HOW MUCH AND HOW LONG? SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE (ALIMONY) IN ARIZONA.
AUGUST 25, 2020
In a Divorce, a Court may choose to award Spousal Maintenance (formerly known as Alimony) to one of the spouses. The reasons the court may do this are varied but the general idea is fairness. For example, Spouse 1 is a stay at home parent who takes care of the parties’ children while Spouse 2 works full time, furthering his/her career and resume. Spouse 2 leaves the marriage with the benefit to their resume and earning ability while Spouse 1 does not.
WARNING. There is no calculator for determining spousal maintenance in Arizona. Any site promising a spousal maintenance calculator is likely trying to sell you something. Child support in Arizona is calculated using an exact formula set forth by the Arizona Legislature. Whether or not to award Spousal Maintenance, for how long and how much is left up to the discretion of the assigned judge based on factors that the Arizona Legislature has laid out. Judges have varied opinions on spousal maintenance. Judge A may rule differently than Judge B even when presented with identical cases and facts.
Arizona law breaks down the process of determining spousal maintenance into two steps:
Step 1. Is someone entitled to spousal maintenance?
A party asking for spousal maintenance must show one of the following; that they:
1. Lack sufficient property, including property they will receive from the divorce, to provide for that spouse's reasonable needs.
2. Are unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or are the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
3. Have made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability of the other spouse.
4. Had a marriage of long duration and are of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
5. Have significantly reduced that spouse's income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
If the court finds that the party requesting Spousal Maintenance fulfills one or more of the five options above, the court then moves on to Step Two.
Step 2. The amount and the duration of spousal maintenance.
To determine the amount and the duration of spousal maintenance, the court examines the following factors. However this is not an exclusive list and the court can examine other factors not listed below if the court finds them relevant:
1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
2. The duration of the marriage.
3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse's needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse's income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
8. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
9. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse's ability to meet that spouse's own needs independently.
10. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.
11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
12. The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
13. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that resulted in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or a child was the victim.
After examining all of the above factors and any other relevant information, the court will determine the amount and duration of spousal maintenance.
It is important to note that under Arizona Law, the purpose of spousal maintenance is to encourage independence. The court will tailor the amount and duration of spousal maintenance to encourage the party receiving spousal maintenance to eventually pay their own expenses and no longer need spousal maintenance. That does not mean that the court will only award spousal maintenance for a set duration - the Court may award indefinite maintenance when it appears that independence is unlikely to ever be achieved.