Legal separation in Arizona is required until the couple can work out the details of their finances, property, and children.
Divorce is the most practical option for some, but the procedure for obtaining a legal separation or divorce in Arizona is relatively similar.
A.R.S. Section 25-313 governs legal separations in general, covering the rights and obligations when it comes to child custody, child visitation, debt, and property ownership. Although a separation establishes legal rights, it does not result in a divorce.
How to File for Legal Separation in Arizona
The process of obtaining a legal separation is similar to that of obtaining a divorce, with the exception that the court must determine that either the marriage is irreversibly shattered or that “one or both of the parties chooses to live separate and apart.” – Section 25-313 of the Arizona Revised Statutes (3).
A Petition for Legal Separation is filed instead of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The information required by A.R.S. Section 25-314 should be included in the petition.
If they want a legal separation, they must declare a “desire to live separate and apart” or that their marriage is “irretrievably destroyed” if they want a divorce. To gain joint custody in cases involving children, the parties must state whether or not “serious” domestic abuse has occurred.
Before filing for a legal separation in Arizona, you do not need to be a resident for a certain amount of time. As a result, a legal separation is a possible option for couples who want to end their marriage but haven’t resided in Arizona long enough to get a divorce.
Before a divorce decree may be issued in Arizona, both spouses must agree to the separation.
The petitioner fills up the legal separation petition (with or without children) and submits it to the court. Different other forms must be delivered to the court where the case is being heard. A Parent Information Program must be attended by the spouse.
What Are the Grounds for Legal Separation in AZ?
Both legal separation and divorce in Arizona have the same grounds for applying for legal separation. It is necessary to declare the marriage “irretrievably broken.” Couples can also seek legal separation in Arizona if they want to live separately, but the court will not order legal separation unless both partners agree.
In contrast, if one spouse can prove that the marriage is shattered, the court will issue a divorce, even if the other spouse is opposed to the divorce.
– Custody and Division of Property After Filing for Legal Separation in Arizona
In Arizona, whether a couple is divorcing or separating, custody and visitation are handled in the same way. The names, DOB, and other details of any children born to or adopted by the party must be stated on the corresponding petition.
The wife’s pregnancy should also be mentioned. If the spouses agree on custody arrangements, they may choose to share custody or give one parent sole custody with the non-custodial parent visitation rights. Child support orders are usually determined by the court using the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.
If the couple has young children, a petition for legal separation with minor children must be filed. They will submit a petition for legal separation without young children if they do not comply.
The only reason for a legal separation is if the marriage has irreparably broken down or if one or both spouses desire to live separately. All of the information required by A.R.S. 25-314 must be included in the petition.
In a formal separation or divorce, debts and property are divided in the same way. The assets and liabilities acquired before and during the marriage are listed on the petition.
They must also decide if one partner will be solely responsible for paying the marital debts or if both will share the burden. Property division is handled in a similar manner. The decree specifies the allocation of assets and liabilities after the type of property and its value have been determined.
– Arizona Separation Laws: Requirements and Clauses
A mutual Arizona separation agreement is very important, which mentions the property distribution, custody, etc., throughout the legal separation period.
If the couple agrees to a legal separation but can’t come to an agreement on everything, they can litigate the remaining problems during a separation trial. The factor of mutual consent is crucial because it is one of the most fundamental prerequisites for a successful legal separation in Arizona.
A legal separation is only lawful if five requirements are met, according to the applicable rule, A.R.S. 25-313:
- That one of the parties was a resident of this state at the time the action was filed or was stationed in this state while serving in the military.
- The provisions of 25-381.09 relating to conciliation and the provisions of this chapter’s article 5 either do not apply or have been met.
- Any of the grounds stipulated in 25-904 apply if the marriage is irreversibly shattered or one or both of the parties wish to live apart and apart. If the marriage is a covenant marriage, any of the grounds prescribed in 25-904 apply.
- The other party has no objections to a legal separation decree. If the other party objects to a decree of legal separation, the court will order that the pleadings be altered to seek a dissolution of marriage if one of the parties meets the required domicile for dissolution of marriage.
- The court has considered, sanctioned, or established provisions for child custody, the support of any natural or adopted child common to the parties of the marriage entitled to support, the maintenance of either spouse and the disposition of the property, to the extent it has jurisdiction to do so. 25-313 of the Arizona Revised Statutes (1) – (5)
On the other hand, a divorce can be described as the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court of law or the legal ending of a marriage. Similar to a legal separation, certain criteria must be met in accordance with the rules, such as A.R.S. 25-312.
The relevant Arizona grounds for dissolution of marriage must be declared in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The proper legal basis will be one that the parties agree on and can show, or one that the filing spouse wishes to prove to the court. The grounds for dissolution of marriage are:
Fault and No-Fault: If the marriage is a covenant marriage (Arizona acknowledges what is considered a “higher” type of marriage termed a “Covenant Marriage”), the probable grounds for a covenant marriage are as follows:
- The respondent’s spouse has been caught in the act of adultery.
- The respondent spouse has been sentenced to death or imprisonment in any federal, state, county, or municipal correctional facility for committing a felony.
- The respondent spouse has been absent from the matrimonial abode for at least one year prior to the petitioner’s filing for divorce and refuses to return.
- The respondent spouse has physically or sexually harmed the spouse seeking a divorce, a child, or a permanent family member of either spouse living in the married domicile or has perpetrated domestic violence.
- For at least two years before the petitioner filed for dissolution of marriage, the spouses had been living separately and apart without reconciliation.
- The couples have been living separately and apart without reconciliation for at least one year since the legal separation decision was issued.
- The respondent’s spouse has a history of drug or alcohol misuse.
- Both the husband and the wife consent to the dissolution of the marriage. (Chapters 312, 901, 903 of the Arizona Statutes)
Benefits of Legal Separation in Arizona
Arizona law permits married couples to pursue a legal separation. Legal separation is a feasible and advantageous alternative to divorce for some married couples. Spouses may choose legal separation for financial or religious reasons. Some do so to maintain their health insurance coverage, while others require time apart in order to reconcile.
The financial link between the spouses is ended by legal separation, although they are still legally married. This is especially useful for a spouse who wants or needs to stay on the other’s health insurance plan. Depending on how the agreements are constructed, there may be financial rewards.
Whether spouses want to avoid divorce for religious reasons or believe there is a strong chance of reconciliation, legal separation is a viable alternative to divorce. Legal separation can be an emotional steppingstone or trial separation for some spouses and their children, giving them more time to adapt and adjust to their shifting family dynamics.
In Arizona, spouses can employ mediation to conclude their legal separation or divorce. Mediation allows spouses to avoid litigation’s confrontational approach. While the courts are still experiencing significant delays due to COVID-19, the legal separation and divorce process under mediation remains straightforward, economical, and can be concluded in as little as two months.
Further, through video conferencing, spouses can complete their legal separation or divorce entirely online.
The outcome of legal separation in Arizona is essentially the same as divorce, except for one very important difference: the parties are still married to each other and cannot marry other persons.
Here are the key points we need to remember when filing this type of case:
- A.R.S. Section 25-313 governs legal separations in general. The rights and obligations of crucial components of a married couple’s relationship, like child custody, child visitation, debt, and property ownership, are determined by legal separation
- Both legal separation and divorce in Arizona have the same grounds for applying for legal separation. It is necessary to declare the marriage “irretrievably broken”
- A Petition for Legal Separation is filed instead of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The information required by A.R.S. Section 25-314 should be included in the petition
- A divorce can be described as the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court of law or the legal ending of a marriage. Similar to a legal separation, certain criteria must be met in accordance with the rules, such as A.R.S. 25-312
- In a formal separation or divorce, debts and property are divided in the same way. The assets and liabilities acquired before and during the marriage are listed on the petition
The process we have discussed is a big step to undertake. We hope that the couple is able to make a legally informed decision relating to legal separation and divorce in Arizona.
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