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What is a “No-Fault Divorce” under Arizona Law?

In the context of a divorce proceeding, the terms “fault” and “no-fault” typically refer to whether a jurisdiction requires assigning blame as part of the divorce process. In other words, the difference between the two is whether a court will require an accusation of blame to justify the divorce.  Whether a state requires a showing of fault will differ from state to state and, as is often the case, the law may change over time. This writing provides a brief overview pertaining to the grounds for a divorce / dissolution of marriage under Arizona law.


Prior to 1973, the State of Arizona required a showing of fault of justify the dissolution of a marriage. See Williams v. Williams, 801 P.2d 495, 497 (Ariz. App. 1990). Before the law changed, a spouse would have to demonstrate one a number of statutory grounds for a divorce, including such things as cruelty or adultery. See Acheson v. Acheson, 485 P.2d 560 (Ariz. 1971); Anonymous v. Anonymous, 475 P.2d 268 (Ariz. 1970). However, in 1973, Arizona became a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that parties to an Arizona divorce do not have to prove to the court who is to blame for the ending of a marriage in order to obtain a dissolution of the marriage. 


Still, to grant a divorce, Arizona law does require that a court find that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-312(A)(3). Arizona statute provides a little clarity on the meaning of “irretrievably broken,” stating that “[a] finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken is a determination that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.” ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-312(D). Typically, these means that the spouse who is filing for divorce state in their petition will state something to the effect of “the marriage of the parities is irretrievably broken with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.”


At this point, you may be wondering whether the responding spouse gets a say on whether the marriage is irretrievably broken. Arizona statute states that “[i]f both of the parties by petition or otherwise state under oath or affirmation that the marriage is irretrievably broken or if one of the parties so states and the other does not deny it, the court shall make a finding as to whether the marriage is irretrievably broken.” ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-312(B). On the other hand, “[i]f one of the parties denies . . . that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court shall hold a hearing to consider all relevant factors as to the prospect of reconciliation . . . .” ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-312(C). 


After a hearing, the court will either “[m]ake a finding as to whether the marriage is irretrievably broken” or “[c]ontinue the matter for not more than sixty days for a further hearing.” Id. During that continuance, “the court may order a conciliation conference” to try to preserve the marriage or resolve controversies See id. For additional information conciliation court and how it works, see our other post, titled “What is Arizona’s Conciliation Court?” 


If you are in need of filing or responding to a divorce action in the State of Arizona or need help with any other issue in an Arizona family law matter, contact Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC to schedule a consultation.


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 counsel, 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.