I always do before because if you can resolve it no need to file and answer. Make sure if you do answer to have the affirmative defenses. You might want to consult with an attorney. The addition of an attorney in the negotiation might help because the law firm knows that you have bankruptcy and debt defense as options. It would be good to call an attorney for a consult. Many firms, including mine, give brief free consultations.
You could do it either way. It wouldn't hurt to contact him before filing an answer, because you may come to an agreement and he can dismiss the case. Just make sure that if you can't agree on a settlement, you need to file an answer before the response deadline, or the other party may be able to proceed by default. The deadline is usually 20 days from the date of service, or 30 days if you were served out-of-state.
This post is general information about divorce and family law in Arizona, and is not legal advice. Divorce is a complex process, and taking legal action without the one-on-one professional advice of a lawyer can produce unexpected results.