State lawmakers won’t force divorcing couples to wait to formally end their marriage.
On a 33-23 vote, the House on Tuesday killed legislation which would have allowed one party to a divorce action to essentially demand that the process be dragged on for half a year. That is four months longer than now required.
The vote occurred over the objections of Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, who tried to convince colleagues that the state has a legitimate interest in the issue.
“Financially, homes that break up cost the state,” she said. “And it should be the policy of our state to encourage families to stay together.”
Arizona is a “no fault” divorce state. The only grounds for seeking to end a marriage is that it is “irretrievably broken.”
Under current law, a judge can grant a formal divorce decree 60 days after the petition is filed with the court.
Barto originally proposed to extend that to 180 days in all cases.
When that proved politically unacceptable, she agreed to a scaled-back version: It would allow either party to request a further stay, up to that 180 days.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said he was glad that Barto agreed to alter the measure so that it would take a court order to extend the time to get a divorce. But he said, as crafted, what she offered was no compromise at all.
“The judge has to issue the order,” said Biggs, who is an attorney.
“In order to get around it, the non-moving party has now got the burden of proof and must show ‘good cause’ why that should not go forward,” Biggs said. “I think that’s not appropriate.”
He said the burden should always be on the party who wants the delay to prove to a judge that the marriage should be kept together for another four months.
Tuesday’s vote may not be the last word.
The Senate has given preliminary approval to a measure sponsored by Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale, which is identical to what the House rejected. That, coupled with the ability of Barto to use parliamentary procedures to resurrect her own bill, mean there could be another vote on the issue.