Arizona Family Law: An Overview
Family matters can get complicated when high emotions are involved. Arguments between divorced parents over visitation rights, for instance, can lead to heated disputes. That’s where Arizona’s family laws come in to provide a fair legal guidelines.
If you have a family law case in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson or elsewhere in Arizona, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo’s Arizona Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family.
Family law attorneys work with your case to protect your rights under Arizona’s family and with the sensitivity it deserves.
Arizona Marriage Requirements
Before you and your partner are ready to take the next step in your relationship, know that Arizona prohibits certain marriages. (See Arizona Revised Statutes Title 25, Article 1.) Arizona won’t legally recognize a prohibited marriage, including:
- Marriage of a person under 18 years of age without the consent of a parent or guardian.
- A person under 16 years of age will need both parental or guardian consent and approval from an Arizona Superior Court judge.
- Marriage between family members closer than second cousins, including between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren or uncles/aunts and nephews/nieces.
- First cousins may marry if they are either age 65 or older or are under 65 years old and one of the cousins is unable to reproduce upon approval from a Superior Court judge.
- Bigamous marriages (one spouse married to multiple spouses).
Arizona Marriage License
While you’re planning your wedding, make sure to allow yourself time to apply for a marriage license. In Arizona, a marriage license legalizes your marriage in the state and protects your rights to certain marital benefits.
To get a license, both parties must appear in-person before a clerk at an Arizona Superior Court. Both Arizona residents and non-residents may apply for a license in any county. The license is also applicable in any county regardless of where you received it. Once you receive your license, it is valid for 12 months with no waiting period.
Arizona “No-Fault” Divorces
Arizona is a purely “no-fault” divorce state, meaning that no other cause than an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage needs to be proven.
Either one or both parties of a marriage must agree that there was an irretrievable breakdown to qualify for divorce. If only one spouse agrees to this, the court may decide to grant the divorce if it finds evidence of the irretrievable breakdown regardless of the other party’s disagreement.
Arizona is a Community Property State
While married in Arizona, any property that you or your spouse acquires is legally considered as “community” property. Community property is jointly owned by both spouses. This typically doesn’t include gifts, inheritances, or property owned before or after a marriage.
When you get a divorce, you and your spouse may agree to how you divide your community property. If you cannot agree, the court has the power to decide how it is divided and distributed. While the division may not be an equal 50/50 split, it will be fair and as close to equal as possible.
If the court has to decide on how community property is divided, it bases its decision on several factors, including:
- The length of the marriage.
- The economic and health circumstances of each divorcee during the marriage and after divorce.
- Child custody arrangements.
- The divorcees’ ages and related ability to work or retirement circumstances.
Only property acquired during the marriage is typically considered community property. Separate property, including assets independently owned by each spouse before the marriage and gifted to or inherited by them during the marriage isn’t typically included for distribution. However, the size, quantity, and value of each divorcee’s separate property are factored into a court’s decision for distributing community property.
When Do I Need an Arizona Family Law Attorney?
Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there’s a prenuptial agreement involved.
Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.
Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced Arizona family law attorney if you have additional questions.