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Uncontested Divorce in Arizona Vs. Contested Divorce

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Uncontested Divorce Vs. Contested Divorce – How a Legal Paraprofessional Can Help

When it comes to divorce proceedings, there are several factors that can make the process more complicated and difficult for all parties involved. In Arizona, couples have the option to pursue either a contested or uncontested divorce.

In an uncontested divorce, both parties come to an agreement on all aspects of the divorce, including child custody, property division, and spousal support, without the need for court intervention. This type of divorce doesn’t require the presentation of grounds for divorce, making it a smoother and quicker process.

On the other hand, a contested divorce can take months or even years to finalize, as it involves litigation and court proceedings to reach a settlement on the terms of the divorce. This type of divorce is often more emotionally draining and expensive than uncontested divorces. 

De Novo Law Legal Paraprofessionals specialize in providing assistance and guidance for couples seeking a contested or uncontested divorce, offering a more affordable and efficient alternative to a family law attorney.

We will cover the following topics:

How Does An Uncontested Divorce Work

An uncontested divorce in Arizona occurs when both spouses agree on all major aspects of the divorce, including asset division, debt allocation, child custody, and support. This type of divorce is generally quicker and less costly:

  • Both parties work together to draft a settlement agreement.
  • Minimal court intervention is required, often only needing a final review and approval by a judge.
  • Encourages a cooperative rather than adversarial relationship post-divorce.
  • Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) do not specifically define “uncontested divorce,” but the process aligns with the statutes governing the divorce process under ARS Title 25.

This path is less stressful and allows for a private resolution.

What is a Contested Divorce 

A contested divorce, contrastingly, is marked by disagreements between spouses on one or more key issues:

  • Disputes can range from child custody arrangements to division of assets and debts.
  • Involves court hearings where each party presents their case, and a judge makes the final decisions.
  • Typically more time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally draining.
  • According to ARS Title 25, contested divorces follow a specific legal procedure that requires careful adherence to rules and timelines.

Contested divorces can lead to prolonged legal battles, affecting not only the divorcing individuals but also their families, especially children.

Filing for Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you through the filing process:

  1. Determine the Type of Divorce: Decide whether you are filing for a contested or uncontested divorce. Understanding the difference between these types can influence your approach and preparations. An uncontested divorce typically involves less time and is less expensive than a contested divorce. 
  2. Prepare and File the Divorce Petition: The divorce process officially begins when one spouse (the petitioner) files a divorce petition with the court. In Arizona, this document outlines your desired outcomes regarding division of assets, child custody, alimony, and other relevant issues.
  3. Serve Your Spouse: Once the divorce petition is filed, Arizona law requires that your spouse (the respondent) be formally served with the documents. The respondent then has 20 days to file an answer if residing in Arizona, or 30 days if out of state.
  4. Respond to the Divorce Petition: If you are on the receiving end of a divorce filing, it’s important to respond within the 20 days to file your answer. Failure to do so may result in a default divorce, where the court could grant the petitioner’s requests in your absence.
  5. Negotiate Terms: If the divorce is uncontested, spouses may work out terms collaboratively through mediation or direct negotiation, leading to a divorce agreement. In contested cases, this stage may involve more formal discovery processes, negotiations, and pre-trial motions to resolve disputes.
  6. Finalize the Divorce: Once all issues are resolved, the agreement is submitted to the court for approval. In an uncontested divorce, this might involve a brief court appearance or none at all. In contested cases, this may result from a divorce trial where the judge makes the final decisions.
  7. Obtain the Divorce Decree: The final step is receiving the divorce decree, a document that officially ends the marriage and outlines the terms of the divorce, including asset division, custody arrangements, and any support obligations.

Throughout this process, having legal guidance can help ensure that your interests are represented. Whether you’re dealing with a contested or uncontested divorce, professional legal support can significantly affect the outcome.

How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Arizona?

The duration of a contested divorce in Arizona can vary significantly, primarily based on the complexity of the issues in dispute and the court’s schedule.

Typically, a contested divorce in Arizona can take anywhere from several months to over a year.

The average duration is around 12 to 18 months,

 This timeframe can extend if the case is particularly complex or if there are significant delays in court proceedings or negotiations.

Several factors influence the length of time a contested divorce might take, including the willingness of both parties to negotiate, the efficiency of the discovery process, and the availability of court dates. Moreover, if the divorce involves contentious issues such as child custody, division of substantial assets, or spousal support, this can further prolong the process.

It’s important to stay prepared, organized, and in constant communication with your legal advisor.

How Do I Contest a Divorce 

Contesting a divorce in Arizona means that you disagree with your spouse on one or more terms of the divorce, such as child custody, spousal support, division of property, or other issues. 

Here’s an approach to contesting a divorce:

  1. Understanding Your Grounds: Know why you’re contesting the divorce. Identify the specific issues you disagree on. Under Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) Title 25, which governs family law matters, there are clear guidelines on divorce proceedings, including grounds for contesting terms.


  2. File a Response: Upon receiving divorce papers, you have a specific time frame (usually 20 to 30 days) to file a response with the court. This document should outline the issues you disagree with and your proposed resolutions.
  3. Discovery Process: This phase involves the exchange of information and documentation between you and your spouse regarding marital assets, debts, income, and other relevant matters. The discovery process helps both parties and the court understand the facts and circumstances, facilitating informed decisions.
  4. Attempt Mediation: Before going to trial, you may be required or opt to engage in mediation. Mediation allows both parties to negotiate with the help of a neutral third party. This can be a more cost-effective and less adversarial way to resolve disputes.
  5. Pre-Trial Motions and Hearings: If mediation doesn’t resolve all issues, pre-trial motions and hearings may be necessary. These court appearances allow for preliminary matters to be addressed before a full trial.
  6. Trial: If the divorce issues remain unresolved, the case will go to trial. During the trial, both parties present evidence and arguments. Witnesses may be called, and legal arguments made. A judge (there are no jury trials in Arizona divorce cases) will make the final decisions on contested issues.
  7. Final Decree: Once the judge has made a decision, the final divorce decree is issued. This document formalizes the divorce and includes all terms of property division, child custody, support, and any other relevant matters.

A Family Law Legal Paraprofessional can help you understand your rights, prepare necessary documentation, and represent your interests effectively.

Remember, contesting a divorce can extend the time it takes to finalize the divorce and usually involves more emotional and financial resources.

It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of contesting issues in your divorce with professional guidance.

Effective Negotiation Strategies in Divorce Proceedings

Negotiating terms in a divorce requires a balanced approach, blending clear communication with a firm understanding of your legal rights and obligations under Arizona family law.

Begin by consulting with a legal professional to gain insights into your entitlements and responsibilities. Preparation is key, so gather all relevant financial documents and identify your priorities and areas for compromise.

Consider engaging in collaborative divorce, a less adversarial process where you and your spouse work together to resolve differences, potentially with the aid of a neutral mediator if necessary.

Effective communication is crucial; approach discussions calmly and constructively, aiming for a respectful exchange. When proposals are made, review them thoroughly, ensuring they align with your objectives and legal standards. Be prepared to compromise on less critical issues while standing firm on your priorities to facilitate a fair outcome.

Once an agreement is reached, ensure all terms are accurately documented in a legally binding divorce agreement, reviewed to confirm compliance with Arizona law.

My Ex Wants to Contest Our Divorce, What Do I Do?

Discovering that your ex intends to contest your divorce can be a challenging and stressful experience. 

Here’s a guide on what to do if your ex wants to contest your divorce in Arizona:

  1. Stay Calm and Analyze the Situation: Understand the specific issues your ex is contesting. This could involve child custody, alimony, division of assets, or other aspects. By identifying the exact points of contention, you can better prepare your response and strategy.


  2. Consult with a Legal Professional: Engage a Family Law Legal Paraprofessional who can provide advice tailored to your situation. They can help you understand the legal implications of your ex’s challenges and develop a plan of action based on Arizona’s family law statutes outlined in ARS Title 25.
  3. Gather and Organize Documentation: Compile all relevant documentation that supports your position on contested issues. This may include financial records, communication between you and your ex, and any other evidence that pertains to your marriage and the issues being disputed.
  4. File a Formal Response: If your ex has filed a petition to contest the divorce, you must file a formal response with the court. This response should clearly outline your stance on the contested issues and your desired outcomes.
  5. Consider Mediation: Even if your ex has decided to contest the divorce, mediation remains a viable option. A neutral third party can facilitate negotiations between you and your ex, potentially leading to a resolution without the need for a trial. Mediation can be less adversarial and more cost-effective than court proceedings.
  6. Prepare for Court Proceedings: If mediation does not resolve the issues, prepare for court. This involves understanding the legal processes and what to expect during hearings and the trial. Your legal professional can guide you through pre-trial procedures, discovery, and how to present your case effectively.
  7. Prioritize Your Well-being: Contested divorces can be emotionally taxing. Ensure you have support from friends, family, or professional counselors. Maintaining your physical and mental health is crucial during this time.
  8. Stay Informed and Proactive: Keep communication open with your legal advisor, respond promptly to requests for information or documentation, and stay informed about the progress of your case.

Remember, while your ex has the right to contest the divorce, there are structured processes in place to handle such disputes. With the right preparation and support, you can handle this challenging situation and work toward a resolution that aligns with your interests.

Stephanie Villalobos, LP

De Novo Law, recognized for its pioneering role with Arizona’s first licensed Legal Paraprofessional, Stephanie Villalobos, offers affordable family law services.

Their focus includes handling both contested and uncontested divorces, child custody, support issues, and more, similar to the services provided by traditional attorneys but at more accessible rates.

They aim to make legal services available to those who might otherwise struggle with the cost of traditional legal representation.

De Novo Law encourages individuals facing family law challenges to take advantage of their free one-on-one consultation. This opportunity allows you to discuss your concerns directly with a knowledgeable legal paraprofessional and explore your options.

To schedule your free initial consultation, please contact De Novo Law at (480) 725-2200.or visit their contact page for more details and to set up an appointment.


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DISCLAIMER: The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  De Novo Law, LLC and its Legal Paraprofessionals are not attorneys and are not authorized to provide legal advice or representation beyond the areas and scope of practice for which license is held.  The transmission or receipt of any electronic correspondence or information does not create a legal paraprofessional-client relationship.


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