19 Dec, 2017
Spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony in some other states, is essentially money paid to an ex-spouse so they can maintain a quality of life comparable to what was experienced during the marriage. If one spouse was the primary breadwinner, the other spouse can’t be left destitute with no viable income following the dissolution of a marriage.
There are many factors that are taken into account when the courts calculate a fair monthly spousal maintenance payment. The Arizona Revised Statute includes a list of factors that dictate whether the courts grant spousal maintenance. So long as one of the factors on this list is met, spousal maintenance of some form will be required.
There is no minimum marriage duration for spousal maintenance in Arizona. However, the duration will factor into the amount of maintenance one spouse is required to pay the other. The duration of the marriage and role each respective spouse performed during the marriage are intertwined with many of the other considerations.
Financial and Personal Circumstances
Likely the biggest factor in determining monthly spousal maintenance payments is the personal circumstance of each party. More specifically, the courts look at the ease with which each spouse can become self-sufficient.
Do both spouses have the education, skills and abilities to find employment with a salary that allows them to maintain a similar standard of living as compared with what they enjoyed during the marriage? If one spouse spent the duration of the marriage raising children while the other spouse networked, furthered their career and gained experience that enabled them to earn a living, the spouse who stayed at home will likely need to be compensated to a greater degree than they would if they had been able to pursue the same career development opportunities during the marriage.
If that spouse will continue to be the primary caregiver for children, this responsibility will likely preclude their ability to pursue additional education or career opportunities, even after the marriage has been dissolved. Courts must take all these factors and more into account when calculating a fair spousal maintenance amount.
The majority of factors determining spousal maintenance revolve around these types of issues. Earning potential, standard of living, employment history, sacrifice of career opportunities during the marriage and financial resources will have the largest impact on the ultimate decision.
Will Fault Make a Difference in Spousal Maintenance?
The simple answer for most people is no, conduct during the marriage, even if that conduct led directly to the marriage’s dissolution, will likely not have an impact on spousal maintenance decisions.
Things may be slightly different if the couple was in a “covenant marriage.” There are only three states in the nation that allow for covenant marriages: Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana. In order to qualify for a covenant marriage, the spouses must go through pre-marital counseling and accept limited grounds for seeking a divorce prior to being married.
There are several requirements that must be met before a covenant marriage couple can get a divorce, such as seeking marital counseling and living apart for at least a year before divorcing. Unlike a no-fault divorce, people in a covenant marriage who are seeking a divorce must prove that at least one of the following occurred:
• Felony conviction
• Substance abuse
• Physical or sexual abuse of spouse or a child
A More Comprehensive List of Spousal Support Considerations
• Standard of living during the marriage
• Physical and emotional condition
• A person’s ability to pay for their own living expenses in addition to their ex-spouse’s
• The amount of time it would take for each spouse to become self-sufficient
• Irresponsible financial actions of the spouses, which may include:
o Excessive, hidden spending and debt
o Destruction or concealment of joint property
• The cost of things like health insurance for the spouse and dependents
• Judgments for criminal convictions in which one spouse or their child(ren) was the victim
Get Guidance on Spousal Maintenance in Arizona
Understanding spousal maintenance and why the court comes to the decision they do can be difficult, which is one of the reasons having a responsive, dedicated family law attorney to assist during a divorce can be such a valuable asset.
If you have questions about the spousal maintenance process or wish to speak with an attorney about your current spousal maintenance agreement, family law attorney Steven R. Garcia would be happy to assist. As a respected divorce attorney who has represented clients throughout the Valley for more than a decade, he likely has many answers to your questions and the knowledge to guide you through the divorce or spousal maintenance modification process.
Call his office today at (602) 277-2277 to learn more.