The Mediation Option for Contested and Uncontested
Throughout history, people have approached disagreements in two ways: peaceful resolution through conversation, or adversarial conflict through war. The same is true for the Arizona divorce process. Arizona defines two categories of divorce: uncontested and contested.
Generally, people believe an uncontested divorce means that the spouses agree on everything and do not need legal advice or a family law attorney. They believe this results in a low cost and limited-conflict route to getting a no-fault divorce. On the other hand, many believe, a contested divorce means that the spouses are not in agreement and must therefore battle out their divorce in court, leading to high legal fees, high attorney fees, and a divorce process that spans out over a long time period.
Divorce mediation breaks this misconception. Regardless of whether you and your spouse currently agree on everything, or are experiencing high levels of conflict and disagreement, you do not need to battle in court, pay high court fees or the high fees of a divorce attorney, and you do not need to have a lengthy divorce process.
Mediation: Option for Contested and Uncontested Cases
No matter the level of conflict, mediation is for all couples seeking a divorce in the state of Arizona. An experienced, specially-trained professional divorce mediator can help spouses come to agreements on all divorce issues.
The mediation process follows the “uncontested divorce” path. Instead of involving a judge and a law firm of expensive divorce lawyers, mediation provides a confidential, safe space for you to collaborate and come to agreements. At The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation, we draft your Petition, which begins the divorce process. In litigation, a Petition is filled with demands, but in mediation, it is simply noted that you are in mediation to resolve your divorce and include the requirements under Arizona law:
1) Your marriage is “irretrievably broken,” meaning there is no possibility that you and your spouse plan on staying together.
2) You plan on agreeing to the division of all assets and debts.
3) You plan on agreeing to whether spousal maintenance is awarded.
If you have children, we further include:
1) You plan on agreeing to who has legal and physical custody of your child(ren).
2) You plan on agreeing to a parenting plan, in which you determine the parenting time schedule.
3) You plan on agreeing as to who will pay and for how much child support will be.
As you can see, “you plan on agreeing” to these items in mediation. Meaning you could be in agreement now, or could currently be in complete disagreement. Creating agreements for all aspects of divorce such as; spousal support or alimony, division of property, or a parenting plan or child custody, is the purpose of mediation.
In your mediation meetings, the petition for dissolution of marriage is signed together, instead of serving one spouse with divorce papers at their home or business, usually by a sheriff or process server. Avoiding this process makes the mediation less time-consuming, and helps keep conflict low. Your mediator will help you and your spouse reach agreement on all issues, and will draft your documents for your review. Your final decree, referred to as a Consent Decree, which is ultimately signed by both spouses, is then submitted to the court for approval. The Consent Decree is a culmination of all the agreements you and your spouse have reached, which then become orders of the court.
How is This Different from a Default Divorce?
According to Arizona state law, a default divorce is an option in which spouses agree to every element of their divorce case, but do not file a Consent Decree. Simply, one spouse follows the same steps to file a Petition, as described above, and “serves” it on the other spouse. In your Petition, you will list all agreements that you have reached regarding your divorce. If the spouse served with the Petition does not respond to the court, the judge will simply ratify what was included in your Petition, forming what is called a Default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.
A default is not recommended in any divorce case involving assets, debts, or minor children. We caution against a default divorce , as your agreement will more than likely lack sufficient complexity and discussion of necessary issues, resulting in problems with your Default Decree in the future. Such issues can include missing information that is necessary for the court to implement a specific agreement, which can cause conflict to build between you and your spouse over agreements that were never reached, and more.
Maricopa County Superior Court filing fees in an uncontested divorce are limited to two fees: A Petitioner’s fee and a Respondent’s fee. In a contested divorce more filing fees may apply during the course of litigation. In any case, the waiting period for divorce in Arizona is 60 days from the date of the Acceptance of Service being filed.
Although it appears that you can only participate in the uncontested divorce process if you and your spouse agree on everything, that is not the case. The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation is located in Scottsdale, Arizona, with locations throughout the Phoenix metro area. Mediators at The Aurit Center turn the most contested divorce cases into uncontested ones. We suggest you consider this important option prior to filing a unilateral Petition and engaging in a damaging litigation process. The benefits of mediation apply to legal separation as well.