What Does the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act Do?

Getting married is one of the most important decisions of your life and deserves to be considered carefully and thoughtfully. Unfortunately, even if you truly believe that you’ve found the right partner, some relationships don’t work out for one reason or another, and that is where the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act can prove helpful.

The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act has proven to be a monumental piece of legislation. It has continued to affect the lives of millions of Americans up to this day.

For this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act and how it has specifically impacted the residents of Arizona. You can also learn more about divorce proceedings and the things you need to consider if you want to go through with that.

What Is the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act?

The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, which is also sometimes referred to as the Model Marriage and Divorce Act, was drafted up back in 1970 and was later amended in 1973. It was the work of the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws, otherwise known as the NCCUSL. Along with the NCCUSL, committee members appointed by the American Bar Association were also tasked with working on the statute.

Found within the Model Marriage and Divorce Act are clear definitions of both marriage and divorce. The idea behind the act was to come up with laws concerning marriage and divorce that state legislatures across the country could adopt.

The NCCUSL hopes that the model statute will eventually be adopted in all states. If that happens, it will simplify laws concerning marriage and divorce further and will reduce the pressure on judges to make important decisions regarding personal relationships.

So far, the act has not been adopted yet by all states, but Arizona is following its guidelines.

Since its creation, the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act has had a profound impact on marriage and divorce across the country. Perhaps its most notable contribution has been the introduction of “irreconcilable differences” as potential grounds for divorce.

We’ll get into what “irreconcilable differences” are a bit later in the article. For now, let’s focus first on no-fault divorce.

divorce agreement

The Importance of No-Fault Divorce

There was a time in the United States when no-fault divorces were not permitted, and that was problematic for many for a variety of reasons.

Back then, couples who were seeking a divorce had bigger hurdles to overcome. Divorce proceedings essentially required one party to be at fault, and that would then serve as the grounds for divorce. The fault in question could be one party committing adultery, committing a felony, or other acts of that nature.

Now, the catch was that only one party should be at fault for the divorce proceedings to move forward. If the court found that both parties were at fault for their marital problems, then the union would be preserved. The divorce proceedings could also be derailed if the supposed faults committed by one party were falsified.

Needless to say, getting a divorce legitimately back then was hard to accomplish.

An odd but perhaps unsurprising byproduct of how the divorce system worked in the past is that it forced people who no longer wanted to be married to come up with ways to dissolve their marriage. These methods included lying in court and coming up with fabricated stories about adultery.

If those methods didn’t work, the two parties would have no other choice than to remain married to one another.

How No-Fault Divorces Changed Marriages

Eventually, laws that allowed for no-fault divorces were written and adopted by different states, but that created a new kind of weirdness as well. Since not all the states adopted no-fault divorce laws simultaneously, the result was a lack of uniformity throughout the country.

What happened in many cases was that one party in a marriage would head to a state where they allowed no-fault divorces, stay there for the required amount of time, and then move forward with divorce proceedings. These days, you don’t need to move to specific states since no-fault divorce is now permitted throughout the country.

The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act has also made obtaining a divorce simpler for the parties involved.

What Are Irreconcilable Differences?

As we noted earlier, the biggest contribution the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act has made is the introduction of irreconcilable differences as a possible grounds for divorce. You may have heard the term used before when news of celebrities breaking up made headlines.

But what exactly does the term “irreconcilable differences” mean?

Also sometimes referred to as incompatibility or irretrievable breakdown, the courts often use the term “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for dissolving a marriage. In the eyes of the court, those irreconcilable differences are substantial enough to warrant the end of the union.

Breaking Down the Irreconcilable Differences

To further clarify matters, let’s focus on the two words included in “irreconcilable differences.”

The inclusion of the term “irreconcilable” indicates that at least one of the parties involved believes they can no longer salvage the marriage even with the help of counseling. Something is fundamentally wrong with the partnership and whatever that may be, at least one side has concluded that it has been broken beyond repair.

So, what about the differences? They refer to a lack of harmony on important elements of a marriage. They highlight the disagreements that arise between the two people involved.

For instance, career demands could be among the main reasons why two people are getting divorced. After taking on a new job, one spouse may be on the road all the time, and that can put a lot of strain on a marriage. If the two sides cannot find a way to overcome the distance, then they may conclude that filing for divorce would be best for them.

Money is another potential culprit in the breakdown of marriages. If one party sees the other as being irresponsible with their finances, divorce proceedings might follow soon.

Couples could also end up divorced because they want different things out of life. They may disagree on matters such as wanting to have kids or where they want to live. Those fundamental disagreements can lead to even strong unions falling apart.

Additional Facts about Irreconcilable Differences

You should know a few other things if you’re considering filing for a divorce on irreconcilable differences.

For instance, the law does not require both parties to agree on divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences for them to finalize it. Even if only one side is seeking a divorce, the courts can still approve it.

Another thing is that you don’t need to state your reasons for wanting a divorce. Per the Cornell Law School, the courts generally refrain from asking parties to further state why they are seeking a divorce if they cited irreconcilable differences. If you want to keep those matters private, you can do so.

What Are the Other Grounds for Getting a Divorce?

Apart from irreconcilable differences, there are other valid reasons for wanting to end a marriage.

These reasons include:

  • Abandonment
  • Abuse
  • Adultery
  • Alcohol Use
  • Drug Use
  • Imprisonment

Former partners who have been separated and living apart for some time may also file for a divorce. In that case, the two parties must be living apart for at least two years without reconciling before seeking an end to their marriage.

How to File for Divorce in the State of Arizona?

Once you and/or your partner decide your marriage is no longer working, you may file for divorce. Before you can start that process though, you must meet certain requirements.

You Must Be Domiciled in the State of Arizona

One of the requirements you’ll need to meet before you can file for a divorce is to show the court that you’ve been domiciled in the state for at least 90 days. According to LegalZoom, being domiciled means that you have completed certain actions which show that you fully intend to live in Arizona moving forward.

That is not going to be an issue if you’ve been an Arizona resident for a long time. However, if you recently moved to the state, you would likely need to take a few more actions. You can start by applying for a driver’s license.

File a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage

Once you and/or the other party have been domiciled in Arizona for the required amount of time, the divorce proceedings can now press forward. If you’re the one seeking the divorce, you will file a Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage.

Drawing up that document is something you can probably handle on your own, but you could open yourself up to mistakes. Mistakes in the petition will likely mean having to re-file, and that would be an unnecessary drain on your time.

This is the point in time where you will want to consult with an experienced lawyer to help you craft the petition. If you are on speaking terms with your soon-to-be former partner, the two of you can also consult with one another when filling out the petition.

You’ll also have to mention the grounds for dissolution in the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage. In the state of Arizona, that means stating that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

With the petition completed, you can then ask your lawyer to file it with the Superior Court of the county you live in.

Prepare for and Attend a Court Hearing

In all likelihood, the courts will ask you and the other party to appear once you file the petition. It would be a good idea to prepare for that court hearing beforehand.

Go over the facts you mentioned in the petition with your lawyer and make sure you know what to say in front of the judge. For the most part, the judge’s questions will be about the petition and your marriage.

They will also ask you if you understand everything that a divorce entails. The judge may ask about matters such as child custody, alimony, and property division during the hearing.

Those preparations should make it easier for you to say what you want in front of the judge. The judge may then enter a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage on behalf of you and your former partner.

Are There Cases Where Seeking a Divorce in Arizona Can Be Complicated?

While you can dissolve most marriages in a relatively straightforward manner in Arizona, some couples may have a tougher time doing so. Arizona is one of the few states in the country – along with Arkansas and Louisiana – that have covenant marriages.

If you entered a covenant marriage, you and your partner must first go to counseling before you can file for divorce. The two of you will also likely need to wait longer than most other couples before being eligible for divorce proceedings.

You should also note that covenant marriages in Arizona cannot be dissolved simply by citing irreconcilable differences. One of the parties involved must show that the other party was at fault for the deterioration of the relationship.

The reasons you can cite for fault in covenant marriages are the same ones mentioned previously. Those include abandonment, abuse, adultery, alcohol, and drug use, as well as imprisonment. Living apart for a prolonged period of time can also be pointed to as a valid reason for divorce.

Divorce is not the desired outcome for couples when they first got married. However, it is sometimes the inevitable result of people growing apart for one or several reasons.

There was a time not too long ago when finalizing a divorce was a Herculean task. Thanks in part to the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, couples who no longer wish to be married can have their unions dissolved.

If you want help navigating divorce proceedings, we at the Schill Law Group are ready to offer our assistance. Get in touch with us today and allow us to ease your burden as you go through what can be a trying time.