Arizona is considered a “no fault” divorce state. Unless the marriage is a covenant marriage, the court will not consider fault by either party to dissolve the marriage. All a party needs to do is allege the marriage to be irretrievably broken as grounds for divorce.
Contesting the Divorce Action
The other party can contest the divorce itself only by denying that the marriage is irretrievably broken. To do so, the denial should be in writing. The denial must be sworn to as an oath and notarized. It must then be filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court where the divorce was filed and serve a copy of the denial on the other party to the marriage (or the attorney for the other party.)
Under ARS 25-316, if a denial is filed, the court will conduct a hearing regarding whether reconciliation is possible. At this time, the party contesting the petition must put on evidence as to why they believe the marriage is reconcilable. The court may make a decision at that time or it may order the parties to conciliation. In this process, the parties meet with a court services officer who will listen to both parties. The conciliator will make a recommendation to the court.
Contesting a Covenant Marriage
In a covenant marriage, the parties will sign a statement prior to marriage indicating that they have considered the marital issues involved, attended pre-marital counseling and agree to attend counseling if marital difficulties arise. It is a special form of marriage and specific documents must be signed prior to marriage.
In a covenant marriage, the court must find specific grounds to dissolve the marriage.
Under section ARS 25-903, the grounds for divorce are as follows:
-commission of a felony with imprisonment;
-abandonment of the spouse for a period of one year in which the party refuses to return;
-physical or sexual abuse of the spouse, a child or relative of a spouse living in the marital household;
-living apart for a period of two years without reconciliation taking place;
-living apart for one year after a decree of legal separation was entered;
-habitual abuse of alcohol or drugs;
-if both parties agree
Like contesting a petition on no fault grounds, the party contesting the divorce must file a written response. At the least, it must be in writing, deny the specific allegations stated in the petition, be signed as a sworn document, filed with the Court and served on the petitioning party.
The court will hold a hearing to determine whether the allegations of the petition are true. Parties will be permitted to present evidence call witnesses and cross examine witnesses. The court must then make a specific finding as to whether the factual allegations are true and whether the marriage will be dissolved.
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