The Difference between Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Arizona
In Arizona, there are two distinct types of divorce: contested and uncontested.
In a contested divorce, spouses do not see eye-to-eye. Their disagreements often result in divorce litigation which can be very lengthy and very expensive. In an uncontested divorce, spouses agree on most things and are able to complete their divorce process—while saving a substantial amount of time and money—through mediation.
However, it is important to know that even when significant amounts of conflict exist, divorce mediation offers a more cost-effective, efficient, and lower conflict option for completing your divorce process. For couples who want to avoid high costs, a lengthy process, and going to court, professional divorce mediators can guide you through this transition successfully.
Why Choose Mediation?
Divorce mediators are specially-trained professionals that help spouses find successful, mutually-beneficial agreements to all of their divorcing issues, regardless of the spouses’ conflict level. They guide a respectful and solution-focused conversation that ensures both parties have a voice, allowing the couple to communicate in a healthier and more productive manner. For spouses who are parents, this new communication begins to establish a foundation for healthy co-parenting.
Our Healthy Approach
Divorce mediation offers a more secure and comfortable environment for spouses to find solutions to all of their divorce issues while avoiding the complicated and lengthy process of litigation.
We will draft your “no conflict” Petition, which will be signed by one spouse, and your Acceptance of Service, which will be signed by the other spouse. The designation of Petitioner or Respondent makes no difference in the process. They will file the Petition with the Court, officially beginning the legal divorce process.
The Petition is handled in a very different way than it would be handled in litigation. In litigation, the Petition is often seen as the first chance for spouses to make demands for everything they want, thus commencing the adversarial process. Our approach is to state in your Petition that you and your spouse aim to resolve your divorce through mediation. Our Petition includes all necessary requirements as dictated by Arizona law:
- The marriage is irretrievably broken—there is no chance of reconciliation.
- Both spouses plan to reach agreements on how to divide all assets and debts.
- Both spouses plan to reach an agreement on whether or not spousal maintenance will be awarded and if so, what that obligation shall be.
If the spouses have minor children, we will also include the following:
- Both parents plan to reach agreements regarding parenting time.
- Both parents plan to reach agreements regarding whether child support is necessary and if so, what that obligation shall be.
By stating the intent to reach agreements through mediation, our Petition process facilitates a more thoughtful and peaceful means of crafting all of the necessary agreements.
Once your mediator has assisted you with reaching agreements on all issues, they will use the agreements to draft your final divorce documents, known as the Consent Decree. Before these documents are submitted to the court, both you and your spouse will be given the opportunity to review them before signing. Once any edits or revisions are made and you both approve, your mediator will finalize your Consent Decree, which you will both sign. At this point, we will submit your Consent Decree for the judge to review and stamp, finalizing your divorce. This entire process can be completed within 2 to 4 months in mediation without either party ever having to set foot in court. The litigation process, on the other hand, takes substantially longer and is much more costly.
Not a Default Divorce
In Arizona, spouses who agree on every aspect of their divorce may elect for a default divorce which does not require filing a Consent Decree but does require the Petitioner to submit a Petition. The Petition must list the parties’ agreements and must be served upon the Respondent. If there is no response from the Respondent within the statutory time limit, the Petitioner may file an Application and Affidavit of Default requesting the court to “default” to the agreements as presented in the Petition. Then, the Petitioner must mail or hand-deliver a copy of the Application and Affidavit of Default on the same day it was created. After ten (10) additional judicial days, if the Respondent has not responded, the Petitioner may request a default hearing and request that the judge ratify the Petition terms into orders in a Default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. In some limited circumstances, a judge may automatically issue a default judgment.
While a Default Divorce is likely more convenient than the litigation approach, it is far from recommended. If you and your spouse have children and/or any assets and debts, the agreements in a self-made Decree can lead to problems in the future. Knowing a professional mediator guided your process and drafted your documents can provide you with a great deal of peace of mind. It is important that the Decree provides thorough language that will allow the court to properly enforce an agreement, should disputes arise.
You Can Have an Uncontested Divorce
No matter your level of conflict, you and your spouse can find creative agreements that are tailored together to fit your exact needs in mediation. We recommend you strongly consider divorce mediation over filing for divorce on your own or starting down the long, hard, costly journey through litigation.
Our Team is here to help both of you every step of the way through a successful and healthier process. To schedule a complimentary consultation to learn more, please contact us.