In Arizona, you do not have to prove someone is at fault (caused the divorce) to get a divorce. You do not have to allege that the other person is cheating, stealing or is abusive.
The Court is unconcerned with a spouse’s bad or unethical conduct, except if it impacts the best interests of any common children (for example: domestic violence or drug abuse). Also, if the misconduct constitutes financial misconduct (hiding/wasting money, for example), the Court may award the innocent party more assets or fewer debts or award that party more or longer spousal maintenance. Finally, if a party engages in misconduct during the divorce action, the Court can order that party to pay some or all of the other party’s attorney’s fees and costs.
The only other reason the Court will be interested in a party’s misconduct is if the parties have entered into covenant marriage. Parties enter into a covenant marriage by declaring that they intend to do so when they apply for a marriage license and submitting an affidavit stating that they attended premarital counseling. Basically, the parties are agreeing that they will be married for life, and they voluntarily and legally restrict their ability to get a divorce. With a covenant marriage, parties can only divorce if both parties agree, or if certain other circumstances exist (adultery, felony incarceration, living apart for specified periods of time, domestic violence, or drug or alcohol abuse).
Whether or not you believe your spouse is at fault for the divorce, mediation, rather than litigation, is often the preferred method of getting a divorce. Rather than spend copious amounts of time, money and energy on fighting with your spouse in Court (which rarely makes anyone feel better), you can work cooperatively to end your marriage in an efficient and less expensive and less stressful manner. All issues can still be addressed in mediation. You can address spousal maintenance, a division of assets and debts and every other issue in mediation. The Court will still ultimately issue the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, which you will have jointly submitted to the Court, without the necessity of actually going to Court. With mediation, most participants are able to move forward with their lives with less disruption and turmoil.
Alona M. Gottfried is a family law mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about family law or mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or alona(at)sglawaz.com. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.