Responding to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)
If you have been served with a Petition for Dissolution of a Non-Covenant Marriage, Arizona’s legal term for divorce, you have choices for how to respond. In the petition, your spouse will have alleged certain facts about your mutual assets and properties and may have requested terms for spousal maintenance and child custody and support, if you have minor children. Whether you agree with these alleged facts and terms determines how you will respond.
Timeline for Responding
As the spouse who has been served with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you are known as the Respondent. Under Arizona law, the Respondent has 20 days to respond to the petition in what is known as a responsive pleading. If you do not respond within 20 days, your spouse can file a request for default. If the default is granted, you will no longer be able to contest any of the allegations in the petition.
The Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
A responsive pleading includes a Sensitive Data Coversheet and a Response form. If you and your spouse have no minor children and the wife is not pregnant by the husband, the Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) Without Minor Children is used. If you and your spouse have minor children or the wife is pregnant by the husband, the Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) With Minor Children is used.
If you agree with the alleged facts and terms your spouse included in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you can choose not to respond at all, allowing your spouse to apply for default, or you can indicate your agreement by making the same claims and requests in your Response. Your response is filed with the Superior Court of the county where your spouse filed the divorce petition. One copy of your response is delivered to your spouse. Sixty days after you file the Response, your spouse can file a Consent Decree if you and your spouse agree on each and every issue in your divorce, including property division, spousal maintenance, debts, and child custody. The Consent Decree is signed by both spouses. The judge will then review the Consent Decree and make a decision.
If you do not agree with the alleged facts and terms your spouse included in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you will make your own claims and requests in your Response. When spouses do not agree on terms of the divorce or the divorce itself, the divorce is known as a contested divorce. It is possible that after you file your response you will be able to come to an agreement and can then file a Consent Decree.
As a certified legal document preparation and case management service, The Divorce Guy can prepare divorce documents whether or not you and your spouse have agreed on the terms of your divorce. In addition to the Response Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, we will prepare your Motion to Set, your Pretrial Statement, and your Consent Decree. These are common documents used in a contested divorce.
If you and your spouse are not able to agree on all issues to finalize your divorce, you may decide that you must go to trial. Either you or your spouse can request that a case be set for trial. If you decide to make this request, we can prepare the Motion to Set, meaning a motion to set a case for trial. The Motion to Set happens after both the petition for divorce and the response have been filed.
Going to Trial
According to the Superior Court of Pima County, a motion to set and certificate of readiness must be filed within 180 days of the filing of the petition for divorce. After one spouse files the Motion to Set, the other spouse has 10 days to file a Controverting Certificate if he or she disagrees with any of the information contained in the Motion. Trials are generally set within 2-4 months after the Motion to Set is received.
Both spouses are required to submit a pretrial statement. The Superior Court requires a good faith effort to confer with the other party to prepare a Joint Pretrial Statement. However, in cases where there has been domestic violence or if there has not been cooperation for a joint statement, you can file a separate Pretrial Statement.
The Divorce Guy can help you prepare a Pretrial Statement including information such as the following:
- The estimated time and length for trial.
- The name of the judge assigned to the case.
- Names of the two parties (you and your spouse).
- Names and birth dates of any minor children.
- Date and place of marriage.
- Exhibits to be used at trial and copies of the exhibits for the other side.
- List of witnesses, including name, address, and phone number.
- Any facts that have been agreed to by both spouses.
- List of uncontested issues.
- List of contested issues that the judge will hear.
- Detailed proposal for distribution of property and inventory of property and debts.
You will be scheduled for a settlement conference. The settlement conference is with a different judge from your trial judge. If one of the spouses does not appear, according to the Arizona Superior Court of Pima County, the settlement judge can rule that the spouse that doesn’t appear cannot introduce evidence at trial. At the end of the settlement conference, the judge will prepare an order that states any agreements you and your spouse have made during the conference and what issues still need to be resolved at trial.
If there are any issues that are left unresolved, those issues will be presented to the trial judge. Your spouse will go first and present all of his or her evidence (including witnesses). You, as the Respondent, will have the chance to question your spouse and any witnesses. Then you will present your evidence, and your spouse will have the chance to cross-examine or question you and any witnesses.
The kind of evidence that can be given to the court at trial is governed by complex rules. As stated by the Arizona Superior Court of Pima County in their instructions for trial preparation for family law cases, the Rules of Evidence “determine what kind of information the judge is allowed to consider. If the judge does not hear or consider certain evidence that you want the judge to hear and consider, it may be that the judge is unable to consider the evidence under the Rules of Evidence that apply to family law cases. Please do not take it personally if the judge does not hear or consider certain evidence you wish to introduce at trial. The judge is just following the law.” After the trial is completed the judge will make his or her decisions and your case will be final. At this point you and your spouse have now terminated your marriage and are considered legally unmarried persons.
The Divorce Guy offers professional legal document preparation services. We have decades of experience preparing documents for divorces in Arizona. By using our service you can avoid the expense of a high priced attorney so that you can focus your financial resources on helping your family make necessary transitions after your divorce. There is no need to worry about deadlines and properly completing the forms. We know what to ask and provide this service to hundreds of clients each year. Contact our office in Tucson today so that we can walk you through the divorce legal document preparation services we offer.