I’ve been sued for divorce in an Arizona court. I don’t want a divorce. What do I do now?
November 10, 2014
Unfortunately for people in this situation, Arizona, like most states, is a “no-fault” state, which means that either party can obtain a divorce at any time for any reason. The only restriction is a 60-day waiting period, measured from the time the divorce petition is legally served (delivered). That said, free counseling is available to any party to a divorce in Arizona. A certain document is filed and this document places an additional hold or freeze on the case until the counseling is completed or the filing spouse properly opts out of the counseling process. In some states, there are one or two year waiting periods before a divorce can be issued, unless certain grounds exist, such as adultery, abuse, abandonment, imprisonment, or insanity. But here in Arizona, there is no restriction. Attempts have been made in the past decade to implement a fault-based system, but those bills were killed in the legislature. Fault based systems also typically permit an unequal distribution of assets if one spouse is found to have committed one of the fault-triggers (some of which were mentioned earlier in this answer). In Arizona, judges have no such options to unequally divide assets based on the factors identified above. Even if a spouse has repeatedly cheated on the other spouse, physically abused that spouse, or otherwise did other inappropriate things toward the other spouse, the way the assets and debts are divided would be no different that if it were a “friendly divorce.” The worst thing a spouse receiving a divorce petition can do is to ignore it. There are some people who understand all of what has been mentioned in the previous part of this answer and simply stick their heads in the mud, hoping the problem will go away on its own. There are others who are working toward reconciliation with their spouse and so they ignore the legal time-bomb that has been served on them. Trying to reconcile may be commendable and appropriate, but it is still critical that the legal end of things not be ignored. Otherwise, you may find yourself defaulted and lost much of what you would have liked to have in the way of assets. You may find yourself paying unfairly large spousal maintenance or child support; if and when you can’t pay those amounts, you may find yourself locked up in jail. You may find yourself getting socked with most of the debt and losing important heirlooms or other items you assumed were yours. You therefore should call our office as soon as possible after you have been served. Do not wait until the 20th day to call our office. Although we can still help you at that late point in time, it may cost you more legal fees and you may be hampering our ability to time things in a way that’s most advantageous for you.
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