In this article, you will discover:
- Who should consider divorce mediation and who should avoid it in Arizona.
- When being late to file divorce can work to your advantage.
- The costly consequences of DIY divorces.
In Arizona, What Are The Options For A Couple To Proceed With Divorce?
I always suggest filing the paperwork and getting the process started when you’re ready for divorce. Some people try to convince you to mediate it, to work everything out first before going into it. After your case is up and moving, you can still mediate, narrow things down, and settle – filing doesn’t prevent that.
Don’t try to settle everything beforehand unless you are sure the other side will meet you halfway. It takes two to tango. If you don’t work something out, you’ve just wasted a bunch of time and money, and you still have to go through a whole divorce case. If you get the case filed and moving, you don’t have to worry as much. If you settle during the case, great. If not, at least you weren’t delayed because you tried mediating first.
Is There Any Benefit To Filing For Divorce Before My Spouse In Arizona?
There isn’t much of a benefit to being the first to file for divorce. Honestly, I think it’s better to be the second filer—the respondent. You pay less money as the court fee, and you have less responsibility for processes like initiating the production of the joint pre-trial statement.
Really, the only downside to being the respondent, is having a set period in which to respond to that initial petition. But 20 days is a lot of time to say, “we agree with this paragraph and this other paragraph too, but we disagree with this third paragraph.” The response period is not enough of a hindrance to outweigh the benefits. You get to see the other side lay out their strategy and then get to respond to it.
I can only think of one benefit to filing for divorce before your spouse: if you think they are not going to take it seriously and might not respond, you should file first. You may catch them unprepared and get a default divorce that says everything you want it to. But if they are going to respond, then no, I don’t see a benefit.
In Surprise, Arizona, What Effect Does It Have On the Process If The Divorce Is Contested?
In Arizona, when a divorce is contested, it just means someone doesn’t agree with the proposal you are making, and they want to make a different proposal. The other party will try to negotiate, or if we can’t negotiate, we’ll go to the judge. We’ll say, “We can’t agree, and we need your help to sort this out.”
Now, in Surprise, this could potentially work to your advantage. In Surprise, we have the Northwest Superior Court. Most attorneys in Arizona aren’t familiar with it. Most of the other law firms are in the East Valley, in Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler, etc. They are used to other courts, like Northeast, Southeast, and Downtown. In Surprise, they’ll be away from judges they are familiar with. They won’t be as familiar with the judges here and don’t quite know how these judges rule. It may create pressure on them to settle with you or to be fearful of litigation in unknown waters.
In Maricopa County, What Is The Timeline Of Events Once Someone Files For Divorce?
I like to think of the timeline for filing for divorce as two separate train tracks. Track number one leads to a default. You file, the other side doesn’t respond, and we send another notice out asking, “Are you sure? You are going to get a default against you if you don’t respond.” Then we wait until day 60—you have to wait 60 days to get divorced in Arizona.
If there still is no response, once day 60 has passed, we ask the court for a default hearing. We walk in and say, “We served the guy and he never responded, so I guess he is okay with what is happening.” Then we get a default judgment.
Track number two leads to court. When they respond, we go to court for a resolution management conference. We ask, “Can we resolve some of these disagreements now. We’ll put your agreements on record and solve that part of your case.”
Then we ask, “What about these other things you disagree on? Can they be resolved with a little help?” Then we have a third party intervene and schedule something, like a mediation. If mediation doesn’t solve all the disagreements, and we don’t otherwise reach an agreement beforehand, we go to trial. Then a judge is going to resolve it for us.
You are always going to be on one of those two train tracks. It will depend a lot on the other person, and whether they step up to the plate and respond.
Can I Handle My Own Divorce Case, Or Do I Need An Experienced Divorce Attorney?
You can always handle a divorce case on your own, in much the same way you could handle car repairs or do your own open-heart surgery. You can do it, but if you have something complicated you need to do, it may not be a great idea. Most people are getting involved in this for the very first time, and they don’t have the education to do it. They rely on anecdotal support and what little they can find on the internet, which may or may not be correct. They are just sort of crossing their fingers and hoping they get it right.
If you have a really simple case where everyone agrees on what happens and you just need some paperwork put in, go for it. Handle it yourself. Don’t waste your time and money on me. But, if you have something complicated, if you have major disagreements or a contested case, I would strongly suggest you hire an attorney.
I can’t tell you how many people come into my office who did their own divorce the first time, and now it’s all screwed up. They didn’t have someone who could think it through and ask the right questions, like, “How is this parenting plan going to change when the kid goes to school?” Now suddenly, they need a modification.
So, you can always do these things yourself, but it may not be advisable to do so. It may cause you more problems down the line. Is it worth it to spend $15,000 on an attorney to fix it years later when you could have paid an attorney $5,000 to do it right the first time?