Legal Separation Arizona

Legal Separation Arizona

If you’re searching for information about legal separation or divorce in Arizona, you’ll want to know the difference between legal separation and divorce in Arizona.  These legal options may be important to you. 

When it becomes obvious that a marriage is in crisis, people generally believe it is time for divorce or, in some cases, a legal separation.  Most people do not know what a legal separation is, so they turn to divorce.  Getting a divorce is a thing most married couples would least hope for, leading a lot of people to choose legal separation in Arizona.  Legal separation may be a first or last step when people think the marriage may not work out. A legal separation is often regarded as a trial run for divorce. (Divorce may happen after legal separation, but it is not inevitable. It is an independent action).  Legal separation may be a valuable option to protect both people in the marriage while they explore reconciliation or resolution out of court. 

A legal separation is also an alternative for couples who do not meet Arizona’s residency regulations for divorce. A common question from people who don’t meet Arizona’s minimum residency regulations for divorce is, “How long does it take for legal separation to complete?”

While Arizona divorce law insists that at least one spouse have a 90-day minimum of residency in the state prior to the filing of the divorce petition, a legal separation has different requirements for filing.  So, the legal separation is a viable option for couples facing the of their marriage, but who may not meet the threshold for divorce petitions.

What Does It Mean To Be Legally Separated In Arizona?

Being legally separated in Arizona means you’re ending your community property relationship, living apart, are financially separated, but are still married by law.

What Are Separation Agreements In Arizona?

Separation Agreements purpose is to help amicably resolve disputes among married parties in anticipation of legal separation or divorce.  They provide couples the opportunity to resolve possible areas of disagreement, like the division of assets, support, or any debt incurred, in a casual and fair manner. Therefore, a married couple can agree to their own separation terms.  Read more about separation agreements in Arizona

How Long Does Legal Separation Take in Arizona?

A legal separation will take just as long as an Arizona divorce. As Arizona law states, a legal separation can’t be completed until sixty days after the Respondent was served by the Petitioner. In mediation, the whole process can take up to two to four months. Whereas in litigation, the proceedings can take as long as up to a year or more.

Here Are Some Distinctive Factors To Think About:

Emotionally Ready

Legal separation provides a step between marriage and divorce when one or each of the parties aren’t emotionally ready for the permanence of divorce. If this is your situation, you may want separation even realizing that you might need to experience divorce at some time in the future.

Ability to Remarry

A legally separated couple is still married by law, making it impossible for either of them to get remarried. By contrast, as a couple divorces, they both become single and each person can remarry. The pain of the current circumstances might not even make it possible to consider remarrying. How a person goes through the change will feel in the moment, as compared to five months down the road.

Separation from Financial Liability

Legal separation will divide all debts and assets and will keep any future income and finances separate property just like in a divorce. The separation of property is the same in legal separation and divorce. If you and your spouse want to stay together but safeguard yourselves from the other’s responsibility of personal debts or future business, legal separation might be a viable option.

Tax Filings

Although a legally separated couple is still legally married, the federal government acknowledges them as divorced, and they can’t file jointly on their taxes. Instead of Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately would be the filing status.

When Minor Child(ren) Are Involved

Legal separation and divorce can be similarly demanding for child(ren). Which path you and your spouse decide on, mediation for legal separation or mediation for divorce safeguards child(ren) from the effects of fighting, conflict, and the experience of litigation.

If there is an acceptable chance for a resolution, legal separation needs to be made clear to child(ren) as the time that Mom and Dad want to live in different places. Child(ren) need to understand that this is a

decision made by both Mom and Dad, it’s not their fault, Mom and Dad respect and support each other as parents, and that Mom and Dad each love them very much. Even if the marriage isn’t improving, the child(ren) have had time to get used to their new situation and might be more emotionally prepared for a divorce.

If a resolution is doubtful, parents need to know that if they’re not honest with their child(ren), the legal separation could possibly result in false hope for the child(ren) that their parents will reconcile. This can make a future conversion to divorce harder for Child(ren) to deal with and understand the divorce in the long run.

It doesn’t matter if you decide to legally separate or divorce, be sure to make the best interests your child(ren) — their well-being and health a top priority when in mediation. Trained professional family mediators are educated in family law, resolution of conflicts and financial issues in order to help you both complete the process in a fair, affordable, easy, structured, and private process in order to safeguard your child(ren) from the harmful effects of litigation in court.

Health Insurance

If you or your spouse is not employed or has employment without acceptable health benefits, one of you might not be able to pay for their health insurance. Under these circumstances, legal separation might be the best option. Because “legally separated” spouses are still married by law, legal separation in a lot of situations might not influence health benefits.

In a divorce, you and your spouse typically must find separate insurance after the divorce is finalized. COBRA of the current health insurance might be an alternative for a certain amount of time after a divorce, but this is usually pretty expensive.


Religion is a big reason couples choose to legally separate instead of getting divorced. A lot of religious beliefs accept legal separation more since there is still a possible resolution. You may choose separation because it offers both of you some financially and possible physical separation while socially, remaining together under Arizona law.

Should I Choose Divorce or Legal Separation?

Deciding to separate or divorce can feel puzzling and difficult. One spouse might even resist the idea of divorce proceedings or legal separation. Despite that, everyone involved in a possible transition needs to realize that if one spouse wants to move on with the divorce, Arizona’s “no fault” divorce means that divorce proceedings will still progress.

It is possible to progress with mediation and not make a final decision about whether it will result in legal separation or divorce. Throughout mediation, you can change your mind, before the decree is finalized. If mediation starts as a legal separation, it can be changed to divorce before the final papers are presented to the court. In addition, mediation can start as a divorce and change to a legal separation.  There is no variation in the mediation process regarding legal separation vs. divorce.

Generally, choosing to go ahead with legal separation or divorce is a completely personal decision. There’s no right or wrong–just what you think is best for you and your situation. Acquiring legal advice is recommended in either situation. In addition, deciding on mediation instead of each spouse hiring a hostile law firm will improve the chance for achieving a legal separation, because the process is required to stay amicable, for it to not hastily intensify and become an all-out divorce battle in superior court.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce

A lot of divorce cases start when one spouse files a petition for divorce. Throughout the court process, the couple (or the judge) will put together a divorce agreement that explains asset division, child custody, and support issues. Ultimately, the court legally ends the couple’s relationship, after which each spouse can remarry if they wish.  Absent court orders or agreements between spouses, there is no automatic duty of alimony or spousal support, also called spousal maintenance. 

Legal separation is not like divorce because separated couples continue to be legally married to each other, even if a spouse lives independently and apart.  You can carry on two separate lives but remain legally married.  Divorce and separation are like each other in that the court will address the same legal issues, but separated couples can’t remarry unless they file for divorce at a later time.

Divorce is final, so couples can’t ask the court to backtrack its decision. On the other hand, if the separated couple reunites, either spouse can file a motion with the court to overturn the legal separation.  The action lets the court know that the couple reconciled and no longer needs additional custody or support orders to stay in place.

Grounds for Divorce vs Legal Separation in Arizona

Grounds for petitioning for legal separation are not the same in Arizona for divorce and legal separation. For a divorce, the marriage must be described to the court as “irreparably broken.”  In a separation, that descriptive line is left out of court petitions.  Arizona law also lets couples file for a legal separation if they wish to live separately, but the court won’t order legal separation unless each spouse is in agreement. In comparison, the court will allow a divorce upon the request of one spouse if they can demonstrate that the marriage is broken; even if the other spouse is opposing the divorce.

To request legal separation from a spouse, one spouse would need to file a Petition for Legal Separation. This request comprises of basic info about each party involved as well as specifics related to assets, finances and any minor children involved.  But a legal separation will require the cooperation of both spouses.  When legal separation is in place, each party may have the option to convert the separation to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. 


  1. Heinig, Melissa. “Legal Separation in Arizona FAQs.”, Nolo, 27 Apr. 2018,
  2. How Long Does a Legal Separation Take in AZ | Hildebrand Law, PC.” Scottsdale Arizona Family Law & Divorce Attorneys,
  3. Legal Separation Arizona – Difference Between Divorce and Legal Separation in AZ.” Aurit Mediation, 4 June 2019,

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Divorce and Family Law

When a case demands litigation, you’ll have the benefit of 19 years of litigation experience in California and Arizona. But when a case demands collaborative law, or mediation, we can meaningfully describe why collaborative law or mediation may or may not be your best option.

Moshier Law services all of Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. Jennifer and her team of professionals seek to resolve Family Law cases efficiently with your goals in mind.

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