Understanding Default Divorce in Arizona

Feature Article: Exploring Default Divorce in Arizona

Divorce is a complex and emotionally draining process, wherein both parties often have to navigate through various procedures, legalities, and paperwork before finally achieving a dissolution of marriage. However, in cases where one party is unwilling or unable to participate in the divorce proceedings, the legal process can be even more complicated, leading to the need for a default divorce. In this feature article, we’ll explore what default divorce is, how it works, and what it entails in Arizona.

What is a Default Divorce?

In simple terms, a default divorce is a type of divorce where one party initiates the legal proceedings, but the other party does not participate in them. In such a scenario, the court can proceed with the case without the absent party’s consent or input, ultimately resulting in a default judgment. This type of divorce is typically utilized when one spouse is missing, has abandoned the marriage, or is unresponsive to legal summonses.

In a default divorce, the initiating spouse becomes the petitioner, while the unresponsive spouse is known as the respondent. To start the proceedings, the petitioner must serve the respondent with the necessary divorce papers, typically through a process server or certified mail. However, if the petitioner is unable to locate the respondent, they can petition the court for a publication notice in a local newspaper.

Arizona’s Default Divorce Process

Like most states, Arizona has a unique process for default divorce, which is subject to specific legal requirements. According to Arizona law, the respondent has 20 days from the time of being served with the divorce papers to respond. If they fail to do so, the petitioner can apply for a default judgment, which can be granted by the court after a minimum of 60 days from the initial service date. The respondent must be notified of the default judgment hearing, although their attendance is not mandatory.

However, before a default judgment can be granted in Arizona, the petitioning spouse must meet several requirements, including:

  • Providing proof that they served divorce papers to the respondent
  • Providing a written agreement outlining the terms of the divorce, including property division, spousal support, and child support if applicable
  • Sealing a Child Support Worksheet

Additionally, if the petitioner and respondent have children together, Arizona law mandates that the petitioner submits a parenting plan, outlining the terms of custody and visitation. This plan must be approved by the court before a hearing can be scheduled.

Implications of Default Divorce

While a default divorce may seem like a quick resolution for a convoluted situation, it’s not without its potential implications. For example, the respondent’s absence from the proceedings may prevent them from having a say in the divorce’s terms or any arrangements related to child custody or support. As a result, they may face unfavorable decisions that could impact their future. Additionally, in cases where the petitioner initiates a default divorce to avoid negotiation with the respondent or provide false information to the court, the latter may choose to reverse or amend the default judgment if there’s evidence of fraud or coercion.

Why Consider a Default Divorce?

Given the complications and risks involved in a default divorce, one may wonder why a petitioner might consider this option. Here are a few reasons:

  • The respondent may be missing or out of state.
  • The respondent is unresponsive to legal summonses or attempts to communicate concerning divorce.
  • The respondent may be incarcerated.
  • The respondent has abandoned the marriage.


While divorce is never simple, default divorce presents its own set of complications. If you find yourself in a situation where your spouse is unresponsive, missing, or has abandoned your marriage, a default divorce may be your only option. However, before proceeding with this type of divorce, make sure you understand the legal requirements and risks involved. Speak with a qualified Arizona divorce lawyer for guidance to ensure your interests are protected throughout the process.

For more information on default divorce in Arizona, take a look at Arizona Family Law Attorneys' helpful guide.