Over the years as an Arizona family law attorney, I have consulted with hundreds and hundreds of people about divorce. In nearly every divorce consult I do I explain that in the typical Arizona divorce there are usually three or four primary issues the family court must address, one of which is the actual dissolution of the marriage. This part of the consult almost always leads to the person I am consulting with to share the reason he or she is seeking a divorce from their spouse. It probably goes without saying that I have heard just about every reason you can imagine why a person would seek a divorce. The most common reasons for divorce are not hard to imagine: infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse, physical abuse, financial stress, involvement in pornography or just simply growing apart. This is certainly not an exhaustive list.

The issues listed above would understandably test the marriage vows of most of us. These types of issues have a profound impact on marriages and all family members. In many cases, the impact can be devastating emotionally, physically and financially. For this reason, most people are surprised when I tell them that the family court judge will not really care about why they want to get divorced. A typical response to this statement might be: “how can that be?” “Why doesn’t the court care that my spouse has been lying and cheating and having an affair?” These are all good and fair questions. In some cases the potential client may even believe that because their spouse has been unfaithful or using drugs they may even be entitled to more from the divorce than he or she might otherwise be entitled; almost like damages for their pain and suffering. I think these feelings are natural and understandable. But, the truth remains that in Arizona, the reason for the divorce does not matter for purposes of the family court judge granted a divorce in Gilbert AZ.

The simple explanation is that Arizona is a “no-fault” divorce state. A “no-fault” divorce is a divorce where the party seeking the dissolution of the marriage does not need to show any wrongdoing by either party in order for the court to grant the divorce. In Arizona, a family court can grant a divorce so long as one party states that his or her marriage is irretrievably broken and so long as that party meets the other jurisdictional requirements for divorce in Arizona, which I have discussed in more detail here. The fact that your spouse is abusing drugs or has been unfaithful does not increase your ability to get a divorce in Arizona. That is not to say that those issues do not have any impact at all in the divorce proceedings; it is just not necessary that you demonstrate to the court that your spouse has engaged in these activities in order for the court to grant you your divorce.

So if the reason for divorce does not matter, it begs the question: in what circumstances would drug abuse, infidelity or other issues have any bearing in your divorce case? These issues are not to be ignored. They can certainly have a tremendous impact on other aspects of your case. For example, the fact that your spouse may be a drug addict will likely have a significant impact on how much parenting time or legal decision-making authority he or she will get with the minor children. The fact that a spouse spent community funds on an affair could have an impact on the family court’s decision regarding the division of community property. Spending community funds on an affair might be considered waste and may entitle the non-cheating spouse to more money when it comes time to divide the remaining community assets.

So, just because “no-fault” eliminates the need to demonstrate wrongdoing to get a divorce; it does not necessarily mean a spouse who has made bad choices that have resulted in the decision to get a divorce has zero consequences. Be open and honest with your attorney so he or she can properly evaluate what impact those bad decisions may have on your case and don’t be too concerned when your attorney tells you that the judge may not necessarily care why you are getting a divorce.

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