no-fault divorce in Arizona?
March 22, 2005 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to be divorced (no-fault) in Arizona before a settlement is reached regarding the property and custody of kids?

My little brother is dating a young lady who claims she is already divorced in Arizona, but is does not yet have a settlement regarding the property and custody of the two kids.
Is this common/normal/legal? I just assumed that this all had to be hashed out before the final decree. It seems more like a separation to me. I'm not so much concerned with legal minutia.. rather, I'm more worried that my brother is being taken advantage of..
(I know UANAL, but just curious if anyone has heard of this?)
posted by j to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Hmmm. I'm not sure if I can help here, but I'll take a stab at it.

It does sound like the lady is describing a separation instead of a divorce. Usually, decisions about the property and custody of the kids are made as part of a settlement and then entered as a court order. It's possible that their order was very open-ended, if she and her ex were on good terms, and they're still figuring out the best system and easing into a new schedule together. That's unusual, though--generally, divorcing couples want to work everything out so they don't have to deal much with each other afterwards. And their attorneys want to be involved as much as possible!

Maybe your brother could politely ask her a few more questions about this? Surely she'll understand why he wants to know. If she really is just separated, though, and still working on the finalization of a divorce, I don't think that's a reason not to date her. Divorces can take a long time, and without knowing the other facts (maybe her ex left her for another woman), I can't condemn her. But if she's deliberately lying to or trying to mislead your brother, that may be more of a cause for concern.
posted by equipoise at 9:22 PM on March 22, 2005

Response by poster: No, I'm not condemning her for being divorced/separated -- I know tons of people who have been in horrible situations through no fault of their own.
The other cause for concern is that she hid the fact that she had kids from him for 6 months (they were not just casually dating -- he was talking about the possibility of marriage after just a few months). I understand wanting to get to know someone before bringing kids into the picture, but I thought that 6 months was a bit excessive.
My brother is adamantly defending her (he can be too trusting and impulsive, which is why I am worrying) -- I'm just asking for my own personal clarification.
posted by j at 9:37 PM on March 22, 2005

Best answer: (Standard disclaimer: not legal advice - I recommend you consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that information, and interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular situation.)

Very generally, a no-fault divorce in most states is very hard to receive when the couple has children. That doesn't mean the divorce has to be fault-based - due to the strangeness of legal language, a divorce can be no-fault, but different from the quick and easy procedure called "no-fault divorce." The situation sounds like it's very likely the divorce has been filed, but she is not technically divorced until the decree is finalized which can easily take six months to a year. In other words, it sounds like she is in the process of a divorce, but the process takes a while when kids and property are involved. It's not like you can file for divorce one day and be divorced the next.
And it's not unusual at all for the child support and property and custody details not to be settled until many months after the filing. The lawyers are usually busy filing motions and duking it out.
The fact that it took her six months to tell him about the kids would really be a red flag to me, but the bit about not having the details settled yet could very well be true.
posted by sixdifferentways at 10:02 PM on March 22, 2005

Aren't marriage and divorce records findable? IIRC, they're one of the things advertised on those "pay to stalk somebody on the web" services.

Six months seems long to me. However, as a divorced parent, I couldn't imagine talking to somebody for more than a couple hours without my parenthood-status coming up.
posted by Eamon at 10:40 PM on March 22, 2005

The other cause for concern is that she hid the fact that she had kids from him for 6 months

It would be good for them to discuss--if they haven't already--why she chose to do that. Not that any lie is okay, but it would be helpful for him to understand stuff like whether she's habitually secretive, or felt there was some important reason to hide this particular aspect of her life from him. Many single parents learn to leave the kids out of things until the relationship is clearly solid--both to maintain stability in the child's life, and to keep from scaring off potential suitors. There are much better ways to handle it than by hiding their existance (and yes 6 months seems awfully long to wait...), but talking it out would give them both a chance to understand what her intention had been and how that's affected trust in the rest of their relationship. If he doesn't have a problem with it, and the divorce is working its way through the courts, then *shrug*...

On the other hand, divorce is a huge emotional, financial, and physical upheaval--for the kids even more than the adults. So it might be good to back off talk of a marriage #2 until after the dust has fully settled on marriage #1. If their relationship's meant to go the distance, there's no harm in postponing the marriage plans for a bit.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:10 PM on March 22, 2005

The story isn't entirely implausible. In New York, at least, it's quite common for a divorce decree to be granted while the parties are still wrangling over permanent financial and custody matters. However, there will always be an interim order or agreement, often dating back to the divorce petition and legal separation, covering where the children and spouses live and child and spousal support payments.
posted by MattD at 5:50 AM on March 23, 2005

Best answer: Have you checked the Arizona Public Access to Court Information website? They may have the information you seek.
posted by Floydd at 6:25 AM on March 23, 2005

Ack! She didn't tell him she had kids for six months? That's more than just a red flag--that's a big sign saying, "Crazy lady who isn't ready to date!" No wonder you're worried....I would hope she had a really good explanation for that.
posted by equipoise at 7:43 AM on March 23, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your input.. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks it's a bit odd that she didn't tell him.. !
posted by j at 9:56 PM on March 23, 2005

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