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statutory grounds for an order of legal separation

What Are the Statutory Grounds for an Order of Legal Separation in an Arizona Covenant Marriage?

The applicable Arizona statute lists seven (7) bases for granting an order of legal separation to a covenant marriage. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN§ 25-904. The first basis listed by the statute is the adultery of the respondent to the request for a decree of dissolution. § 25-904(1). It is important to note that the infidelity of the spouse seeking a divorce will not satisfy this requirement. See id.



The second basis listed by the statute is that “[t]he respondent spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment in any federal, state, county or municipal correctional facility.” § 25-904(2). Similar to the first basis, the second basis is not concerned with the conduct spouse seeking a divorce and focuses on the conduct of the other spouse. See id.


The third basis listed by the statute is that “[t]he respondent spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for at least one year before the petitioner filed for legal separation and refuses to return.” § 25-904(3). It is important to note that the statute does allow a spouse to begin a legal separation for this reason before the full year is up, so long as “the respondent spouse has left the matrimonial domicile and is expected to remain absent for the required period.” See id. This mean that if the non-filing spouse has moved out of the marital home, and it is believed that the non-filing spouse will be absent for at least a year, there is a legal basis for seeking a legal separation in the covenant marriage. See id. However, the court will not finalize the separation until the full year has passed. See id. One potential benefit of starting the legal separation process, even when there will be a delay in finalizing the separation, is that the court can make temporary orders about finances during that wait period. See id.


The fourth basis listed by the statute is that “[t]he respondent spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the dissolution of marriage, a child, a relative of either spouse permanently living in the matrimonial domicile or has committed domestic violence [as defined by Arizona statute] or emotional abuse.” § 25-904(4).


The fifth basis listed by the statute is that “[t]he spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for at least two years before the petitioner filed for legal separation.” § 25-904(5). Unlike the third basis described above, either spouse can use the two (2) year period as a reason to obtain a legal separation in the covenant marriage. Compare § 25-904(3) with § 25-904(5). On the other hand, similar to the third basis described above, the spouse seeking a divorce can start the action after the spouses have started living separately but before the two (2) years have completely passed, but the court will not finalize the separation until the full period of time has passed. Compare § 25-904(3) with § 25-904(5).


The sixth basis for legal separation in a covenant marriage is that the “[t]he respondent spouse’s habitual impertinence or ill treatment of the other spouse I of such nature as to render their living together insupportable . . . .” and the seventh basis is that  “[t]he respondent spouse has habitually abused drugs or alcohol.” See § 25-904(6); § 25-904(7).


If you or a loved one has questions about understanding, creating, or ending a covenant marriage in Arizona, we encourage you to contact Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC today to set up a consultation. Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC is a boutique law firm, situated in Phoenix, Arizona. The firm provides legal services in all areas of Arizona family law, and offers legal representation services in many of the surrounding areas outside of Maricopa County, such as Pinal County, Pima County, Yavapai County, and beyond!


Disclaimer: This publication is for educational and informational purposes only, and represents Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC’s understanding of the present state of Arizona law. This publication does not constitute legal advice or council, and should not be construed as a comment on the merits of any particular case. It should be noted that the laws and requirements of the State of Arizona may change at any time and that this information may not be complete or correct.

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