When Talking Divorce – No Fault and Default – Not the Same Thing

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DivorceLast month I wrote about domestic violence and orders of protection. As an example, I discussed the recent short-lived marriage of NFL star Chad Johnson and his TV star wife, Evelyn Lozada. According to media reports, Johnson has refused to cooperate with any of the divorce proceedings or sign any paperwork – because he opposes the divorce. A party stonewalling or simply not responding is not uncommon in family law cases, especially where one party just wants to walk away from the situation. In such cases, Arizona’s “No Fault” law and rules for default allow that even if the other party will not respond or appear at a hearing, the divorce can proceed.

“No Fault” means that neither party is considered at fault for causing the divorce, and that anyone can get a divorce by meeting basic residency requirements and alleging “irreconcilable differences”. One party does not receive more money in spousal maintenance (alimony) or community property even if the other spouse has cheated or been abusive. Abuse, criminal activity, drug abuse, mental health problems, and other factors are considered in making custody determinations, which could affect the amount of parenting time and child support. By contrast financial misconduct, such as wasting or hiding money is taken into account, but there is no impropriety requirement necessary to file for divorce.

“Default” is where there is no response after the petition is filed. In Arizona, a party typically has 20 days to respond after being served with a petition for dissolution of marriage, modification of custody, etc. If there is no response within that time, the petitioning party can file an application for entry of default. The non-responding party gets another 10 days – after which the door is effectively closed, and the petitioner is usually granted what they requested. Through a “default hearing” the court will review the case and ensure that the proper steps were taken. Default is highly technical, and a minor mistake can postpone the whole case. Consequently, it is best to hire the services of an experienced divorce and family law attorney.

We have experenced divorce lawyers available to answer you questions call us today at (480) 833-1113.

Attorney Profile: Scott R. Rowley, Divorce & Family Lawyer in Mesa AZ