Are you feeling overwhelmed by the idea of divorce? If so, you’re not alone. This process often comes with legal complexities and emotional turmoil. Fortunately, your path forward doesn’t have to involve emotional court battles or heated confrontations.
Our team at The Aurit Center has created this guide to help you confidently navigate divorce in Arizona. You’ll learn everything from starting your case to managing challenges like property division and child custody.
In this article, we’ll explain how the divorce process works in Arizona and the steps you can take to keep conflict and stress levels to a minimum. By the end, you’ll better understand what lies ahead and have the knowledge to make more informed decisions along the way.
It’s time to carve out a path through the divorce process that respects your needs and helps give you control of your future.
Legal separation vs divorce
Some people find that a legal separation is a preferable stand-in for a divorce until they can negotiate final asset, finance, and child custody issues. In Arizona, obtaining a legal separation is a very similar process to a divorce, as it requires the following:
- A separation agreement stating the marriage is irretrievably broken.
- Filing a Petition for Legal Separation With/Without Children with the Superior Court of Arizona — unless the spouses use the Summary Decree Process, where all filings happen at the end of the process after all the agreements have been reached. The Aurit Center utilizes the Summary Decree Process to help ensure minimal conflict and the most efficient legal separation possible.
- A determination of each party’s rights to properties and custody.
Each party signs a separation agreement — a legally binding contract that resolves debt, property, and child-related issues.
Working with a mediator is helpful when completing this document, as the contract is very detailed, outlining all rights and responsibilities.
Legal separation is most often pursued so that spouses may remain on one another’s health insurance, for religious reasons, or as a temporary means for the spouses to separate their lives while they make a final decision about whether divorce is right for them.
Note: A legal separation is not a divorce in Arizona. Each party will still have the same legal obligations as they did when married and living together.
Drawing the line: laws for filing a divorce in Arizona
Every state has its own laws regarding divorce — or “dissolution of marriage,” as the courts call it in Arizona. After a dissolution proceeding is final, the marriage is dissolved.
Since Arizona is a “no-fault” divorce state, one party does not need to find the other one at fault for dissolution, as is a requirement in some other states. The party simply must state that he or she wishes to dissolve the marriage.
When one spouse is ready to move forward with divorce proceedings, there is nothing the other can do to prevent the divorce. The only choice is in how to become divorced — collaboratively or adversarially.
Navigating covenant marriages in Arizona
Arizona is one of only three states (along with Arkansas and Louisiana) with a kind of marriage that’s legally distinct from traditional marriages — a covenant marriage.
In a covenant marriage, each party agrees to go through premarital counseling with a marriage counselor or member of the clergy. After counseling, a signed special declaration of intent to enter into a covenant marriage while applying for a marriage license is required.
People in a covenant marriage have limited legal options for the dissolution of marriage. There are eight grounds available to dissolve a covenant marriage:
- The spouse that is not filing for dissolution (the Respondent) committed adultery.
- The Respondent committed a serious crime, and the courts have sentenced him or her to death or imprisonment.
- The Respondent has been absent from the home where the married party lived for at least one year and refuses to return.
- The Respondent has become domestically violent or has emotionally, physically, or sexually abused the other spouse, child, or relative who lives in the home.
- Each party has been living apart without getting back together for at least two consecutive years.
- The court has already granted a legal separation, and they have been living apart without getting back together for at least one year from the date of separation.
- The Respondent regularly abuses alcohol or drugs.
- Both spouses agree to a divorce.
While this list may seem daunting, it is possible to dissolve a covenant marriage in Arizona. Speak to a mediator or lawyer to determine the best path forward.
Divorce help: a more peaceful path
Divorce mediation is an often-used option during Arizona dissolutions of marriage. During the process, either spouse can choose not to have an attorney or hire a lawyer for representation. Many clients do not have formal attorney representation but still choose to get legal advice from an attorney during the process. The two parties (and their lawyers, if applicable) will meet with a neutral third-party mediator.
You will discuss the issues of your divorce, such as child custody and assets, with your mediator — who will help you find common ground and reach agreements on every issue. There are many benefits compared to litigation and going to a trial:
- Confidentiality — nothing goes on public record.
- 80–90% less expensive than litigation trials and hearings.
- Keeps conflict as low as possible.
- Better for children’s health and well-being.
- Ends in the settlement of all divorce issues.
- Arrive at resolutions based on your own beliefs of what is fair.
- You and your spouse control the process (not a judge).
- Improved communication between you and your spouse.
- You can still have a lawyer represent you.
Carefully weigh the pros and cons over a traditional trial process before deciding if it is right for you.
Who should consider it?
The divorce process works best when the spouses discuss the terms of the divorce amicably. Although some conflict is normal, mediation works best when spouses can participate in an online meeting with one another.
If you have one or more of the following goals, divorce mediation may be right for you:
- You want to protect your finances from being drained by high legal fees or are willing to collaborate to reach mutually beneficial agreements and save your assets in the long run.
- You want to maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship.
- You want to avoid the emotional toll of a trial.
- You want to keep the details of your divorce as private as possible.
- You want to stay in control over your own divorce terms and not have a judge decide your future for you.
Divorce mediation is an appropriate legal process for the vast majority of divorcing spouses. Since it has significant benefits over typical litigation and trial, it is the preferred choice for spouses unless one has a safety concern related to the other spouse. When spouses do commit to the process, success is extremely likely.
How does the mediation process work in Arizona?
If you and your spouse agree that divorce mediation is the ideal path for the dissolution of marriage, contact a mediator about your situation.
Tell your mediator about your marriage, children, and the issues you must discuss during the dissolution.
Although many clients don’t need one, you can hire a legal advisor or lawyer to give you advice, help you make important decisions, and guide you through the process. You can even have your lawyer attend your sessions with you.
Here’s how the process works:
- You and your spouse will attend an initial free consultation with your neutral third-party mediator. They will explain how the process works and how it’s different from litigation. They will also answer any questions that you may have.
- If you and your spouse decide to move forward with the process, you will both get the opportunity to discuss what is important to you and why. You will then discuss all pertinent details with your mediator and your spouse.
- You may have multiple sessions to reach agreements on every issue.
- During your sessions, you and your spouse will work with your mediator to come up with creative solutions and compromises. You will focus on property division, child custody agreements, parenting time, legal decision-making, child support, and spousal support, known as spousal maintenance in Arizona.
Your mediator will go over Arizona’s spousal maintenance calculator with you and your spouse to help you reach a mutually beneficial agreement.
- Once an agreement is reached, your mediator will write up all of the terms you and your spouse have agreed upon during your session(s). This may include your property settlement agreement and parenting plan if there are children involved. These agreements will be incorporated into your Consent Decree of Dissolution of Marriage — your finalized divorce judgment. Some mediators will take care of the entire process from beginning to end.
Meet with your top local mediators to find out more about divorce mediation.
First steps: initiating the dissolution of marriage process
Step 1: Filing a petition for dissolution of marriage
The first step toward the dissolution of marriage is to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in your county’s Superior Court — unless the spouses use the Summary Decree Process in which all filings happen at the end after all agreements have been reached. The Aurit Center utilizes the Summary Decree Process to ensure minimal conflict and the most efficient divorce possible.
The residency requirement in AZ to file for dissolution of marriage is that one party must be living in the state or stationed here as a member of the armed forces for at least 90 days before filing the petition.
You will file a different Petition depending on whether your dissolution involves children or is for a covenant marriage. Arizona offers this paperwork on the Judicial Branch of Arizona’s website, called “ezCourt forms.”
There are anywhere from 10 to 20 documents you may need to submit during the filing process, including a Marital Settlement Agreement, Preliminary Injunction, Acceptance and Waiver of Service, Credit Notification Form, Request for Hearing, and an Affidavit Regarding Minor Children.
It’s wise to work with a mediator or lawyer while filing for dissolution of marriage to ensure you do it correctly the first time. Otherwise, you could file incorrectly, causing lengthy delays to your process.
Once you file, the court will assign you a case number. Keep track of your case number and bring it with you during any court proceedings.
Step 2: Serving divorce papers
You must send one copy of the Petition to File to the Respondent in an act called “service of process.” The Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules 4.1 and 4.2, outline the rules for service of process. Essentially, the Petitioner must serve the Respondent with the divorce papers.
The Petitioner can hand-deliver them, mail them via first-class post, hire a process server or sheriff to serve the papers on your behalf, or ask the court to order service via publication.
The Respondent can alternatively sign a document called Acceptance of Service.
A Response to the Petition is a Respondent’s acknowledgment of receiving the dissolution of marriage papers and his or her agreement or disagreement with the Petition. In a Response to the Petition, the Respondent will state his or her position on the Petitioner’s proposals, including on issues such as asset division, child custody, and spousal support.
The Respondent has 20 days after the service of process to file a Response to the Petition if he or she wishes. The courts extend this deadline to 30 days after service if the Respondent lives outside of Arizona.
After the deadline, the Respondent loses his or her right to argue items on the Petition. Failure to answer results in a “default” divorce, meaning the courts will assume that the Respondent agrees to the Petition’s terms and dissolves the marriage.
The Respondent may remove the default and contest the divorce only if he or she can prove to the court there was a justifiable reason to miss the deadline. A Respondent needs sound legal evidence for the Arizona courts to set aside a dissolution granted by default.
Step 3: Requesting temporary orders
Temporary Orders can decide who gets to stay in a shared residence, who will pay which bills, if there will be temporary spousal maintenance or support payments, and where children will live.
An Arizona child custody order can help you file a request for a Temporary Order regarding custody of your child during the dissolution of marriage. Temporary Orders are available for child support, custody, and restraining orders to prevent one spouse from kidnapping the child. The Arizona courts can take a few months to hear and decide on Temporary Orders.
However, there are Emergency Temporary Orders that the judge will hear within 24 hours if necessary. This is typically only applicable in cases involving abuse, drugs, alcohol, or mental health issues. Either party can file a request for an Emergency Temporary Custody Order.
The courts will decide on a Temporary Custody Order, depending on what’s in the child’s best interests or what will cause the least emotional upheaval.
Often, Temporary Orders become permanent when both parties agree via a settlement agreement or consent decree to keep matters the same after divorce finalization. In other cases, a judge will order Temporary Orders to become permanent after the conclusion of a trial.
Avoiding the courtroom during your divorce
If you’d like to avoid the courtroom during your divorce, consider the following options:
The consent divorce process
In best-case scenarios, you do not need to go to trial for the Arizona Superior Court to finalize a dissolution of marriage. If both spouses agree to all terms, including child custody, child support, spousal support, and debt and asset division, the courts can finalize the dissolution without the need for a trial. The courts call this the Consent Divorce Process.
Both spouses have to sign several documents for a Consent Decree to avoid going to trial. If there are children involved, each party must attend parent education classes before the courts grant dissolution via a Consent Decree.
The Conciliation Court is a branch of Arizona’s Superior Court in charge of spouses’ counseling, dispute resolution, and parental education. The Conciliation Court protects the interests of children and provides help to spouses who wish to settle family matters amicably.
Legal annulment in Arizona
A legal annulment is a rare alternative to the dissolution of marriage in Arizona. The courts may grant an annulment, making your marriage null and void, if some factor makes your marriage invalid.
In Arizona, voidable marriages include, but are not limited to those:
- Without a valid marriage license.
- That occurred while another marriage was still in effect.
- With an underage spouse.
- That are fraudulent.
- Due to threats or coercion.
- Between spouses who have a blood relationship.
- Involving intoxication or lack of mental or physical capacity.
- Involving a spouse who cannot consummate the marriage.
- Where one spouse concealed a criminal past or communicable disease.
If the courts find a valid reason to grant the annulment, you and your spouse will be as you were before the marriage. As there was technically no marriage to begin with, there are no marital assets to divide. If the judge does not grant the annulment, you may file for dissolution of marriage.
It’s important to note that a legal annulment is not the same as a religious annulment, which is not a civil action. Religious annulments occur within the Catholic faith. A religious annulment is a declaration by the Catholic Church court that a marriage the church thought was valid is now void.
What to expect at divorce hearings and trials
Arizona acknowledges uncontested and contested divorces.
An uncontested divorce is much easier on all parties involved than a contested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all divorce terms and conditions.
A contested divorce, on the other hand, requires extensive discovery, hearings, appearances, and a trial to battle out the details of a dissolution of marriage.
When the Petitioner and Respondent do not agree on some aspect of the dissolution of marriage, they must prepare for a hearing.
The basic steps of a divorce hearing and trial in Arizona are as follows:
Step 1. Interview and hire an attorney
It is possible to represent yourself, but it’s typically in your best interest to hire a mediator or family law attorney for a divorce hearing. Choose a local attorney who specializes in contested dissolutions of marriage in Arizona.
Step 2. Discovery phase
During the pre-hearing discovery phase, both sides will have a chance to find out as much as possible about one another. This process can take months or years. It includes requests for production, interrogatories, and depositions.
This may include conducting interviews with the other spouse, going through depositions, and even hiring a private investigator if one spouse has reason to believe the other is hiding assets.
Step 3. Pre-trial hearings
Often, a contested dissolution of marriage can be resolved during hearings and with negotiations between attorneys. There may be multiple hearings before your case has to go to trial for resolution. Hearings are shorter than trials and are in front of a judge with no jury.
Step 4. Divorce trial
During a trial, both parties have a chance to make their cases. If there are attorneys involved, the attorneys will make these arguments for the Petitioner (the “plaintiff”) and the Respondent (the “defendant”). You may or may not have to testify during your trial. Your attorney will be able to prepare you for what to expect specifically.
Step 5. Final decision
The judge will issue a final order at the close of the trial that will determine issues such as custody arrangements, spousal support, and property division. The judge’s declaration will finalize your divorce.
After the trial, one spouse may appeal the judge’s decision within 30 days of the dissolution’s finalization. Appealing a divorce decree means the judge has a second chance to make divorce decisions.
Should you represent yourself during a divorce hearing?
Divorce Court can be harsh and intimidating, especially if it’s a person’s first encounter with the Arizona judicial system. If you’ve never been to court before and don’t know what to expect, talk to a mediator or lawyer.
Hiring a divorce mediator or respected family law attorney during your divorce can help ensure that the process is as smooth and efficient as possible. Not doing so can place you at a distinct disadvantage and cause miscommunications, unnecessary delays, oversights, and escalate conflict.
If you are in litigation, the fact that you can represent yourself during a hearing does not mean that you should.
If litigation is the only choice, below are reasons to hire a lawyer as soon as possible:
- Filing the correct paperwork on time.
- Getting through state-specific regulations for filing.
- Familiarity with local family laws and statutes.
- Experience with the family court system.
- Objective legal advice during an emotional time.
- Learning options you didn’t know existed.
- Access to consultants, experts, and investigators.
- More favorable settlement agreements.
- Relieving the stress of a dissolution of marriage.
- Protecting your rights to the full extent of the law.
Representing yourself during a divorce hearing or trial can take a severe emotional toll and add undue stress to an already tense situation. Your performance may hurt your chances of getting the settlement you want and need.
Overall, if you are litigating, do your research to find an experienced professional divorce litigator. Get personal recommendations. Be thoughtful about the kind of attorney you want representing you. Look for an attorney with a creative mind who is focused on resolving issues as seamlessly as possible and — most importantly of all — is someone you trust.
How property division works in Arizona
When spouses aren’t able to reach an agreement on their own, a judge will decide how to divide their marital property, assets, and debts.
States abide by two main legal theories when dividing property between parties of a dissolved marriage: community property and equitable distribution.
Arizona is a community property state, meaning the courts will typically divide the property of the “community” (the marriage) down the middle — 50/50 — in a divorce settlement. There are only nine states, including Arizona, that abide by community property rules.
In Arizona, “community property” encompasses anything acquired during a marriage. This includes all:
- Physical property
- Financial portfolios
- Private businesses
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Home equity
Community property also includes debts, including credit card debt, tax debt, and student loans. In community property states, the courts divide all of this property in half.
All property each spouse acquired before the marriage or via inheritance is separate property and not included in the 50/50 division.
“Comingled property” is separate property that one person mixes with community property. For example, when spouses make a joint bank account after marriage, separate property becomes community property.
The courts split comingled properties 50/50 as they would with community property. Determining which properties are separate, community, and commingled can get complicated.
Spousal support agreements
In Arizona, the courts may award one party “spousal maintenance.” Also called “spousal support” or “alimony,” spousal maintenance is a payment one spouse must make regularly to the other spouse to bridge an income or property gap between them.
Unlike some other states, the Arizona legal system doesn’t award spousal maintenance to punish one party for wrongdoing, such as infidelity.
Instead, Arizona uses it to help a spouse meet their reasonable needs. Spousal maintenance also provides support during difficult transitions, such as adjusting to life as a single individual living on a single income.
In litigation, judge-ordered spousal maintenance usually leaves both sides feeling as though they have lost. This creates substantial risk for both spouses and creates a strong interest in settling the issue before litigation drags on and a judge eventually decides.
Under A.R.S. 25-319, spousal maintenance is paid from one spouse to the other if the other:
(1) Lacks sufficient property to provide for their reasonable needs;
(2) Lacks the earning ability in the labor market that is adequate to be self-sufficient;
(3) Is the parent of a child whose age or condition is such that the parent should not be required to seek employment outside the home;
(4) Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the earning ability of the other spouse or has significantly reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for their own benefit.
(5) Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
If spousal maintenance is on the table, courts look at thirteen different factors to determine the amount and duration of spousal support payments.
Below is a condensed summary of those factors:
- the standard of living established during the marriage;
- duration of the marriage;
- age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- the ability of the payer to meet their own needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- the comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market;
- the contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse;
- the extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;
- the ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children;
- the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently;
- the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available;
- excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy, and other property held in common;
- the cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance; and
- damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.
Often, spousal maintenance is awarded in circumstances where one spouse is unable to be entirely self-sufficient because of lost career opportunities or other sacrifices made to benefit the family.
For example, if one parent worked inside the home to benefit the family’s children rather than advancing a career outside of the home, those facts would be considered when a judge orders spousal maintenance.
Typically, spousal maintenance only lasts as long as it takes for the recipient to become self-supporting. However, long-term spousal maintenance may also be awarded depending on the circumstances.
If the decree has no end date listed, the spouse must continue to make payments on schedule until the court orders otherwise. Usually, spousal maintenance will end if the recipient remarries or upon the death of the payor or recipient.
Spouses can get creative with the terms of these agreements. As long as both parties agree, spousal maintenance can take many different forms, such as:
- part or all of the spousal support might be paid in a lump sum;
- part may be paid with other assets;
- creative structuring using step-down approaches may be used;
- certain triggers to decrease or increase spousal maintenance can be agreed upon;
- personalized language for when maintenance may be modified or terminated are often agreed upon; or
- personalized tax benefits.
There are endless ways to personalize spousal maintenance that work for both parties.
Child custody and support payments in Arizona
Child custody issues are the most delicate and emotionally charged topics during dissolutions of marriage. Parents involved in Arizona custody disagreements and visitation issues can find themselves in an emotionally and financially exhausting legal battle.
In the end, the court’s ruling is based on what they believe is in the child’s best interests, regardless of each spouse’s argument during hearings and/or trials.
The term “custody,” although still used by most spouses in divorce, is no longer found in Arizona law. Judges no longer award “sole custody” or “joint custody.” Today, less adversarial language is used.
Child custody law update in Arizona
As of January 1, 2013, a new custody law went into effect in Arizona. This law changed the legal terms in child custody agreements, removing the word “custody” from all family law statutes.
The term “legal custody” is now called “legal decision-making authority.” The court may award both parents “joint legal decision-making authority” or one parent “sole legal decision-making authority.”
“Legal decision-making authority” generally refers to the parental authority to make final decisions regarding a child’s major health and medical decisions, major religious decisions, and major educational decisions.
Arizona courts have interpreted joint legal decision-making as their default orders based on recent law and precedent. The presence of certain facts, such as a history of domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, and certain criminal convictions, can make sole legal decision-making the court’s first-line orders.
Interestingly, the court may also assign certain decisions that each parent can legally make. For example, a judge could give the mother legal rights to make a child’s medical decisions, but the father legal rights to make educational decisions. In either case, the judge will do what he or she believes is in the child’s best interest.
Separate from legal decision-making is the issue of parenting time. Previously called “physical custody,” the issue of when the children will be with Mom and Dad is now referred to as parenting time.
An award of joint legal decision-making does not necessarily mean equal 50/50 parenting time. However, 50-50 parenting time has also generally been the court’s default order, as Arizona law recognizes that barring certain present facts, equal time with parents is in the child’s best interests.
Arizona lawmakers designed the new custody law to put parents on more equal grounds during dissolutions of marriages involving children. Judges no longer solely look at a child’s past primary caregiver when making decisions. Rather, they now look at the past, present, and potential future relationship between the child and their parents.
When parents in a dissolution of marriage have minor children, Arizona law requires that a parenting plan be created and executed. You and your spouse must fully agree on all parenting plan terms — otherwise, a judge will order the terms of your parenting plan for you.
The goal of a parenting plan is to plan for issues that will inevitably arise when parenting your children after divorce to be better prepared for challenges that come when parents live in different residences. The better the “plan,” the lower the conflict in the future because there is already a plan in place for dealing with many circumstances.
By encouraging cooperation and communication between co-parents, parenting plans can help minimize conflicts over parenting time, legal custody, child support, and other issues.
Parents may also eventually settle on a plan when litigating with attorneys. Otherwise, the judge will make a plan for the parents — and in that case, neither parent is usually satisfied with the outcome.
Some common elements of a parenting plan include:
- Weekly schedule of shared parenting time when children are with each parent
- Holiday parenting time
- Vacation time with children
- Periodic review agreement
- “Right of first refusal” agreement
- “Relocation” clause
- Legal decision-making designation (the major decisions parents make, such as those regarding their child’s healthcare, education, and religion)
- Numerous issues regarding children’s healthcare and insurance coverage
- Cost sharing for extracurricular activities and/or childcare and other child expenses
- Method for resolving disputes (parents will work with a mediator, counselor, etc., before going to the court to resolve the issue)
- Child support amounts
- Tax agreements regarding children
These are just some of the main things your parenting plan may include. You and your spouse can add provisions as necessary until you believe you have a solid plan for taking care of your child today, tomorrow, and well into the future.
If you need help creating a parenting plan with your spouse, browse the Arizona Court’s Guide for rules, ideas, and helpful tips. However, there is no substitute for thoughtful planning and problem-solving with a neutral mediator to guide a custom-tailored approach to your plan.
Child support payments
Arizona law requires that parents provide “reasonable support” for minor children, regardless of time spent with either parent. Courts place the best interest of the child at the forefront of any divorce case. Thus, the child support obligation is given top priority over any other financial issues.
Arizona uses something called the Arizona Child Support Guidelines to calculate support. The calculation is based on the number and ages of minor children, the parents’ gross income, and the amount of parenting time for each parent. It also includes other factors, such as adjustments for other children not common to the parents and costs for healthcare and education.
The courts deem that the child should receive the same proportion of income from parents that would have been available if the parents remained married. The Income Share Model, on which Arizona models its own Guidelines, looks at the parents’ income and computes a basic child support obligation.
Rather than looking at marital misconduct, the courts look at other factors to determine the amount of child support, including:
- The financial needs and resources of the child and both parents.
- The child’s previous standards of living.
- The child’s emotional, physical, and educational needs.
- The child’s medical support plan.
- Duration of parenting time.
Typically, a parent must continue to make child support payments until the child turns 18. Payments may continue past this age if the child has special needs and is unable to live independently. If the child is still in high school, payments may continue until the age of 19.
Child support can also be modified when a parent can demonstrate “changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing.” When a parent’s income substantially increases or decreases, a modification of child support based on the new information is generally indicated.
However, this does not include a voluntary departure from a higher-paying job. When this occurs, a judge may impute the higher income, even though the parent is no longer at that income level.
Can the court change the child support decision?
Generally, when child support is determined by a judge using the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, the calculated amount will be ordered for child support. However, when the calculated amount would be “unjust” such that it is in the best interests of the child to deviate to a higher or lower child support award, the court will grant the deviation.
When spouses are able to reach an agreement without going to court, they’re free to structure their child support arrangement however they feel is in the best interests of their children.
For example, after determining the father is to pay $300 in child support to the mother each month, parents might reach an agreement that the father pay 100% of any monthly healthcare costs and 100% of any monthly extracurricular activity costs in exchange for a deviation to $0 in child support.
The mother’s share for these costs that the father is now paying based on their circumstances is significantly higher than the $300 that the father would have paid in child support.
It can be shown that “the father is providing for the children in other ways.” Therefore, this deviation would likely be best for the parents and in the best interests of the child. This kind of deviation approach would be common when parents can keep conflict low in their divorce.
Staying confident throughout your divorce journey
While facing a divorce may seem like an insurmountable challenge, you don’t have to walk this road alone.
When spouses are willing to come together in a supportive, collaborative setting to resolve the contested issues of their divorce, it’s possible to complete the entire divorce process without ever setting foot in a courtroom.
This is your journey, and you’re doing great. You can confidently navigate this unknown terrain by choosing a compassionate, balanced, and personalized approach to divorce.
Reach out and schedule your free consultation today to learn more about how an Aurit Center Certified Mediator can support you throughout your divorce process.
You’ve got this, and we’re here for you every step of the way
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How to Represent Yourself in a Divorce Court without a Lawyer
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