Arizona married couples have the option of filing for a legal separation instead of a divorce when they decide they no longer wish to live together as husband and wife. A legal separation can address the same issues as a traditional divorce, such as community property division, maintenance and child support. Filing for legal separation in Arizona starts with filing a petition in your local family court.
The website of the Judicial Branch of Arizona publishes an information packet containing all the steps required to file for legal separation in Arizona.
Meet State Requirements
By Arizona law, you or your spouse must have lived in Arizona for the 90 days preceding the filing of the petition. If minor children are involved, they must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to your filing. In addition to residency requirements, you must be able to show that either the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one or both of you desires to live separate and apart. If one party does not want the legal separation, the court may reject the petition and convert the proceedings to divorce proceedings.
Fill Out the Petition
Visit the family court in the county where you reside. Ask for a "Petition for Legal Separation Without Children" or a "Petition for Legal Separation With Children." Some counties have these forms available to download from their website. The petition asks for basic information about you, your spouse, your marriage and your children. List any property you own and specify whether the property should go to you or to your spouse. Generally, the court will split the marital property equally unless good reasons exist not to do so. Use the sample petition on the Superior Court of Maricopa County website to help you complete the forms.
Gather Supporting Documents
If you have children, the required documents include an affidavit regarding minor children, a child support worksheet and a parenting plan. On the forms, specify where the child will be cared for and how you will organize parenting time. Consult "Planning for Parenting Time: Arizona's Guide for Parents Living Apart" to help create your parenting plan, which you can download for free from the state court's webpage.
File and Serve the Papers
Bring three sets of the paperwork to the court clerk of the family court in the county where you are a resident. Pay the filing fee, which may vary by county – in Maricopa County, for example, the fee is currently $341. Give or mail the court papers to your spouse and have him sign the "Acceptance of Service" form in front of a notary public. File the Acceptance of Service with the court as proof of service.
Attend the Parent Information Program
In Arizona, it is mandatory for the separating parents of minor children to attend classes in the Parent Information Program within 45 days from the date the Petition for Legal Separation is served. The classes are designed to give you and your spouse information about the impact the legal separation may have on your children. The class provider will notify the court when you have completed your class. The court will issue a court date.
Attend the Hearing
After looking at the evidence and hearing your testimony, the judge will make a ruling. If you and your spouse agree on arrangements for spousal maintenance, division of property, child support, custody and visitation, and other issues that arise on the dissolution of your marriage, then the judge will likely "rubber stamp" your arrangements. The judge will enter a judgment for separation at the end of the hearing.