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Do You Have to Go to Court to Get a Divorce?

It is not possible to get your marriage terminated officially without starting the court process. However, the answer to the question “Do you have to appear in court for divorce?” will not always be affirmative; it depends on many circumstances.

Do all divorces go to court? No, in Arizona, parties who can agree on all the divorce terms can avoid a trial. Can you get a divorce without going to court in a default case? Yes, you can, but only if you meet the legal requirements.

How do you get a divorce in Arizona, and when do you have to go to court for a divorce? We will respond to these and other questions in this article. In addition, we will analyze several ways to reach an agreement with the other spouse to avoid protracted court hearings.

Court Appearances in Contested and Uncontested Divorces

Whether you will need to attend a court hearing to finalize your divorce mainly depends on the case type. A contested marriage dissolution means that spouses have disputes regarding the divorce terms and need the judge’s intervention to resolve them. On the other hand, non-contested ones are those where parties have already reached an agreement on all divorce-related issues independently.

Do I have to go to court for an uncontested divorce? If you choose offline filing, you will surely need to go to the county clerk’s office to submit the necessary documents and officially start the divorce process. However, you may not have to attend a court hearing to get a dissolution of marriage finalized.

You can avoid a trial if there are no disagreements between you and your spouse about where your children will live, how you will divide the property, whether one of you will pay alimony, etc.

According to AZ ST 25-314.01, spouses who are in agreement can file for a summary divorce procedure and waive the appearance in court. The following requirements must also be met:

  1. Spouses do not have a covenant marriage.
  2. Both parties do not object to the divorce and do not disagree about its terms.
  3. Spouses and their children have lived in the state for at least 90 days and 6 months, respectively.

To file for a simplified marriage dissolution, parties need to prepare:

Is a divorce a lawsuit? Yes, the dissolution of marriage is also a lawsuit. The petitioner initiates the legal process in the court. In ordinary cases, not simplified ones, the respondent must provide an answer after being served with the necessary paperwork. If they do not fulfill this obligation, the plaintiff may file an Application and Affidavit for Default in Family Court Cases to get a divorce by default. One copy of this document must be submitted to the clerk’s office, and the other must be sent to the defendant.

The petitioner needs to count 10 days after filing this document and can ask the court to schedule a hearing if the respondent does not answer within this time. However, the hearing can still be avoided under certain circumstances. You can get a divorce without a trial after the 60-day waiting period if you have no children and do not seek alimony by filing a Motion and Affidavit for Default Decree Without Hearing.

Do I have to be present at my divorce hearing if my case is contested? In most instances, parties to a contested divorce must take part in a trial.

H2 When You Might Have to Go to Court

If you have a contested divorce, you will likely have to attend court hearings to end the marriage. You may also be obliged to schedule them in some uncontested or default cases.

Here are the main situations that may require a court hearing:

  1. Spouses disagree on the divorce terms and need the intervention of a judge to resolve disputes between them. The disputable issues may concern child-related matters, alimony, property division, etc. An exception may be a situation where spouses initially start a contested case but reach an agreement during the divorce process, and the judge approves their arrangements.
  2. Parties sign a Consent Decree, but the judge does not consider it fair or in the best interests of children. If the court has questions about the arrangements made by spouses, they may be scheduled for a court hearing even if there are no disputes.
  3. The respondent does not provide the answer to the petition, and a petitioner files for default. If spouses have children or request spousal support, they may need to attend at least one court hearing to obtain a divorce.

In most cases, it is not possible to state in advance whether a couple can avoid a trial. Sometimes, conflicts between spouses appear after filing the paperwork, resulting in the need for a hearing, even for an initially uncontested divorce.

H2 Alternatives to the Traditional Divorce Process

To get a divorce without going to court, you first need to reach an agreement on the divorce terms with the other party. Most often, divorce without court is possible precisely in uncontested cases. You can try to resolve the disputes and get closer to a no-court divorce through negotiation with the other party, mediation, or a collaborative approach. Let’s consider each method in more detail.

Negotiating Your Own Divorce Agreement

Being ready to cooperate and resolve conflicts peacefully, you can try to negotiate a divorce with your spouse yourself. You will need to discuss all the details of your marriage dissolution and make decisions about the future of your children, if any.

To begin with, you can discuss the main marriage termination issues to understand how many contested ones you have. Things to negotiate in a divorce may include but are not limited to the following ones:

  1. Physical and legal custody of children.
  2. Amount of child support.
  3. Division of marital real estate, vehicles, accounts, and other property.
  4. Duration and amount of spousal maintenance, etc.

If you are worried about how to negotiate a divorce settlement with your spouse if they are not cooperative, try to cite the advantages of this option. They are:

  1. Less time-consuming process due to the possibility of avoiding court hearings.
  2. Lower expenses compared to the need for hiring a lawyer to defend your interests in court.
  3. The absence of an unexpected result of a divorce due to the non-interference of the judge.

If you cannot negotiate a divorce settlement on your own, you can consider mediation.

Divorce Mediation

Involving a mediator is one of the ways to reach an agreement between spouses and avoid hiring lawyers and participating in long court battles. Mediators are neutral parties; their goal is not to resolve disputes for you but to help you achieve a consensus on your own.

How does divorce mediation work? During the divorce mediation process, you and your spouse will meet and talk in front of a mediator about the contentious aspects of your marriage dissolution. Together, you will examine them to determine which course of action is the best for your situation.

What to expect in divorce mediation depends on whether you are prepared to collaborate, compromise, and engage in negotiation with each other. Often, parties can work through their differences, reach a settlement, and get a divorce without having to set a trial date.

There are some pros and cons of divorce mediation. Its primary drawback is that this strategy may not be successful if your spouse is unwilling to make concessions or you cannot participate in peaceful discussions.

What are the benefits of divorce mediation? It is significantly less expensive than hiring attorneys and can aid in resolving contested issues without the court’s involvement.

Collaborative Divorce

What is a collaborative divorce? It is a way to negotiate the divorce terms with the involvement of lawyers. Legal professionals can assist in settling conflicts between the parties and help them reach an agreement. A collaborative legal representation differs significantly from a standard one. In a collaborative process, a couple works with attorneys to agree on the divorce terms and avoid setting a trial, as opposed to a traditional divorce proceeding where spouses often have to attend multiple court hearings to obtain a divorce.

The collaborative divorce process can be accompanied not only by lawyers but also by other specialists who may be needed. They can be experts in finance, mental health, or mediators, depending on case-specific circumstances.

According to collaborative law, divorce process can take place in the following order:

  1. Both spouses hire lawyers to represent their interests during the discussion of marriage termination issues.
  2. Parties meet to analyze the disputes that exist and achieve their settlement.
  3. If all divorce terms are agreed upon, parties sign a Consent Decree and file it with the clerk’s office along with other necessary paperwork.
  4. After checking the documents, the judge can grant a divorce without setting a hearing after the waiting period is over.

The lawyers handling the case will not be able to continue representing spouses’ interests in court if the negotiations do not have a positive result. If parties cannot reach an agreement, they will have to hire other attorneys and follow the traditional divorce process with participation in trials.

The benefits of collaborative divorce are that there is a chance to get a dissolution of marriage without setting a court hearing, even if the case starts as contested. Besides, spouses will most likely incur lower costs than during an ordinary divorce procedure.

To sum up, it is not mandatory for all divorcing couples to attend a court hearing to obtain a divorce decree. A couple can try several approaches to overcoming conflicts to waive legal battles and end marital relations with less stress, expenses, and effort.