A caption goes on all motions, pleadings, and discovery papers in the family law case so it can be identified quickly. At the top of the first page of the Petition is the caption, which contains the following information:
Name, address, and telephone number of the person filing the Petition, and attorney information if represented by counsel.
Arizona Superior Court for the county where filed.
Parties: Petitioner (Plaintiff) and Respondent (Defendant).
Case number (a number assigned by the court to identify this case; starts with one or two letters, such as FC or FN.)
Atlas number when assigned (when there are minor children, then an Atlas number is assigned to this case by the child support enforcement agency).
Title, which is “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) with Children” or “Without Children,” as the case may be.
When the Petition is filed, the court clerk will provide an official case number. A divorce Petition, and the other family law pleadings, is always filed with the county’s Superior Court. Except for the title (for example, “Petition,” “Motion,” “Notice of Hearing,” “Certificate of Service,” and the like), the caption remains the same throughout the case. Once the case is filed, the court must be notified of any change of address or contact information.
Petitioner’s Statements Made Under Oath
Petitioner provides detailed personal information about both parties: full names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security Numbers, occupations, and the length of time that each party has been domiciled in Arizona.
Petitioner provides the date and place of the parties’ marriage.
Petitioner states under oath that “this marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. I also state that the conciliation requirements under Arizona law, either do not apply or have been met.” If the parties had a covenant marriage, and the Petition must make additional allegations, or assertions.
Petitioner states that one party or the other, or both parties, has been domiciled in Arizona for at least 90 days prior to filing the Petition. If a spouse is in the military, then stationed in Arizona for 90 days prior to filing the Petition is sufficient.
Petitioner provides detailed personal information about all children under the age of 18 who were born to or adopted by the parties. Each child’s name, address, Social Security Number, and date of birth are disclosed.
Petitioner states whether the wife is pregnant or not and, if pregnant, when the baby is due to be born and whether the husband is the father.
Petitioner states whether the parties have or have not arrived at a custody and parenting time agreement over the children.
Petitioner discloses information about the parties’ property and debts, starting with property acquired during the marriage.
Petitioner states what property should go to which spouse. Including bank accounts, real estate, household furnishings and furniture, retirement funds, motor vehicles, and any other property.
Petitioner discloses the debts incurred during the marriage, and which spouse should be obligated to pay each debt.
Petitioner may request spousal maintenance for a party or allege that neither is entitled to alimony.
In the prayer for relief, the Petitioner asks the court to issue orders to dissolve the marriage, restore a party’s former name, order spousal maintenance (alimony), order child support, order insurance and health care expenses for the children, order which party will have the right to claim the children as dependents for income tax purposes, and award custody. On custody, Petitioner may ask for joint custody (shared custody) or for sole custody with reasonable parenting time for the noncustodial parent, or with supervised parenting time, or no parenting time. Petitioner also asks the court to assign each party his and her separate property, and that the community property be fairly divided between them. On community debts, the Petitioner asks that the court “order each party to pay community debt as requested in the Petition, and order each party to pay any and all other community debts unknown to the other party.” Petitioner may specifically request that the court issue other orders as well.
At the end of the Petitioner’s statements is his or her oath and verification: “I, the Petitioner, being duly sworn and under oath, state that I have read this petition. All the statements in the Petition are true, correct and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief.” The Petitioner signs and dates the Petition, which is followed by the notary public’s acknowledgement and official seal and stamp.
Filing the Petition with the Superior Court Clerk
On any subsequent court papers, always copy the case number and atlas number and the parties’ names exactly as they appear on the original Petition.
The current Superior Court filing fee for a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is $321.00. The fee for a Response or Initial Appearance in Dissolution is $256.00. The same fees apply in a legal separation and an annulment. To file the Petition, you need to surrender the original and be ready with at least two copies. The Clerk of the Superior Court stamps and keeps the original, stamps one conforming copy to be served on the defendant, and returns one conforming copy to the Petitioner. Once the Respondent is served with the Petition and summons, there is a minimum waiting period of 60 days before the court may order the marriage dissolved. In practice, though, the earliest a final decree will issue in an uncontested divorce is more likely to be three to four months. In a contested case, the divorce may go on for a much longer period of time, perhaps over a year.
Summoning the Respondent
The summons contains a caption mirroring the Petition’s caption. The summons also contains standard language telling the Respondent (or defendant) that a Petition has been filed against him or her and that the 20-day period for responding has begun to run. The Petitioner needs to provide an address where the Respondent can actually be located by the process server for service. That may be a home address, work address, or any other address that could work.
What Does the Response to the Petition Look Like?
Also under oath, the responsive pleading to the Petition is titled the “Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) with Children” or “Without Children,” as the case may be. Essentially, it is a mirror image of the Petition but includes the Respondent’s facts and prayer for relief. The Respondent may request sole custody, for example, whereas the Petitioner requested joint custody.
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