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How to Forego a Lawyer During a Divorce

Not all couples go into divorce prepared for a spartan-style battle. For those who can mutually agree on dividing assets, debts and alimony, a lawyer may be an unecessary expense. 

While many divorces are messy, spewing with emotions, dramatics, and battles, some couples manage to keep the peace. And in a world filled with hefty price tags, especially for the soon to be newly singled, hiring a divorce attorney may seem like an unwanted expense; is it one that spouses can truly forego?

Arizona does offer uncontested divorces, meaning both parties agree to the terms of the divorce. In this situation, many people feel comfortable moving through the legal system without council- but it remains imperative the proper sets are followed. Phoenix divorce lawyer DeeAn Gillespie offers the necessary steps both parties must follow to successfully avoid living out a divorce horror story.

Before breaking down the steps, here are a few basics surrounding uncontested divorces. Arizona requires a 60-day waiting period from the date of service prior to obtaining a final decree. One person may file for one of two types of uncontested divorce, default or consent. The person who initiates the process is, and always will be, the Petitioner. The other spouse is legally called the Respondent. All divorces begin the same way- with an initial filing with the Court.

THE FILING: The initial filing includes state required documents, summons and a petition, hence why they become the petitioner. The petition tells the Court what the petitioner is seeking from the divorce: division of property and debt, spousal maintenance, custody, parenting time, child support, etc. None of these requests should come as a surprise to the other spouse, as uncontested, again, means both parties talked this out and agreed previously. Filing fees for the petitioner vary by county.

THE SERVE: One spouse is not officially known as the Respondent until they’ve been served. In Arizona, service can be completed in a variety of ways, the most common being through a licensed process server. But if all is amicable between two spouses, the petitioner may ask the respondent to sign an Acceptance of Service, requiring a notarized signature. A third option is by mailing the notice, but still must be signed and filed with an affidavit. If the spouse can not be located after several attempts, publication may be considered as a last resort. The 60-day waiting period does not begin until the service is complete.

THE DEFAULT DIVORCE: A summons is also included in the service specifying the amount of time the person has to respond to the divorce petition. If the respondent fails to meet the timeframe, the petitioner may file for an Application and Affidavit of Default, notifying the Court the petitioner wishes to pursue, despite no response, as a default divorce. From the date of filing, the respondent receives 10 additional days to file a response. If they fail to do so again the default will be granted. 

THE HEARING: A hearing is required in Arizona if a divorce involves children or spousal maintenance. If there are no children and no request for spousal support, the parties have an option to schedule a default hearing or file a Motion or Affidavit for a Default Decree Without a Hearing. It’s often more difficult for parties to forgo a lawyer when spousal support is brought into the divorce- for insight into Arizona’s considerations regarding alimony, visit Gillespie’s post on working as a Phoenix spousal support attorney.

THE CONSENT DIVORCE: If both parties agree to the terms of the final decree, a consent decree is filed. Before it’s completed both parties must pay their filing fees (or have them waived or deferred by the Court), sign the decree and have it notarized. Once the decree is submitted to their assigned judge, the judge will schedule a hearing or send the decree back to both parties if they require revisions. Once signed by the judge, the decree is filed with the Court and copies provided to both parties.









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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Jen Mur is a legal blogger, interviewing prominent lawyers throughout the country. This article tackles filing for divorce without a lawyer, featuring DeeAn Gillepsie of Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb



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