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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Carmichael

Divorce Filing Options in Arizona - Traditional v. Summary Consent Decree

Over the last year or so, the Maricopa County court system has been trying out a new filing option for those going through a divorce - a Summary Consent Decree. The legislature further adopted this process statewide in August 2022. So what is a Summary Consent Decree and how does it differ from a traditional divorce filing.



Traditional Divorce Process

Let’s start with the traditional divorce filing process for reference. If you and your spouse are seeking a divorce in Arizona, you typically begin the process with one spouse filing a Petition. When someone says they “filed” for divorce, they usually are referring to the Petition. This packet of documents makes the court aware that you want to start the divorce process and assigns a case number to your case.


Once the Petition is filed, your spouse needs to be informed of your filing. This typically takes place by a process server “serving” the Petition on your spouse at their home or office. A more collaborative and low-conflict option is having your spouse sign an Acceptance of Service - a receipt indicating that they received a copy of the Petition.


The completion of “service” begins the waiting period in Arizona. Regardless of what process you go through (litigation, mediation, document preparation) to complete your divorce, you have to wait 60 days from the date of service before you can file your final agreements.


These final agreements, including division of assets and debts, support agreements (spousal maintenance (alimony) and child support), and parenting plan, are ultimately filed in a Consent Decree, also referred to as a Settlement Agreement. The signing of this document by the Judge finalizes your divorce.


Please note - a number of other documents are typically filed during the litigated divorce process, in contrast to less filings in mediation.


Summary Consent Decree Process

The Summary Consent Decree process takes the steps of the traditional divorce process, combining them all into one filing. You and your spouse would reach all agreements, including division of assets and debts, support agreements (spousal maintenance (alimony) and child support), and parenting plan. These final agreements are then filed with a mutual Petition that is signed by both you and your spouse, all at the same time.


So instead of having three (3) separate filings or more, the Summary Consent Decree process bundles the Petition and Consent Decree together into one filing. Once this set of documents is filed, your sixty (60) day waiting period begins. Upon the conclusion of the sixty (60) days, the judge can sign and finalize your divorce.


Differences

Timeline

One of the biggest differences in these processes is timeline. Let’s imagine that you are beginning your divorce process in January 2023. In the traditional divorce process, as an example:

  • File Petition on January 4, 2023

  • Service completed on January 8, 2023

  • 60 day waiting period ends March 9, 2023 (started January 8)

  • During your waiting period, you reach all agreements

  • The Consent Decree is filed on March 9, 2023 (or any day thereafter)

  • Within a day to a few weeks, the Judge finalizes the divorce

In the Summary Consent Decree process, as an example:

  • Begin discussions of divorce on January 4, 2023

  • Reach all agreements

  • File the Summary Consent Decree on February 1, 2023

  • 60 day waiting period ends April 2, 2023 (started February 1)

  • Within a day to a few weeks, the Judge finalizes the divorce

Depending on how long it takes to reach agreements, the traditional divorce process can be faster.


Cost

A benefit of the Summary Consent Decree process is the cost savings. The court fees in Maricopa County are approximately $200 less when using the Summary Consent Decree Process over the traditional divorce process.


Legal Separation & Covenant Marriages

Please know that legal separations and covenant marriages must use the traditional divorce process at this time.


Conclusion

The introduction of the Summary Consent Decree process allows additional options for those filing a divorce in Arizona. As a part of my mediation services, I offer both options for my clients. My clients and I discuss the advantages or disadvantages of each process, determining which will be the most advantageous for their specific situation. Have questions about what option is best for you? Schedule a consultation today.


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