not grant it. The court has authority to transform the request for legal separation into a divorce petition when one party wants to end the marriage. Our family lawyers assist clients with legal separation as well as divorce.

Simple and Complex Divorce Cases

Whatever your circumstances may be, we know that your future depends greatly on the outcome we achieve for you. You can trust our family law team to aggressively and diligently protect your spousal and parental rights. Our desire for you is a positive resolution of the outstanding issues in your divorce or family law case.

We handle all types of divorce cases, from uncontested simple divorces to those with complex assets, contested issues, and domestic violence. Furthermore, we are recognized for our experience in the area of complex property division involving extensive assets and ownership of closely-held businesses. Our firm’s founder, Scott David Stewart, is AV Rated by Martindale Hubbell®. Every attorney at Stewart Law Group is dedicated to carrying out the firm’s mission and upholding the firm’s reputation for excellence in the practice of law.

Divorce That’s No One’s Fault

A majority of states have at least one “no fault” ground for divorce. However, Arizona and a minority of states are considered no-fault jurisdictions. The only Arizona exception is divorce from covenant marriage, explained below.

What should you know about Arizona’s no-fault divorce law? The no-fault dissolution is a marital termination proceeding wherein divorce is granted without either spouse alleging and proving marital fault, or guilt. This means adultery, abandonment, domestic violence, incarceration, and other fault-based allegations are not required as legal grounds for no-fault divorce. Instead, one of the spouses must state under oath that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Importantly, either spouse may obtain a divorce over the other’s objection or request for legal separation. Dissolving a marriage by mutual consent is not required for a no-fault divorce!

While a divorce decree marks the end of a marriage, it also marks the beginning of a new life. While the future is never certain, a fair and workable resolution of the issues in your divorce lays the groundwork for a successful transition to the next stage of your independence. Stewart Law Group will stand by you all the way – counseling you, negotiating with the other party’s attorney, representing you in court, and protecting your rights.

Covenant Marriage Divorce

As noted above, some states require legal grounds, or reasons, for terminating a marriage. For example, a spouse might allege adultery as a legal ground for divorce. These are known as fault-based divorces because marital misconduct must be asserted and then proven with evidence before the judge will dissolve the bonds of marriage. Under Arizona law, similar legal grounds must be alleged to support a request for divorce from a covenant marriage.

Compared to a standard marriage, there are additional requirements people go through before entering into a covenant marriage, such as premarital counseling. There are also specific statutory grounds for divorce from covenant marriage. For further discussion about the grounds for divorce from covenant marriages and other dissolution details, take a look at our Arizona Divorce Details.

A divorce attorney with Stewart Law Group will help you avoid counter-productive actions that can make a successful resolution more difficult, time-consuming and costly. Call 602-548-3400 to schedule a confidential consultation with an attorney at any of our office locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, Peoria, Glendale, Gilbert, or Mesa. Have a question? Send your personal inquiry to, we’ll get right back to you privately.

Contested and Uncontested Divorces

Before a divorce will be granted, there needs to be a clean slate. Matters of spousal maintenance, assignment of separate assets, division of community property and pensions, legal decision-making authority and parenting plans, and child support obligations, these must all be resolved. Divorcing spouses who agree to a settlement, in writing, on all of those issues are likely to be granted an uncontested divorce.

When the respondent does not contest any of the matters raised in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, then the divorce proceeds uncontested, or unchallenged. An uncontested divorce avoids adversarial litigation and trial because there are no disputed issues for the court to decide. Settlement negotiations are an integral part of the divorce process.

Conversely, if spouses do not reach agreement on all the basic issues, then a contested divorce ensues. If the respondent disputes any matter raised in the petition, then the divorce is contested. In that instance, the parties proceed through all phases of litigation. The spouses may voluntarily participate in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as mediation, or they may be ordered into ADR by the court. Spouses with children will be required to participate in mediation.

Settled issues are removed from the trial agenda, while all outstanding issues are decided after a bench trial before the judge. There is no jury in an Arizona divorce trial! If a party disagrees with the trial court’s final judgment, then a timely appeal may be filed. Your Stewart Law Group attorney can handle the appeal as well.

Military Divorce in Arizona

The term “military divorce” is simply used to describe an Arizona divorce wherein one or both spouses is or was a member of the Armed Forces. Military divorce is a descriptive term, not a legal one. Because of military service, many family decisions are unique to service members or retired military. There are concerns over the division of military pensions, health insurance for former civilian spouses and dependents, long-distance visitation during deployment, devising a parenting plan, and managing court appearances when stationed overseas, among other things.

Are there military overtones to your marriage? Talk to a military divorce attorney who is up-to-date on legal trends, current federal statutes, military regulations, jurisdictional child custody issues, and the Hague Convention.

Whether or not you should dissolve your marriage may be one of the most important and difficult decisions you will ever face. Take time to reflect and process. Is there room for marriage counseling? Is there any chance of reconciliation? Separation and divorce are life-changing events involving serious legal consequences. There are significant issues that must be resolved. Your future depends upon your ability to think rationally and strategically. Whatever led you to the threshold of divorce, once you’ve made the decision to end your marriage, you must prepare yourself for what lies ahead in a reasoned and thoughtful manner.

Continued Health Insurance Coverage Under COBRA

Divorce often impacts employer-provided group health and dental insurance coverage for dependents. Insurance availability, terms of coverage, and replacement costs should be factored into the spouses’ divorce just like assets and debts are. For example, health insurance coverage should be discussed when parties negotiate spousal maintenance or a parenting plan for their children.

Furthermore, if a spouse’s employer is subject to the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provisions, and not all employers are, then after the divorce is final health insurance coverage may be continued for dependents (children and a former spouse) as qualified beneficiaries. Both divorce and legal separation are qualifying events triggering COBRA.

As a qualified beneficiary under COBRA, the nonemployee-spouse has the right to pay the premiums and continue under the former spouse’s employer-provided group health insurance. Insurance coverage can continue under COBRA for 18 months, 29 months, even 36 months after the divorce, depending upon the circumstances.

COBRA requires proper notice of the divorce or legal separation followed by an election period. The employee-spouse, non-employee spouse, or qualifying dependent must notify the group health benefit plan administrator. Thereafter, the qualified beneficiary must be given an election period of at least 60 days to choose continued health care coverage under the group plan or not.
The health benefit provisions in COBRA amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Internal Revenue Code, and the Public Health Service Act.

Self-Help: Maricopa County Superior Court’s Self-Service Center

Maricopa County Superior Court has a website with do-it-yourself court forms for divorce and many other civil matters. Every spouse should consult with an attorney before making important decisions about child custody, property division, and financial support. If you prefer to handle your divorce without legal representation, then you can utilize these forms.

The Arizona Judicial Branch has an historical repository of divorce and child custody guidelines available to the public. ASU’s family law research guide also has information about divorce, child custody, child support, and spousal maintenance obligations in Arizona.

If you want a little more help, subscribing to the Online Divorce Coach is another do-it-yourself option. Every subscription includes the Arizona divorce resource center, forms and instructions, checklists, and unlimited email access to an Arizona attorney.

We also provide a FREE e-divorce handbook called The 7 Must-Do Items for Divorce Planning for more information on how to get started on a divorce, and other important information regarding divorce in Arizona.

Family Lawyers Near Me

Remember, the choice you make in hiring a family law attorney will greatly impact the outcome of your divorce proceedings. Contact Stewart Law Group today at 602-548-3400.

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 3 reviews

I had initially contacted Brian Winter to file for a divorce in January of 2016. My husband and I had reconciled and separated several times after that time and since we were unable to make it work, the divorce was finally filed with the court September of 2017. Brian was patient and kind, even though I was probably difficult and frustrating to work with at times. Brian and his team were excellent in navigating me through this difficult process and helping me keep my expectations with the outcome realistic and fair. I can't thank Brian enough for being there for me during this difficult time.

by William Burgess
Stewart Law Group;

In early 2017 I was having a living trust put together by another law firm specializing in trusts. During that work the trust attorney told me I needed to get a financial situation with my ex-wife finalized before the living trust could be completed. I asked the trust attorney if she had a recommendation for an attorney in family law, she said she had worked with a number of family law attorneys and that Fred Ruotolo with the Stewart Law Group was the one she would recommend because she had gotten excellent feedback time after time regarding Fred.
I hired Fred. We discussed what I was willing to settle monetarily for with my ex-wife. Within 2 weeks she had signed off on an agreement that was fully 25% below what I was willing to write a check for. Fred did a wonderful job. I not only had Fred's email address but I also had his direct office line and his cell phone number. I never had a problem reaching Fred or his assistant Erica.
I am very happy my trust attorney was familiar with Fred.

by Deborah Gladstone
Robert Howard (Divorce Attorney)

Robert Howard is an outstanding attorney and asset to the Stewart Law Group. He and his team were always available, timely in their responses to my questions and very understanding of this difficult time in my life. Mr. Howard is extremely knowledgeable and professional. He proactively managed case details while always being mindful of the big picture and my future well being. With heartfelt gratitude, I commend Mr. Howard for his expert advocacy and I recommend him without hesitation.