Responding To Petitions For Dissolution Of Marriage Or Petition For Legal Separation

Cindy Best

Once the Petition is filed and the opposing party is properly served, the clock begins to run on the time for filing a Response. Presently in Arizona, a responsive pleading must be made within twenty (20) days of service of the initial pleading if the Respondent was served in the state of Arizona, and within thirty (30) days of service of the initial pleading if the Respondent was served out of the State of Arizona.

The Response will follow and track the statements or allegations made in the Petition, admitting truths and denying false statements or those in dispute. Filing a Response to a Petition for Dissolution or Petition for Legal Separation is important, as a court can and may enter a default against the Respondent if he or she fails to timely answer the Petition, potentially awarding the opposing party everything he or she requested in their Petition, possibly including his or her fees and costs.[1]

Other Tips and Notes:

  • Parties can reach their own agreements without having to attend court, by preparing a Consent Decree. In accordance with A.R.S. § 25-329 and Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP) 4.1(c), you must wait at least 60 days from the date the other spouse was served with the Petition for Dissolution or Petition for Legal Separation before you can file the Consent Decree.
  • When spouses cannot reach agreements on how to settle, they will litigate the outstanding issues, which will be determined by a Judge.
  • While a spouse cannot legally stop the other from initiating a divorce and dissolving the marriage, he or she can request the court, in writing, to order a one-hour conciliation meeting to try and reconcile. This will also stay the divorce case for 60 days, so we recommend your client be aware that this request can cause a delay.
  • At any time prior to the final order or decree, the divorce case can be canceled or dismissed by filing a request with the Clerk of the Superior court signed by both parties.
  • In accordance with to A.R.S. §§ 25-312 and 25-325, a “Decree of Dissolution of Marriage” is the final order of the Court legally ending the marriage. The spouses do not become “single” again until the Court grants the divorce and this decree is signed by the judge and filed with the Clerk of the Court. This is only applicable in a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
  • The parties’ decree should appropriately divide the community assets and debts, whether by agreement or by court order, identify sole and separate property (if any), and provide for spousal maintenance (discussed below) if necessary. If the dissolution is with minor children, the divorce proceedings and final decree will also address the issues of parenting time, legal decision-making, and child support.

    [1] Cynthia L. Best and Tali E. Collins, The Divorce Coach: Your Guide to Arizona Divorce. 152. 2nd ed. 2015.

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