Preparing and Filing Petition for Dissolution of Marriage

Cindy Best

Arizona does not provide for joint filing of a divorce—one party must initiate by filing the petition with the court. There are several documents that need to be filled out and filed with the court. They vary depending on whether the client intends to file for a dissolution with or without children or a legal separation with or without children.

For more information, please visit our Web site, www.bestlawaz.com; our YouTube Channel, howtodivorce, available at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyFqZudau9B-pQ2F4uDwg-A, or refer to our book, The Divorce Coach: Your Guide to Arizona Divorce.
To better assist you, we have mapped out the documents you will need to file for the following types of cases:

  • Dissolution without minor children (6 documents)
  • Dissolution with minor children (8 documents)
  • Legal Separation without minor children (5 documents)
  • Legal Separation with minor children (7 documents)[1]

 

The Purpose of Each Document

Each of these documents has a significant meaning for the courts and for your client. Below is a list of the forms and their purpose. (NOTE: The documents are presented in the order they shall be provided to the court).

 

Family Court/Sensitive Data Coversheet

This form helps the courts set up the case file in their computer system. Throughout the divorce process, the court will periodically send out minute entries or court orders to the parties. It is important personal information (especially addresses) is updated with the court, in order to ensure you receive all of these necessary documents. Please be cautioned that this information may become public record and be available for everyone to see. You may want to consider not providing complete account numbers or Social Security numbers, due to the risk of identity fraud.

 

Summons

The summons officially notifies the respondent (the other party) a lawsuit (divorce) has been filed against him/her and he/she is a party to the action. The summons also informs the respondent how long he/she has to answer the divorce. This document is signed by the clerk of court who, at the time of filing, will emboss the document with his official seal.

 

Preliminary Injunction

 

The Preliminary Injunction is a set of rules that must be followed by both parties after a spouse is served with dissolution or legal separation paperwork. These rules are explained in the Preliminary Injunction document you filed and served upon the other party. These rules are mandated for every couple going through the process of dissolution or legal separation.

It is important to be familiar with the rules. Some of the rules that most commonly come up are as follows:

  • A party may not transfer, encumber, conceal, sell, or otherwise dispose of joint or community property. But they may use community property to conduct the usual course of business, pay attorney’s fees, or provide the necessities of life.
  • A party may not remove a child residing in Arizona from the state without the consent of the other party.
  • A party cannot remove the other party from any existing insurance, including health and automobile insurance.

 

Petition for Dissolution/Petition for Legal Separation

 

This document is the most important of the documents initially filed. This Petition sets out the necessary facts of the divorce or legal separation and lets the court know exactly what your client is seeking in the divorce. In this petition, you can inform the court of the following:

  • How your client wants to divide his/her assets and debt;
  • Whether one spouse is entitled to an award of spousal maintenance;
  • What kind of decision-making and parenting time your client wants for his/her children (applicable with a Petition filed with minor children);
  • Whether an award of child support is appropriate.

(Note: This list is not exhaustive, it is merely some examples of what you can request of the Court).

This document should provide a picture of what your client wants at the end of the divorce process. You should ask the court for everything that your client wants, even if it is not what your client would settle for at the end of your dissolution. You want to request that your client be awarded certain things because if the other party does not answer the petition and a default is granted against the other party, the requests in that initial petition are what will be awarded. Maricopa County also provides a form on its website that allows a party to be more specific.

 

Notice of Your Rights about Health Insurance Coverage

This legal notice outlines how health insurance coverage could be affected after the dissolution is final… It is not usually applicable to legal separations, but you may want to check with your insurance company.

 

Notice Regarding Creditors

This notice is required for all actions of divorce and legal separation. This document explains that your client and the opposing party are responsible for community debts. It also suggests that you may want to contact your creditors to discuss the debts and the effects of your divorce or legal separation.

 

Parent Information Class

This form gives the respondent spouse notice that he or she must attend a parent information class. (The person filing for divorce must also attend). This form is only applicable in a Petition for Dissolution. The parent information class is a mandatory class for both parents to attend. Parents do not attend this class together and each parent can choose a convenient location and time to attend. This class may be taken online as well.

We recommend having your client take this class early in the dissolution process. When your client has taken the class, the instructor will give your client a form to file with the court or it will be filed directly with the court by the program. Your client may be barred from any decision-making authority or enforcing a future parenting time or legal decision-making order without having filed this certificate.

If your client is unable to take this parent information class because he/she is on military duty, it is possible to ask your judge if your client can be exempt from taking it. There is a form, Motion to Request Exemption from Parent Information Class that you can fill out and file with the court. It is within the court’s discretion whether to grant the request to be exempted from this requirement. Completion of this class is necessary before entering into a final dissolution or separation.

 

Affidavit Regarding Minor Children

In this affidavit, the petitioner confirms who the minor children are and where they have lived during the past five (5) years. This form is only applicable in a Petition for Dissolution. This document also asks whether there are any court cases that your client has been a party to or witness to that involved the decision-making or parenting time of the children. The document requires you to answer whether there are any pending court cases related to the decision-making of the children and whether you know of any person, other than the petitioner or respondent, who has decision-making or who claims decision-making or parenting time rights of any of the children named in the affidavit.

 

Steps to Filing Your Dissolution or Legal Separation Documents

1. Review your documents one last time to ensure their accuracy.

2. Have your client sign the petition in blue ink. There are TWO places. The verification page needs a notary, as well. (Do not have your client sign it until he/she is in front of a notary).

3. If there are minor children, the client must sign the Affidavit of Minor Children in blue ink. This page needs a notary.

4. Copy each document three (3) times. Staple each individual section (such as pleadings) together.

5. Keep each document in an individual pile. The original document should be on top, with the three copies underneath. Paperclip these four documents together.

6. If your client is getting divorced with minor children, you will have nine separate piles paper-clipped together. Otherwise, you should have a stack of six or seven documents.

Your stack should look like this:

  • Document #1: Original Family Court Coversheet/Sensitive Data Sheet plus three copies
  • Document #2: Original Summons plus three copies
  • Document #3: Original Preliminary Injunction plus three copies
  • Document #4: Original petition (signed with blue ink) plus three copies
  • Document #5: Original Notice of Your Rights about Health Insurance plus three copies – if necessary
  • Document #6: Original Notice Regarding Creditors plus three copies
  • Document #7: Original Affidavit Regarding Minor Children plus three copies – if necessary
  • Document #8: Original parenting information class plus three copies – if necessary[2]

7. Take these documents to your nearest courthouse. The court clerk will date stamp these documents. The court clerk will also assign you a case number. You must use this number when you file subsequent documents with the court.

8.Make sure you have your client’s filing fee ready–$338.00 for initial petitions, $269.00 for responses. Your client can pay by cash, cashier’s check or credit card. (There is a possibility for a deferral or waiver of this fee if your client is unable to pay it. Such forms are located online or you may request the form from the filing counter clerk).

9. The court clerk will keep the original copies and will date stamp your remaining copies.

10. Now, to “start the clock,” you need to serve (officially give a copy) the documents on the other party. The instructions for service are below.
[1] Cynthia L. Best and Tali E. Collins, The Divorce Coach: Your Guide to Arizona Divorce. 26-28, 116-117. 2nd ed. 2015.
[2] Cynthia L. Best and Tali E. Collins, The Divorce Coach: Your Guide to Arizona Divorce. 143. 2nd ed. 2015.

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