Divorce and Family Law Terms


The following are some of the terms relevant to Divorce and Family Law in Arizona:

Acceptance of Service – This is a form that is signed by the non-filing spouse that indicates that the spouse agrees to receive the initial papers in the case without the papers being formally delivered by a Sheriff or process server.

Affidavit of Service – This is a paper that is filed with the court to show that legal papers in a case have been delivered to one of the persons involved in the case.

Application for Default – This is a form filed with the Clerk of the Court that indicates that the Respondent has been served with the initial court papers and has not filed a written response in the time allowed by law.

Conciliation Court - A branch of the Superior Court to which a spouse may apply in an effort to preserve the marriage.Conciliation Services - Services offered by the Superior Court to persons in divorce or custody cases that assist in resolving disputes or to reconcile marital difficulties.

Community Property - A term that generally means that a wife and a husband share equally anything that is acquired, purchased or paid for during the marriage, regardless of who actually uses the property, or who paid the money or in whose name the title is taken.

Commissioner – This is a person who is authorized to hear and determine certain kinds of court cases. While a judge is elected or appointed by the Governor, a court commissioner is appointed by the Presiding Superior Court Judge in a particular county to perform some of the tasks that a judge otherwise would do.

Consent Decree – This is an order of the court that legally ends a marriage and is based on an agreement of the spouses regarding any issues that originally were disputed.Covenant Marriage – This is an optional type of marriage that has been created by the Arizona State Legislature that requires spouses to complete marital counseling prior to marrying and to sign a special declaration in order to obtain a marriage license. In a covenant marriage, a legal separation or divorce may be granted only for certain reasons listed in state law.Decree of Dissolution – This is the court order that legally ends a marriage, and often times contains other orders regarding the division of property, debts, spousal support and, when children are involved, custody, parenting time and child support.

Dissolution of Marriage - The term that is used in Arizona for divorce.

Injunction – This is an order of the court that directs spouses not to do certain things like sell property or harass one another while the case is pending.

Irretrievably Broken – This is the standard used by the court to determine if a dissolution of marriage (divorce) should be granted. It means that there is no reasonable chance that the spouses will agree to stay married to each other.Judicial Officer – This is a term referring to either a judge or a commissioner of the court who has the authority to decide legal issues and issue court orders.

Mediation – This is a process by which parties attempt to reach mutually acceptable agreements, usually with the assistance of a court-appointed professional who oversees the mediation process.

Motion – This is a written request that is filed with the court that requests a judge to issue an order or to rule on a particular matter.

Petition - The paper filed with the Clerk of Superior Court to state a case for dissolution of marriage or some other request for relief.

Petitioner – This is the term used to refer to the spouse that initially files a request (Petition) with the court for a dissolution of marriage.

Process Server - A person who is authorized by law to deliver or serve court papers on the parties to the court case.Proof of Service – This is a paper filed with the court to show that legal papers in a court case have been delivered by a sheriff or other authorized person to one of the parties involved in the case.

Respondent – This is the spouse that did not file the request for a dissolution of marriage.

Response – The paper filed with the Clerk of Superior Court by the person against whom a case to dissolve a marriage has been brought, and by which that person informs the court whether he agrees or disagrees with the claims made in the petition.

Separate Property – This is a term that refers to any property owned by a spouse before the marriage that remains the personal property of that spouse during the marriage and does not become community property. Also, gifts and inheritance received during the marriage are considered the receiving spouse’s separate property, as are any increases in those items such as interest, profits of sale or capital gain.

Service of Process – This is a term referring to the initial procedure by which a Summons and Petition and other papers originally filed with the Clerk of Superior Court are delivered to the non-filing party.

Spousal Maintenance – This is a term that many people know as alimony. It refers to money that the court may order either a husband or wife to pay to the other during or after a divorce case. The court must first decide whether financial support is proper, and if so, in what amount and for how long the support should be paid.

Summons – This is a paper that is issued by the Clerk of Superior Court and which must be served on the Respondent in a dissolution of marriage action. The Summons notifies the non-filing spouse that a request for a dissolution of marriage has been filed and advises that spouse what action must be taken.Waiver of Service – This is a form that is signed by a non-filing spouse that indicates that he/she does not wish to formally receive the initial papers in the case by delivery from the Sheriff or a process server.


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