If your spouse/partner filed the action against you, you must file a responsive pleading. You have a time limit, so make sure you know what it is. If you were served in the state of Arizona, you have 20 days to respond, if you are out of state, you have 30 days. Your response should track the petition, paragraph by paragraph. You will “admit” the true things that are in the petition, such as the date of your marriage, your name, the county you live in. If you dispute some item, you respond with “deny,” such as: “Denies Paragraph V as to spousal maintenance, because husband is capable of working to support himself.” If you have any questions, you should consult an attorney. DO NOT IGNORE THE PETITION. You will set yourself up for a default, and that can be very dangerous. Remember to be ready to pay your responsive filing fee of $256 (at the time of this writing) when you file your response.
The ?New? Rules
After a party is served with the dissolution or legal separation documents, there are new rules that must be followed by you and your spouse. These rules are explained in the Preliminary Injunction (A.R.S. ?25-315(A)) initially filed and served upon a party. These rules are mandated for every party going through the process of dissolution or legal separation. It is crucial to follow these rules! To comply with the preliminary injunction, you shall not do any of the following:
- 1. ?Do not hide earnings or community property from your spouse.
This injunction also applies to you when you have the intention to file for divorce or legal separation. In other words, you cannot hide money or community property from your spouse prior to filing for divorce. Throughout your divorce, all income and property must be disclosed, and it is recommended that you comply with all of the discovery rules.
- 2. ?Do not take out a loan on the community property
- 3. ?Do not sell the community property or give it away to someone, unless you have written permission from your spouse or the court. There are exceptions to this rule if a party needs to transfer joint or community property as part of the everyday running of a business, or if the sale of the community property is necessary to meet necessities of life, such as food, shelter, clothing or court fees and attorney fees associated with this action. (If this applies to you, it is recommended that you seek an attorney for help.)
- 4. ?Do not harass or bother your spouse or the children.
While this may seem obvious, it is important to remember this part of the injunction. Feelings become strong throughout a divorce (even in amicable divorces), and it is important to be respectful, which will help the process move along more smoothly. If your spouse asks you to stop contacting him or her, please respect that request and only contact that person if absolutely necessary.
- 5. ?Do not physically abuse or threaten your spouse or the children.
It is important to note that physical abuse or threats to your spouse or to your children during this period may have an effect on whether the court awards joint legal custody or sole legal custody to one parent. When there is significant domestic violence in a family, joint legal custody is contrary to the best interests of the children. If the court finds significant domestic violence in the family, it is more likely that the non-violent/non-abusive parent will be given sole legal custody, rather than sharing joint legal custody. Some judges do not understand the correlation between domestic violence towards a spouse and the increased likelihood that the offending parent will abuse the children. You should consider seeking the advice of an attorney if you are in this situation.
- 6. ?Do not take the minor children, common to your marriage, out of the state of Arizona for any reason without first obtaining a written agreement between you and your spouse or a court order.
If you are concerned that your spouse may take your children out of the country and there is a chance that he or she will not return with them, make this known to the judge early on in your case and request that you maintain exclusive control over the children?s passports.
- 7. ?INSURANCE COVERAGE: Do not remove, or cause to be removed, the other party or the minor children of the parties from any existing insurance coverage, including medical, hospital, dental, automobile, and disability insurance. Both parties shall maintain all insurance coverage in full force and effect. It is possible that you or your spouse loses employment upon which you rely for your insurance during this temporary injunction.
If this occurs, both parties shall attempt to gain the insurance lost. If it is economically not feasible and COBRA, for example, is too expensive for your family budget, then the court is likely to understand why you no longer have that type of insurance.