What is a Petition for Dissolution?

A Petition for Dissolution is the first filing in a divorce case. A Petition is a “pleading,” meaning it sets forth the claims in the case. Many people believe that the petition needs to have a lot of information in it. This is not true.

Arizona courts follow a “notice pleading” standard, meaning that, at a minimum, the Petition must contain a request for relief – what the Petition/Plaintiff wants -and “[a] short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Cullen v. Auto-Owners Ins., 218 Ariz. 417, 418 (2008) (citing Ariz.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Put another way, the Petition must notify the Respondent/Defendant of the Petitioner/Plaintiff’s requested relief and why the Petitioner/Plaintiff is entitled to that relief.

The Petition uses numbered paragraphs, called “allegations”, to tell the court and the Respondent/Defendant what the claims in the case are. For example, if the Petitioner/Plaintiff does not believe that spousal maintenance is a claim in the divorce, they may have an allegations that looks like this:

15. Petitioner asserts that neither party is entitled to an award of spousal maintenance as defined by A.R.S. § 25-319.

Now, the Respondent/Defendant and the court understand that the Petitioner/Plaintiff does not believe Spousal Maintenance is an issue in the case.

In addition to containing an allegation regarding spousal maintenance, the Petition for Dissolution should also contain allegations regarding any other relevant claim, like child support, parenting time, legal decision-making, property division, etc. But, the Petition only needs to state that these things are issues that the court needs to decide. The Petition does not need to state that the parties own a house at 123 Any St. and that it should be sold and the profits equally divided, etc. That kind of information will come out later. The Petition simply “sets the table” for what the litigation will be and notifies everyone of the Petitioner/Plaintiff’s claims.

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