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Family Law

Crimes can be stressful and hard on families. You can find information here about steps you can take to address common family law issues as well as information about services that can help you.

Need Help? Take our quiz to clarify your first steps.

Ending a Marriage

In Arizona, married persons may petition the court for:


Divorce, the legal ending of a marriage by court order, is referred to in Arizona courts and law as “dissolution of marriage.”

Legal Separation

In a “legal separation,” spouses are still legally married even after deciding important issues and separating.

Both a divorce and legal separation can determine:

Legal decision-making and parenting time of children

Child support

Spousal support, in some cases

How property such as home, pets, and cars will be divided up and cared for

Who will pay bills such as mortgage, credit cards, car payments, personal loans, and other debts
In Arizona, the only reason provided to the Court when requesting a divorce is that a marriage is irretrievably broken. It is no longer necessary to prove anything such as abandonment, adultery, or cruelty unless the marriage is a Covenant marriage.

There are significantly different rules and requirements about dissolving a covenant marriage. For example, a covenant marriage can only be dissolved for certain reasons, such as domestic violence. For more information about filing for divorce in a covenant marriage, click here.
There are two different types of divorce in Arizona:
Uncontested and Contested.


Both spouses agree to the divorce and the terms of the divorce.

Both spouses agree on what will happen with children, property, and finances.

One spouse must first file for legal separation or divorce. Either spouse may file and wait 65 days to get a consent decree signed by a judge.

Once signed by a judge, the divorce is final.


One or both spouses do not agree to the divorce or the terms of the divorce.

One or both spouses disagree on what will happen with children, property, or finances.

One spouse must first file for divorce. The court gets input from both spouses and decides on matters of children, property, and finances.

Once a decree is signed by a judge, the divorce is final.
Note: A legal separation cannot be contested like a divorce; the spouses must agree to a legal separation for it to be granted. If the other spouse objects to a legal separation, the court will change the proceedings to divorce. Learn more here.

How to File for Legal Separation or Divorce

To file for divorce in Arizona, one of the spouses must have lived in Arizona for at least 90 days (about 3 months) and one spouse must not be on active duty in the U.S. military.

To file for legal separation in Arizona, one of the spouses must live in Arizona, or if in the armed forces, be stationed in Arizona. There is no time requirement like with divorce.

Step 1: Prepare Your Information

To complete the forms for legal separation or divorce, you will need to know:
  • Your spouse’s full name, social security number, address (if known), occupation, and how long you have lived in Arizona

  • The date of your marriage and the city and state where you were married

  • Information about any shared property or debts

  • Plans for legal decision making (custody) and parenting time (time with each parent) if there are children

Step 2: Complete Forms and Paperwork

Fill out the initial forms. The petitions for legal separation and divorce can be found here, depending on which county you live in:
If necessary, use the online Child Support Calculator to determine the amount of child support to request in the petition
Sign the petition in front of a notary. Some retail shipping, postage, or printing stores offer a notary service, or you can find a notary using the Secretary of State’s directory
Make two additional copies of the signed and notarized petition.

Step 3: File with the Court and Serve the Other Person

Take all three copies of the petition (original and two copies) to the Family Law/Civil Court Clerk’s office at Superior Court. The Clerk will take the original copy and stamp the two other copies. One copy of the petition is for you (the petitioner) and the other is to serve (deliver to) the other person.

To serve the petition to the other person, you can:
Mail the petition using certified mail. The other person must sign the green receipt for service by mail to be valid.
Contact a private process server or law enforcement officer to hand the paperwork to the other person. The process server or law enforcement officer may file or give you an “affidavit of service” if they are successful in delivering the paperwork.
Have the other person accept service by signing an acceptance of service in front of a notary. The acceptance of service is then filed with the case. The other party signing the acceptance of service only means they received a copy, not that they agree with anything in the petition.

Important Things to Know:

If the parties seeking a legal separation or divorce have children, custody and visitation will be a part of the proceedings. A Mandatory Parent Information Class is required to be taken before final custody orders are given in either a divorce or legal separation. The court supplies information about the class when a petition for legal separation or divorce is filed. To learn more about the mandatory parent information class, click here.

The court charges a fee to file for divorce and legal separation. For those who meet certain criteria, it may be possible to get these fees waived (not have to pay) or deferred (pay later). For more information about fee waiver or deferral, click here.

I was a victim of domestic violence in my marriage. Will this affect my divorce?

It might. The court may consider the occurrences of domestic violence in making decisions about legal decision-making, parenting time, child support, and other matters. Although it may be a factor weighed or considered, in a divorce case domestic violence or other crimes within the marriage typically do not change the division of property or assets.
It is important to weigh factors such as risk of harm for the victim, children, and other family members, having a safe place to go or be, and stress over not being able to manage the situation when filing a petition for divorce, legal separation, legal decision-making, or parenting time. Leaving an abusive partner and ending a marriage can be the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence.

Learn more about creating a safety plan here.

What issues are involved in a Family Court case when parents are not married?

  • Paternity – determines the legal father of a child when the parents are not married. Unmarried parents often establish paternity by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity at the hospital when a child is born. Once paternity is established, parents can request Family Court orders for legal decision-making, parenting time, child support, and other issues involving the children.
  • Legal Decision-Making (formerly “child custody”) – the authority to make decisions about the children’s major life issues, such as education and medical care.
  • Parenting Time (formerly “visitation”) – the amount of time each parent is allowed to spend with the child.
  • Child Support – an amount of money one parent must pay to the other parent to contribute to the living and care expenses of a child. The amount depends on the parent’s income (or what they are capable of earning), expenses paid for the children, like medical insurance and daycare costs, and the amount of parenting time each parent has with the children.

Unmarried parents must also take a mandatory Parent Information Class before final legal decision-making and parenting time orders are given. The court supplies information about the class when a petition to establish legal decision-making or parenting time is filed. To learn more about the mandatory parent information class, click here.
Legal help from a lawyer or legal information about your rights from a lay legal advocate may be available to help you through this process.

Family Resources and Help