How Long Will My Divorce Take in Maricopa County?
The length of a divorce proceeding in Maricopa County is dependent on several factors.
The first factor is dependent on the spouses. The increased conflict and animosity between spouses, along with attachment to certain outcomes create more controversy. The more controversy or issues there are, the longer it takes to resolve the matter. The Court's calendar will also impact how long it takes to resolve a matter.
More Controversy = More Time
I recently ran across a statistic in the Maricopa County Superior Court Annual Report that stated 743 family law motions or events are addressed every day or 93 per hour in the Maricopa County Superior Court. So, if the spouses are unable to resolve the matters between themselves, with or without the help of counsel, they can anticipate waiting at least 3 to 6 months for their initial court appearance and then another 3 to 6 months (or longer) before they can have a trial. State law require spouses to abide by a mandatory statutory cooling off period of 60 days from the date of service, prior to the submission of a final Consent Decree or the scheduling of a final trial, which means the quickest your divorce could happen is 60 days from the date of the original service.
Alternatives to the Divorce Process
Therefore, when a spouse is considering the dissolution process, it is important to consider alternative processes. Some examples include the following:
- Mediation: This is when a neutral 3rd party works with both spouses and attempts to help them reach a compromise. This process can involve attorneys or just the litigants depending on their situation.
- Special Master: The parties can request that a Special Master be appointed to oversee a case in accordance with Rule 72 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. The Special Master can act similarly to a Judge presiding over a case depending on the authority ordered by the Court.
- Arbitration: An arbitrator will act similarly to a judge in that he or she will hear evidence and testimony from each party on issues and then make a ruling based on the evidence presented
Collaborative divorce: In this form of alternative dispute resolution each spouse agrees not to take the matter to litigation, and retains an attorney trained in Collaborative Law. The attorneys also agree NOT to litigate the matter. The spouses retain divorce coaches, a neutral financial advisor and child specialist. Together the team helps walk the spouses through their dissolution providing support for the legal, emotional and financial needs of the family. This process may be both more effective and comprehensive than other options depending on your matter.
As with any legal matter you should consult an attorney to answer your questions or address concerns regarding your specific case and to explain all of the options available to you. It is wise to recognize that a divorce is a very personal matter, in that no two look the same, and you should not rely on what may or may not have worked for someone else.
About the author: Jason B. Castle is a family law attorney and Partner at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. He is the President of the Arizona Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, member of the State Bar of Arizona, and a member of the Maricopa County Bar Association, where he chaired the Family Law Section and Legislative Committee. He has expertise in child custody and Decision Making Authority. More recently he was named a Southwest Super Lawyer Rising Star.