Q. Divorce Waiting Period in Arizona?
A. 60 Days
The Arizona House recently rejected a bill that would have extended the wait time for a divorce from 60 days to 180 days unless a court ordered a shorter waiting period. Representative Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix) introduced House Bill 2650 as a cost-saving measure for the state and an affirmation of Arizona public policy on marriage and families. As reported by the Arizona Daily Star, she stated when she introduced the measure: “Financially, homes that break up cost the state, and it should be the policy of our state to encourage families to stay together.”
Currently, Arizona law requires that a party must wait at least 60 days from the date he or she serves the other party with a petition for divorce before requesting the court to act on the divorce petition. Along with the 180 day waiting period, HB 2650 also contained provisions that would create minimum standards for educational programs related to divorce, including “the impacts that divorce, the restructuring of families and judicial involvement have on children.”
HB 2650 was heard on the House floor on April 6, 2010, and was voted down. Barto amended the bill so that rather than a mandatory wait time of 180 days, either party could request an extended wait time of 180 days if he or she desired to try to reconcile. Then, on April 8, Barto moved to have HB 2650 reconsidered with the amendment, but that vote failed as well. The provisions of HB 2650 relating to required divorce educational programs live on in the Arizona Senate in Senate Bill 1094, however.
As Barto and other representatives have stated, the purpose of House Bill 2650 was to slow down the divorce process so that parties had adequate time to consider the impact of divorce upon their families, and hopefully, to preserve some marriages. The bill’s supporters argue that many divorces cause additional financial burdens on the state as the parties now must support two households, and have negative effects on the children and adults involved.
But as critics of HB 2650 have advocated, further delay in already contentious divorces could lead to more stress on the parties and their children. Even with Barto’s amendment, opponents faulted the bill because it placed a burden on a party not wishing to reconcile to show the court why an extension of time was not necessary.
Divorce Waiting Periods: State-by-State, Pros and Cons
Divorce waiting periods vary from state to state. Based on research on divorce waiting periods completed in 2004 (the most recent year for which state-by-state comparisons are available), for states that sanction no-fault divorces, waiting periods range from no wait to two years. Many states do not have a waiting period, but for those that do, waiting periods of 90 or 180 days are common, as are provisions waiving a waiting period if couples complete divorce educational programs.
Proponents of waiting provisions argue that such provisions strengthen the bonds of marriage by requiring both parties to consider their actions and the effects on their children during the waiting period. They cite the dramatic spike in divorces and the breakdown of the family since the advent of no-fault divorces in the United States, and argue that the detrimental consequences of marital breakdown have been primarily borne by the women and children.
On the other side, opponents of extended wait provisions in divorces argue that increased delay adds sometimes “dangerous” stress on the parties and their children and delays resolution of custody, visitation, property matters and other issues in a divorce. Arizona Representative Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert), who is an attorney, noted that House Bill 2650 as amended unfairly burdened a party that wanted to go through with the divorce because he or she must show that waiting would not aid in reconciliation. An extended waiting period might also tack on costs for additional legal fees and expenses during that time.
For now, the status quo on Arizona’s divorce waiting provisions remains in effect. Any person who wishes to divorce in Arizona may do so after waiting 60 days. A person contemplating divorce may have concerns about the process, or questions about child custody, child support, property division or other matters. A knowledgeable family law attorney can help by discussing Arizona family law and outlining a person’s options for divorce in Arizona.
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