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Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid when Filing for Divorce DYI in Arizona

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It is no secret that going through a divorce in Arizona can become expensive, especially if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement. You may choose to proceed with a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) divorce in Arizona to reduce lawyer expenses.

However, there is a strong possibility that you will not save money handling the divorce yourself if you make (costly) divorce mistakes.

Going through a divorce in Arizona has its own set of rules and procedures to follow, distinct from other states. Arizona is a no-fault state, meaning you can file for divorce without stating a legal reason such as abuse or adultery. The state does not recognize common law marriages, divides community property 50/50 during the marriage, and generally aims for child custody agreements that involve both parents. Child support, alimony, and asset division are determined on a case-by-case basis. If you opt for a do-it-yourself divorce, there are potential pitfalls to avoid such as improper serving of papers, missing deadlines, and making negative comments on social media.

The legal process begins with filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and serving the papers to the other party. From there, either party can file motions to address specific issues like temporary orders or custody evaluations. Strict deadlines apply throughout the process. While it’s possible to handle a divorce without legal representation, many common mistakes could be avoided by consulting an experienced attorney. The article advises seeking professional advice, especially when valuable assets or child custody are at stake.

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Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid when Filing for DIY Divorce in Arizona

Going through a Divorce in AZ

While divorce is difficult in all 50 states, each state has its own laws that can make it significantly more or less difficult. 

While preparing for a divorce in Arizona without a lawyer, verify all legal resources specifically refer to Arizona laws instead of laws applying to another state because they do not apply to your Arizona divorce.

Below are some basic laws you should know about divorce in Arizona.

Arizona is a no-fault state. This means that you can file for divorce without a legal reason, such as addiction, abuse, or adultery.

Arizona does not recognize common law marriage unless a couple established a common-law marriage in a different state before the couple moved to Arizona.

While dividing assets can get tricky, Arizona usually divides community property obtained during the marriage 50/50 between both parties. Property obtained before the marriage and inheritance may not qualify as community property. A valid prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement will change the community division based on the terms of the contract. 

When deciding child custody, Arizona judges consider what agreement suits the child’s best interests, usually favoring active involvement from both parents instead of keeping a parent away from a child.

Child support payments and alimony (spousal maintenance) vary greatly from case to case. Many factors are involved in determining the appropriate amount, if any.

What is the Process to File for Divorce in Arizona?

Every case must start with a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition and accompanying documents must be served on the other party. After service, the other party may file a Response to the Petition. What happens next depends on your matter. But every case must end with a Decree or Final Order/Judgment.

When it comes to how to file for divorce in Arizona, you have two main options: file through the assistance of a divorce lawyer with years of experience dealing with all of the issues that can arise, or file yourself.

A Phoenix divorce attorney knows the processes, deadlines, and best practices. They can also offer invaluable advice. However, if you have a firm grasp of divorce proceedings in Arizona already, you may opt to file yourself to save money on legal fees.

Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid Filing for DIY Divorce in Arizona

If you decide to move forward with a do-it-yourself divorce, you need to know the mistakes that can end up putting you in an undesirable position. Below are the top 10 most common mistakes to avoid filing for a divorce yourself in Arizona.

1. Improperly Serving Your Spouse

As we stated above, to initiate a divorce, you must file a petition for the dissolution of marriage. Most people refer to this primary document as “divorce papers.” After you file for the divorce with the Superior Court Clerk, you will also need to serve the other party with the papers. 

Do not assume that just because you filed the paperwork with the Clerk that you are done. You must properly serve divorce papers to your spouse, even if you know they are aware of your intentions.

There are rules for the proper procedure of serving divorce papers and if you do not follow them, it can seriously delay your case and could affect the distribution of community property.

2. Not Going Through Proper Procedures

The State of Arizona has strict requirements about how you present them with a motion during your divorce. Motions refer to formal requests that you have regarding the outcome of the divorce, child-related topics, and other issues that must be addressed.

Some very common motions that you may consider submitting, depending on your current situation, include:

  • Motion for temporary orders
  • Motion for a custody evaluation
  • Motion for mediation
  • Motion for a parenting conference

Legal processes take a long time. Filing a motion with the court moves your case along more quickly – as long as you fill out the motion precisely according to the format the court requests and follow the procedures in the filing. Otherwise, the motion will take longer or possibly get denied. 

3. Missing Deadlines

There are deadlines regarding how much time you have to respond to certain paperwork and court dates. Just about anything filed in your case will have an applicable deadline to respond.

Once your spouse is properly served, they have 20 days to file a written response (30 days if located out of state).

This is just the beginning deadline. You will regularly have deadlines to submit responses to certain motions, respond to discovery, and complete disclosure. If you fail to respond in time, it will reflect poorly on you and could convince the judge to rule in favor of the other party. 

Pay close attention to all deadlines and handle things in a timely manner. 

4. Negative Comments Regarding Your Spouse on Social Media

Divorce brings out the worst in people. No matter how ugly it gets, you will only hurt yourself if you choose to vent your feelings online. Online ridicule shows emotional instability and a lack of self-control. It would be best if you also were careful about what you share online while out with friends, whether with the children or not. 

During your divorce, limit your social media presence to the bare minimum.

It’s not only social media. Remain respectful when talking about the divorce, even to your friends in private correspondences. Your spouse and your spouse’s attorney can and will find information to use against you. They may trick friends and family into providing information under the guise that it will help your case.  

5. Not Creating a Detailed Parenting Plan

Arguably the most important negotiation that takes place during divorce proceedings involve any shared children. You and your spouse will need to agree on a detailed parenting plan. 

The parenting plan will cover each parent’s financial responsibilities, who make important decisions, and the parenting time schedule, along with many other important details like extracurricular activities and who can claim the children on their taxes. The agreement will also address who will make decisions regarding healthcare and education. You will also clarify how to resolve issues, such as a schedule conflict or parental disagreement, when they occur. 

Both parents must agree to the terms in order for the court to accept the plan. Or, the judge will come up with a plan for you and your spouse (and you may not like it).

If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, you will likely need to forego the DIY divorce and enlist the services of a divorce lawyer in the Phoenix area.

6. Failing the Child Custody Evaluation

If you or your spouse file a motion for a custody evaluation, prepare yourself for a detailed examination of your role as a parent and your parenting skills. 

You may also need to go through an evaluation, even if you are the one who requested the evaluation. You will also need to pass Arizona’s “Parent Information Program.”

The evaluation generally takes months. During this time, evaluators will determine how much time you spend with your children and how you interact with them. They will also perform interviews with family members, friends, teachers, and anyone else who can provide insight into your home. 

Many parents experience frustration at court-ordered parenthood courses and professional critique of their parenting. Despite your feelings, put your best foot forward and take the process seriously. If you refuse to complete the class or demonstrate poor parenting abilities, it can have devastating consequences in your custody ruling. 

7. Not Getting the Proper Insurance

Going through a divorce should open your eyes to how quickly your circumstances can change. Insurance covers you financially in the case of an unforeseen tragedy, but what insurance topics come up during divorce?

Start by ensuring that both parties have adequate life insurance. Life insurance covers any end-of-life expenses that occur in the case of your death.

You also need to confirm the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, especially if you listed your spouse as a beneficiary in the past. 

You may also request that your spouse get what’s known as “order for life” insurance. “Order for life” insurance is a policy that ensures that you continue to receive payments from your spouse (or their insurance company), even if they die or can’t make the payments themselves. 

8. Not Knowing the Value of Your Assets

A large part of divorce involves dividing assets between you and your spouse. Many people estimate the value of their homes, vehicles, and other assets, with the estimation leaning in favor of the person generating the numbers. However, the courts will not accept an estimate. 

Get a proper valuation of your assets from a professional. Openly display all assets, too. When you present everything transparently and get a professional assessment, it will allow your case to move forward smoothly.

If you and your spouse get different valuations of your assets, you may need to hire a third party to perform the third, independent assessment, taking more time and money.  Do your best to come to an agreement on the value of the lifestyle you and your spouse once shared. 

9. Having a Bad Attitude or Vindictive Attitude

Judges, Mediators, or Arbitrators do not appreciate a negative attitude. Remain respectful and even friendly throughout all interactions with your spouse and the court.

Part of demonstrating a positive attitude also means using professional language and dressing professionally during court hearings. During your court hearing, have all documents in order and organized with all requirements due that day fulfilled.

Avoid making snarky remarks, rolling your eyes, or shaking your head when your spouse makes false claims or outlandish requests. Keep your composure.

Not only will a good attitude encourage the judge to see you favorably, but you may even be able to come to agreements with your spouse, eliminating court costs for additional mediation or going to trial.

10. Not Getting Legal Representation For Your Divorce

Navigating a divorce without a lawyer is highly inadvisable unless you happen to have no assets to divide and agreed on all the details for child custody with your spouse.

Simply not understanding the divorce laws is not a defense in the eyes of the court, and if you make a mistake that could have been easily corrected by a lawyer, you will end up paying dearly.

We are here to help. Let our experienced and aggressive legal team take charge of your divorce. We offer completely free consultations with our divorce lawyers that usually take 30-60 minutes. We will evaluate every angle of your case and come up with the best solution in your favor. Do not go through it alone.

A divorce ruling greatly affects your future quality of life. Don’t punish yourself even more than you’ve already experienced during the divorce.  Even if you choose to handle the divorce yourself, you should still enlist the help of a Phoenix divorce lawyer to look over your divorce paperwork before you submit it and answer your questions. 

You’ll also need legal counsel if you and your spouse disagree about how to split your assets or child custody.

Certain things, such as time with your kids, are priceless. When something so valuable is at stake, you do not want to take chances by blindly going through the process yourself.

Hiring a Lawyer When Going Through a Divorce in AZ

Do you have questions about how to process a divorce in Arizona properly? Are you curious about what you can handle yourself and when you should call a professional for help?

Contact the Arizona divorce lawyers at Colburn Hintze Maletta to schedule a consultation. Our lawyers understand how difficult of a time this can be, and we work to make things as inexpensive and efficient as possible to reduce how much the experience drains you both financially and emotionally.

Whether you need complete legal counsel through every step of the divorce or limited service as needed, we can create a plan with you that finds that fine balance between saving money and developing a successful case.

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