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The Difference Between a Divorce and an Annulment in Arizona

Annulment and divorce are ways to end a marriage in Arizona. Both involve similar issues that must be sorted before the court delivers a final judgment, such as child support and child custody. However, while these similarities exist between annulment and divorce, the purpose and eligibility criteria for each process is different. Divorce serves to end a valid marriage, while annulment is the court’s declaration that the marriage did not exist. Arizona laws permit annulment only in special circumstances. In Arizona, the Superior Court has jurisdiction over annulment and divorce cases.

What is an Arizona Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree, or Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, is the judge’s divorce order or judgment representing the legal end of a marriage union; divorce is not complete until a judge signs the divorce decree. Arizona divorce decrees contain information about the divorced parties and records created in the process of the divorce. Examples of such information include separation agreements, child custody plans, alimony, and financial information. It also contains the names of the divorced parties, the case/docket number, and the date of divorce.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

What is an Annulment in Arizona?

An annulment voids a marriage; that means that annulment makes it so that, for all intents and purposes, the marriage never existed in the eyes of the law. To be eligible for annulment in Arizona, parties must have legal reasons and, for all intents and purposes, the state’s residency requirements. Examples of acceptable legal reasons for annulment include fraud, bigamy, and incapacity.

Annulment records, much like other court records in Arizona, are public, and interested persons may access or copy the records by visiting the courthouse where a judge delivered the annulment order.

Annulment vs Divorce in Arizona

Annulment and divorce terminate marriage unions. Even though a few similarities exist between both processes, the requirements and end goal of each process is different. While divorce terminates valid legal marriages, annulment nullifies marriages.

Arizona laws provide for only a few legal reasons for annulment. According to AZ Rev Stat § 25–101, if a marriage is void or prohibited, it is legal grounds for annulment. Examples of void and prohibited marriages include:

  • Marriage between close relatives, including children and parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, nephews and aunts, uncles and nieces, first cousins younger than 65
  • A marriage that involves a child under 16 years old or a person under 18 years old who has not been emancipated
  • Where one of the parties was married to a different person at the time of marriage
  • Where one of the parties was mentally or otherwise incapable of consenting to marriage
  • Where both parties were intoxicated at the time of marriage
  • Where a party did not intend to get married
  • Where both parties fail to obtain a valid marriage license
  • Where a party gets the other party to commit through fraudulent means or under duress

Parties interested in filing for annulment must have lived in Arizona for at least 90 days. The petitioning party may initiate the process by filing a petition for annulment at the Superior court in the county where the party lives or where the respondent lives. The court may charge filing fees and surcharges. After the petitioner has filed the required paperwork, the petitioner must ensure that the defendant is served with a summons and a copy of the complaint. The petitioner must prove in court that there is a legal reason for annulment. The judge will issue an annulment order if the judge determines that there is sufficient proof.

Divorce may be contested or uncontested. In a contested divorce, parties do not agree about the divorce and related issues. On the other hand, an uncontested divorce is one where parties agree to divorce and on related issues, such as alimony and child support.

The residency requirements for divorce in Arizona are the same as annulment requirements. At least one of the parties in a divorce case must have lived in Arizona for no less than 90 days. Arizona is a no-fault state; therefore, parties may file for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. Parties who choose to file for grounds-based divorce must provide sufficient proof of the grounds. Legal grounds for divorce in Arizona (AZ Rev Stat § 25–903) include:

  • Adultery
  • Death sentence or life imprisonment as a result of a felony offense
  • Abandonment for at least one year
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Separation for at least two (2) years
  • Habitual drug and alcohol abuse
  • Mutual agreement

Interested parties may initiate the divorce process by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage at the Superior Court in the county where the petitioner or respondent resides. Once the petitioner has filed the paperwork that the court requires and ensured that the respondent received the summons service, the court will set a hearing date. Depending on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, it may take any length of time to conclude. Arizona laws allow for a minimum of 90–120 days for a divorce to be final. Divorce is not final until the judge delivers the final divorce judgment and signs the divorce decree.

Is an Annulment Cheaper Than Divorce In Arizona?

No, annulment is not cheaper than divorce in Arizona. Both processes involve similar issues and often require the services of an attorney. The court also charges filing fees for both divorce and annulment; therefore, both processes have serious financial implications. Depending on the case, annulment can also take the same amount of time as divorce.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in Arizona?

An uncontested divorce is a divorce process where parties agree to the divorce and about divorce issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, property, and asset division. Typically, uncontested divorces require less time and money than contested divorces. Because parties agree, the parties will not need to go to trial.

Where to Get an Uncontested Divorce Form in Arizona

Interested parties may find uncontested divorce forms online on the Arizona Courts website. However, it is important to note that although the forms on the state court website may be accepted statewide, each court has specific forms and requirements. Petitioning parties must contact the court where the party intends to file to get updated information about the divorce process.

Divorce records are public in Arizona. Interested parties may request divorce records from the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where a judge finalized the divorce.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How Do I Get a Copy of my Divorce Decree in Arizona?

For divorces that happened more than 50 years ago, interested parties may request divorce records from the Arizona State Archives and Records Management Center. Interested parties may submit records requests online through the State Archives website.

Interested parties may request copies of divorce decrees for divorces that happened less than 50 years ago from the Superior Court Clerk in the county where the court finalized or granted the divorce.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How Do I Get an Arizona Divorce Decree Online?

For divorces that took place more than 50 years ago, interested parties may submit requests online through the Arizona State Archives website. However, for divorces that took place less than 50 years ago, requesting parties must submit requests to the Superior Court County Clerk in the court where a judge delivered the divorce judgment.

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