What Happens When an Uncontested Divorce in Arizona Becomes Contentious?
Many people dread the idea of having to go to court and engage in long, emotionally draining, and expensive divorce proceedings. As such, an uncontested divorce is an ideal scenario for most people. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses are able to reach a mutual agreement regarding all aspects of their divorce, without intervention from the court. This allows them to skip many of the steps required in contested divorce proceedings. So what happens when an uncontested divorce in Arizona becomes contentious?
In the United States, uncontested divorces have been available since 1841, beginning in New York before being adopted by other states. This was an important historical shift. In the early days of the United States, most people were married by religious authorities and were therefore subject to church rules regarding divorce. In some cases, people could not obtain a divorce even if both parties agreed to end their marriage because the church did not agree with their reasons for wanting to end the marriage. Now, all fifty states have uncontested divorce procedures enshrined in law, with small variations in the details and procedures. Around 95% of all divorces are settled out of court (though many states require a perfunctory hearing before a judge to finalize the agreement).
To file an uncontested divorce in Arizona, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least 90 days. For couples with children, this requirement is extended to 180 days, and at least one of the spouses must be an Arizona resident at the time of petition. The court filing and service process requirements are minimal compared to contested divorces– not to mention the legal expenses. (Currently, the total fees for filing an uncontested divorce at Arizona Superior Court total $234.)
However, unsurprisingly, divorce proceedings that are initiated as uncontested don’t always end up that way, given that there are so many emotionally fraught areas of potential conflict between the two parties. Often, these areas of conflict are exposed as a couple tries to work out an agreement, and the process becomes more contentious than either party expected. What happens if your attempts at an uncontested divorce hit a wall and you end up in litigation or court proceedings?
Mediation for an Uncontested Divorce
Many couples try to handle their entire divorce on their own in order to keep costs down and make the process as quick and painless as possible. However, almost by definition, couples who are divorcing aren’t always able to communicate effectively with each other or reach mutually acceptable compromise positions. This can result in major difficulties when it comes to negotiating their own agreement via uncontested divorce proceedings. Divorces are often more complex than people realize at first. There are a number of issues that require mutual agreement, including asset and debt distribution, spousal support and, when there is a child or children involved, custody and child support issues. These are often more difficult to resolve than divorcing couples anticipate when they begin an uncontested process.
If you find yourself in this position, you don’t necessarily need to head to court to litigate your divorce. There are other avenues worth exploring, chief among them mediation. Mediation involves engaging a neutral third party to guide the interactions between you and your spouse to keep both parties focused on the overall objective of reaching an agreement, here are some divorce mediation basics you should know. Mediators are trained to never take sides and are generally skilled at helping both parties navigate this difficult process– and no arrangement that emerges from mediation is binding without both parties’ consent, unlike a court of law. You can choose whether or not to hire an attorney to represent or consult with you during the mediation process; in any case, both parties should engage lawyers to review the final agreement before it is submitted to the court for approval.
If your attempts at uncontested divorce truly fail and cannot be helped by assistance from a mediator, arbitrator, or lawyers engaged in negotiation, then the divorce will need to be resolved in court. At this point, a divorce petition will be prepared, filed, and delivered, and a court date will be assigned. The parties will then hire lawyers to represent them, if they haven’t already, and litigate the issues that could not be mutually agreed upon.
Talk to the Singular Law Firm
If you are getting divorced in Arizona, you do not have to navigate the process on your own. The experienced divorce attorneys at Singular can help you choose the best option– uncontested or otherwise– and help you reach an outcome that serves your needs and interests. Contact the Singular Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.