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Arizona Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

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When Is A Divorce Contested vs. Uncontested?

When people file for divorce in Arizona, not all cases end up in litigation. Some divorce petitions are uncontested, allowing the parties to get divorced without going through divorce a trial. An uncontested divorce is also much faster and less expensive than a contested divorce. In some instances, the parties can even finalize their divorce without ever stepping foot in a courtroom.

However, an uncontested divorce generally requires both parties to be fair, reasonable, and willing to compromise.   As such,  there are some situations in which litigation is unavoidable and the case must proceed as a contested divorce. If you are considering filing for divorce in Arizona, you should speak to an experienced family law attorney at Colburn Hintze Maletta about your situation to determine the best approach and strategy for you.

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Contested vs Uncontested Divorce in Arizona

What does Uncontested Divorce Mean?

An uncontested divorce occurs when divorcing spouses agree to all of the terms of the dissolution of their marriage. If you and your spouse agree about everything, you can work together to file the necessary documents with the court. Your divorce case can then be completed outside of the court without having to go to a divorce trial.

It is also possible for people to divorce in Arizona without retaining lawyers. However, this is not always a good idea, especially when the stakes are high (i.e. children are involved, you have substantial assets or debts).

 

What does Contested Divorce Mean?

In a contested divorce, the spouses disagree about one or more of the issues involved in the dissolution of their marriage. Unless the spouses can negotiate a settlement, a contested divorce case will be litigated in court before a judge in a divorce trial.

In some contested divorces, the couples can eventually come to agreements through mediation or negotiation. If the issues in dispute are not settled, however, the case will proceed to trial on the remaining issues. The judge will then decide the outstanding issues after hearing testimony and evaluating evidence presented by both sides.

 

Contested vs Uncontested Divorce

Ultimately, uncontested divorces are faster and usually substantially less expensive than contested divorces. However, in some cases, it may not be a good idea for people to agree to settle. For example, if your marriage has had a history of domestic violence, drug or alcohol addiction, or you suspect your spouse might be hiding assets, litigation might be necessary. It all depends on what the terms are being offered for settlement.

Even for an uncontested divorce, where you and the other party agree, an attorney consultation is still recommended to ensure your agreements are in your best interest.

Whether you are involved in a contested vs uncontested divorce, the attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta can help you evaluate the extent of your claims and rights under Arizona law.  Even for an uncontested divorce, where you and the other party agree, an attorney consultation is still recommended to ensure your agreements are in your best interest.  In contested divorces, the attorney’s at Colburn Hintze Malletta will help you identify the key issues and facts to maximize the potential for a successful outcome in settlement negotiations or trial.  If necessary and beneficial, we will engage outside experts and forensic accountant to help prove your case.

Reasons to Pursue a Contested Divorce

If you are the victim of domestic violence, the unequal power dynamic might not lend itself well to a settlement negotiations, especially if you don’t have a strong advocate on your side to protect your interests. Additionally, if you share children with your estranged spouse who has a drug or alcohol addiction, agreeing to shared custody might not be in the best interests of your children.

Finally, if you are ending a high-net-worth marriage and believe your spouse may be hiding assets, or you just don’t know what is fair and reasonable in terms of property/debt distribution or financial support, a contested divorce might be your only option to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome.  Remember, whether your case is resolved through settlement or trial, in most cases you only get one bite at the apple to get it right.

Remember, whether your case is resolved through settlement or trial, in most cases you only get one bite at the apple to get it right

People who are going through divorce without these types of complicated issues might be happier with the results they receive when they can negotiate full settlement agreements. When a couple can reach a full agreement, they will retain control over what happens at the end of their marriage instead of leaving the decisions up to a judge who does not know them.

Reaching a full agreement and moving forward with an uncontested divorce might also be much less expensive for both spouses and allow them to secure their divorce decree much sooner.

Disadvantages of Contested Divorces

Every divorce has its own unique circumstances, regardless of being uncontested or contested. However, some of the disadvantages of contesting a divorce include the following:

  • A judge will decide the issues rather than you and your spouse.
  •  You will likely have to attend multiple hearings in court.
  • A contested divorce will take much longer.
  • Contested divorces are generally more expensive because of protracted litigation.

 

Advantages of Uncontested Divorces

Uncontested divorces offer the following advantages:

  • You and your estranged spouse have control over the final decisions at the end of your marriage.
  • You might not have to appear in court.
  • Uncontested divorces generally take much less time.
  • Settling your divorce will likely be less expensive than litigation.
  • If you do not have children and only have a modest estate, you might be able to handle an uncontested divorce without an attorney.

 

What is the Divorce Filing Process?

Before you can file for divorce in Arizona, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state or stationed in Arizona for a minimum of 90 days under ARS 25-312. The person who files for a divorce is the petitioner, and the other party is known as the respondent. A common question is whether it matters who files first.  The short answer is that in the vast majority of cases it makes no difference. Once the petition is filed, it must be served on the respondent with a summons to respond. The respondent will then be given time to file his or her response to the petition for dissolution.

If the parties agree on all outstanding issues, they can draft a settlement agreement that addresses how they will divide their assets and debts, how spousal or child support will be handled, and how child custody will work. If the couple has children, they will need to submit a parenting plan to the court. Child custody issues are determined according to what is in the best interests of the children rather than in the interests of the adults involved.

Once a settlement agreement is filed, the court will review it to make sure that it is fair and reasonable. If the court determines that it is, the judge will issue a divorce decree, and the settlement agreement will become a part of the court’s orders.

If the couple disagrees, the respondent can file his or her response. The court will then set further proceedings and may order the parties to undergo mediation to try to reach an agreement. The divorce case will enter into the discovery phase. During this time, both sides will need to exchange the evidence they have with each other.

If an agreement is not reached on one or more issues, the case will eventually proceed to a divorce trial.

Once a divorce petition is filed and served on the respondent, he or she will have 20 days to file a response, or 30 days if he or she lives in a different state. If your spouse fails to respond to your petition, you can ask the court for a default divorce.  It is important to note that there is no automatic default for a divorce in Arizona. You have to apply to the Court for default, after which the other party will be afforded an additional 10 days to file a response.  If the other party still does not respond, then the case will proceed by default.

A default proceeding means that your divorce will move forward without your spouse’s involvement. The court will likely grant a divorce decree and finalize your divorce under the terms of your petition.

If you agree to everything in your divorce, the court can instead issue a consent decree. If you share children, you will also be required to attend a parenting class once your petition is filed and before the decree will be issued, however.

 

What are Alternatives to Litigation?

Alternative dispute resolution methods are available to people who are going through divorces in Arizona. These include collaborative divorce and divorce mediation.

A collaborative divorce is a private, out-of-court process that might provide a way to get divorced even when you and your spouse initially do not agree on everything. This type of process involves attorneys for each spouse and other professionals who can help to work together to resolve the outstanding issues. If an agreement is reached, it will be prepared and submitted to the court.

A collaborative divorce is a private, out-of-court process that might provide a way to get divorced even when you and your spouse initially do not agree on everything.

Divorce mediation involves meeting with a neutral third party called a mediator. The mediator is trained to facilitate agreements in contested matters. You and your spouse will meet with the mediator in separate rooms. The mediator will talk to each of you and go back and forth between you with each other’s concerns.

If an agreement is reached in mediation, an agreement will be prepared. Both you and your spouse will sign it and submit it to the court. Mediating your divorce can provide a way for you and your spouse to determine your divorce’s outcome rather than leaving it up to a judge.

Common Contested Issues in Arizona Divorce Cases

Some of the typical areas of divorce cases that lead to disputes include the following:

  • What property is considered community (subject to an equitable division by the court) and what property is considered separate (belonging solely to one spouse)?;
  • How the parties’ community property and debts will be allocated between them?
  • Whether the community has an interest in a party’s sole and separate property?
  • Whether one spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance, and if so, the amount and duration of support that should be awarded;
  • The amount of child support that should be awarded.
  • Which parent will have legal decision-making authority for the children;
  • How parenting time will be divided between the parents;

Even if you initially believe that you and your spouse are too far apart on one or more issues to reach an agreement, an attorney at Colburn Hintze Maletta might still be able to negotiate with your spouse (or their attorney) to reach a settlement agreement that works for you.

Talk to a Divorce Lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta

If you are preparing to file a divorce petition, you should talk to an experienced divorce attorney at Colburn Hintze Maletta. We can help you to assess your situation and put you in the best position to achieve a favorable outcome under the circumstances of your case..

Call us today to speak with our divorce attorneys during a   one-on-one consultation and create a winning strategy (602) 825-2500.

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What People Say

Client Testimonials

Arizona attorney Darin Colburn

“The calm in the middle of my storm…”

I, recently, consulted with Darin after my wife filed for divorce. He was referred to me by a friend whom I very much trust. Darin was the antithesis of the first two attorneys I consulted (who were matter-of-fact and had very little empathy about the fact that I was struggling emotionally with what was transpiring). From the first few minutes of speaking with Darin, it was obvious that he was very knowledgeable and skilled with divorce and family matters. While that was most important to me, the thing that made the difference was his calming, logical, and empathetic approach. He took the time to listen and empathize with me. He took the time to understand what I wanted to achieve through this process and laid out my options. After the consultation, I knew he would be my attorney if I had to pull the trigger. I, ultimately, didn’t have to engage Darin’s services due to a reconciliation with my wife. I hope I never have to go through that process again, however, if I do, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt who I will be hiring to represent me…Darin R. Colburn. Darin, thank you for caring and being more than an attorney.

Frank - AVVO Review

Divorce / Reconciliation Client
Attorney David Maletta

“There is NOBODY I would rather have defending me than David”

I hired David Maletta and it was the best decision of my life. His knowledge, genuine interest, overall attitude, and ability to connect with people is incomparable. I could talk about all of this at length. I COULD do all of that, but that wouldn’t do David justice. He first and foremost demonstrates his interest and genuine care for his client. Being in uncharted territory with a criminal charge and nowhere to turn, David’s presence and personality put all nerves at ease. I went through a jury trial with David beside me. The trial ran for 3 days and I spent a significant amount of time with David one-on-one. During this stressful time, he wanted to hear my input and thoughts on everything. David was incredible from the first day I met him. Not only is he a great attorney, but he is also a great person who cares about people and finding justice for his clients. He connects to the human side of people. I can’t put into words how much David cares about the individual in a case. When it comes to the courtroom, there is NOBODY I would rather have defending me than David.

Jacob - AVVO Review

DUI Defense Client
Arizona attorney Darin Colburn

“Because of Darin I got my daughter back”

Before I hired Darin I went through a total of 3 different attorneys in two different states fighting a jurisdiction battle, when my daughter was taken to a different state. It was a very difficult decision to switch attorneys at one of the most difficult, time sensitive and important times in my case, but I’m very glad I did. Upon receiving my file from previous attorneys Darin came very familiar with my case quickly. Like other people have explained he took the time to lay everything out and explain how the process was going to proceed and what to expect and continued to do this as new issues arrived. He is also very quick at responding to emails and phone calls. My case was getting close to trial as told by my previous attorneys, I did not want to go to trial as I know this is very costly (most attorneys will convince you that you need to.) Darin knew my situation, fought for what was right and got the results I wanted while avoiding a costly trial. He is extremely knowledgeable in the Child Support Guidelines as well. Because of Darin I got my daughter back. I would highly recommend him and would hire again for any future issues. Thanks Darin!

Chris - AVVO Review

Child Custody & Support Client
Attorney David Maletta

“I was found NOT GUILTY. Dave won the trial for me.”

Dave stayed with me while he pushed back and forth with Covid-19 and the delays with court. Once cited, the state basically decides that you’re guilty through the automatic suspension of your drivers license. Dave immediately took care of that problem and I never lost the privilege of driving. Dave took notes like crazy and was upfront about our uphill battle. I was also well aware that the plea deal that was given to us, was unacceptable and through Dave’s knowledge and experience I had put my trust in him to guide me to make the right decision on how to proceed. With Dave’s guidance I had decided that we needed to fight for something better than what the prosecutor was offering and Dave was 100 percent behind me on that decision. We knew the risks, be we also knew we had very little to lose based on the prosecutions stance. We decided to go to trialWatching the prosecution and then watching Dave was night and day!! It was clear to the jury that the prosecution didn’t have their facts straight and were not addressing the facts that they could not address…There was a lot at stake for my personal life and my work life. I was found NOT GUILTY. Dave won the trial for me.

Gregory - AVVO Review

Criminal Defense Client
Arizona Attorney Timothy Hintze

“Tim was absolutely amazing and worked diligently”

I had an incident and was Given the catch-all charge. There wasn’t really anything I could do by myself to get out of it. Tim was absolutely amazing and worked diligently to ensure that I would have the best possible outcome from my case. Which he successfully achieved! As of right now I am on the path to having my case fully dismissed. A couple things that really helped me through this process was that Tim did an amazing job at was answering my questions. He was available almost anytime and would respond promptly when he got my emails. He was also very approachable and comforting to be around while we had in person meetings and especially when I was at the court house. I would trust him and the company he works for with any other cases in the future and as of right now they will be my first choice if I need a lawyer in the future.

Dylan - AVVO Review

Criminal Defense Client
Arizona Attorney Timothy Hintze

“Listens to every request that you make on a case”

I honestly just want to let it be known to any and everyone looking for an attorney on a case. Whether it be DUI, possession, or your every day to day traffic violations where you need representation attorney Tim Hintze is your man. You have to respect a man that listens to every request that you make on a case and he gets in there and gets it done. Tim has my respect as an attorney and being a well-rounded representer. From him being honest on the possibility and options for your case to him being easy to work and communicate with via over the phone or face to face Mr. Hintze is working it out.

Ben - AVVO Review

Criminal Defense Client
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