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Can you get a divorce from a detached spouse?

You and your spouse don’t see eye-to-eye. You disagree and argue with each other so much that it seems like you’ve given up on getting along. Maybe it’s even gotten to the point where you haven’t been in contact with your spouse for a few weeks or perhaps they have already moved out. You feel as though they’ve detached from the marriage. You know that you want a divorce, but things seem to be at a standstill. Can you kickstart a divorce on your own?

The answer is yes. You can obtain a divorce without the involvement of your spouse. This is called a default divorce. However, there are certain requirements.

What is a default divorce?

The court can grant a default divorce when one spouse does not respond to divorce papers. Your spouse would have a deadline of 20 days to respond to the divorce papers if they live in Arizona, or 30 days if they live out of state.

Since Arizona is a community property state, you would still need a court hearing to divide your assets. A default divorce would end your marriage, but it would not handle issues like property division or child custody.

How can I get a default divorce?

The first step to getting a divorce is filing a petition with your local court system. The form you’ll need to fill out is a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

Then, you’ll need to serve those papers to your spouse. You have two reliable options for serving papers:

  • Hire a professional process server with proper credentials
  • Have a deputy sheriff serve the papers for you

A process server will charge you a fee, while your county may waive the deputy’s fee. The court needs to receive “proof of service” from your server. Proof of service is a signed document stating that your spouse received the papers.

If the deadlines passes for response from your spouse, you can request a Default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage from the court. That would mean that the court would grant you the divorce you asked for with your original petition.

What if my spouse re-engages?

There is always the chance that your spouse will surprise you by wanting to fight the divorce. In that case, the court would schedule a conciliation meeting. If your spouse is planning to continue their trend of disagreement, you could be in for a long and bumpy ride. Consider the help of an attorney to get you through what is likely to be a contentious divorce.

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