5 Common Arizona Spousal Support Q&As

Categories: Articles, Spousal Maintenance

1. Why Do Ex-Spouses Receive Spousal Support?

The purpose of spousal support is to assist the lower-income earner in becoming self-sufficient. For practical reasons, the supported spouse needs time to complete training, education, or career advancement in order to become self-sufficient. It is typically a monthly payment received by one spouse from the other, with different amounts and length. As you can imagine, the exact circumstances of a spousal support order are heavily dependent on the facts of each case.

2. How is spousal support determined?

The courts make decisions based on a set of factors that include a two-part inquiry. While no one factor disqualifies a spouse from receiving spousal assistance, they must meet at least one. If one of the following conditions exists, such maintenance becomes an option:

  • The spouse does not have enough property or assets to meet basic needs
  • The spouse is unable to support themselves adequately through employment or has custody of a kid whose age or condition requires the parent to stay at home.
  • The couple had been married for a long time and the spouse is of an age that may render it unreasonable to expect gainful employment in order to be self-sufficient.

Phase two commences if the spouse fits one of these qualifications. The court considers all relevant factors to divorce; because each divorce is unique, no element is given more weight than others. You can expect to be asked questions such as:

  • What was your living standard?
  • How many years have you put into your marriage?
  • Can the supportive spouse adequately meet his or her own requirements while giving spousal support?
  • Did one spouse sacrifice their own career, education, or employment objectives for the sake of the other?
  • During the divorce process, did a spouse hide property or assets or engage in other wasteful behavior?
  • Will each spouse have enough money to contribute to their children’s education?
  • Time required for education/training for the seeking spouse to obtain ongoing employment

Unless otherwise specified, spousal support is adjustable. Either party may petition the courts to have the ordered amount reviewed. However, adjustments are often only made when there is a major change in circumstances for either the awardee (ex: found a high-paying job) or payee (ex: lost a job).

 

  1. What if spousal support is not paid?

Payments are enforced if a court order is obtained. Late payments are not treated as ordinary debt and are therefore not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Some options if a spouse is not paying include:

  • Placing a lien on real estate
  • Taking of tax returns
  • Using an income withholding order to collect
  • Taking a levy on a bank account

In Arizona, the noncompliant spouse may additionally face a class 1 misdemeanor for failing to comply with the court’s spousal maintenance order “willfully and without lawful cause.” All of these choices must be pursued through the courts, which may be sped up and/or made easier with the assistance of your divorce attorney.

4. How Long Do I Have to Pay?

A.R.S 25-327 addresses situations in which spousal maintenance will be terminated. If you are ordered to pay spousal support, you will usually be relieved of your obligation if your former spouse dies or remarries. If your ex-spouse remarries, you must notify the court so that your payments can be terminated. You will not be able to terminate your payments if you remarry as the payor spouse. The responsibility to pay spousal maintenance ends when the payor dies.

5. Do I Have to Work with Arizona Law Exclusively?

No. In fact, spouses can mutually agree to the contrary in a formal written agreement. Requirements and terms not outlined in the law can be agreed to. For example, unless otherwise agreed, the estate of a deceased individual is normally not required to continue making payments. If the spouses have a relationship whereby it’s possible to come to such an agreement amicably, then this method is preferred (as opposed to ironing out the details in court).

Arizona Family Law Attorney Near You

We know that this part of a divorce can be daunting, but an experienced Arizona family law attorney will help you make sense of it all. We do what we do because we are passionate about helping our clients make it to the other side of what may be the most challenging time of their lives. If you have another question we can answer or if you’d like to set up a consultation, give us a call or complete the client form here and we’ll get back to you!

Stewart Law Group has been serving Maricopa County, Pinal County, and all of Arizona since 2004. We have office locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Chandler, Glendale, Mesa, Peoria, Tempe, and Gilbert. Feel free to visit us at the location that is closest to you.