Could “divorce reform” make it harder to get a divorce in Arizona?

Though much of the country's attention about marriage and divorce lately has been focused on same-sex relationships, some say that new laws passed in Arizona, Utah and other states are making it harder for all couples to legalize a split. So-called "covenant marriage" statutes are centered around the thought that it is in society's best interests for couples to work out their differences. These laws in essence make it more difficult to divorce quickly, thus dragging out the time in which a couple could theoretically make strides toward saving the marriage.

Will these laws actually impact the divorce rate?

That remains to be seen, though archaic laws governing divorce with similar intent have had some impact in the past. An old Alabama law, for example, used to require that a divorce motion be approved by both sections of the state's legislature before it would be granted, and many states once required that some measure of fault be proven before a couple could divorce.

An important difference, though, is that society today isn't the same as it was 100 years ago; some would argue it isn't even the same as it was 20 years ago given the quantum leaps and bounds taken by technology, medicine, science and social consciousness recently. It could even be said that personal freedom and contentment have much more of a value in today's marriages than it did in past generations.

In addition, women had very few legal rights in those days, so a woman seeking a divorce, even on the grounds of adultery or abuse would have an uphill battle. Today's women are breadwinners, politicians, police officers, teachers, nurses, doctors and prevalent members of society, whereas in the past they were in many ways treated like property.

Where Arizona law stands

Recent amendments to some of Arizona's domestic relations laws may provide more opportunity for willing couples to salvage their troubled marriages, but they also provide opportunities for petty or spiteful spouses to drag the process out at the expense of their partners. Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-351, for example, requires that all persons wishing to end a marriage participate in an educational program dealing with the impact of divorce, including:

  • Emotional, psychological, physical and financial impacts on adults and children
  • Legal options besides divorce (separation, counseling, etc.)
  • Information on resources that could strengthen the relationship
  • What the legal process of divorce entails (including divorce litigation, mediation, etc.)
  • Resources available to parties following divorce

Arizona law also, due to a change that went into effect in January of 2013, a provision allowing one spouse the opportunity to seek that divorce proceedings be delayed for up to 120 days for the purpose of attempting reconciliation (see Arizona Revised Statutes Sec. 25-381.18 (B)). This delay applies when one or both spouses requests that their divorce case be transferred to conciliation court, and is in addition to the already-mandated 60-day waiting period prescribed by state statute.

What does the future hold?

Many people are wondering, given the current state of the country's disparate views on marriage, what the future holds for the institution. Unfortunately, there is no proverbial crystal ball, and, given that there are many different ideas of who is allowed to marry whom, and how marriages should end, it isn't easy to predict trends in how these proceedings will be handled going forward.

In the here and now, though, if you are considering divorce and are confused about the legal process behind it, seek the advice of an Arizona family law attorney.