Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support, is court-ordered support paid by one spouse to the other spouse or former spouse in the divorce or legal separation. The purpose of alimony is to avoid unfair economic consequences of divorce.
The details of awarding spousal maintenance may be difficult for you, as establishing the need for and an amount of spousal maintenance can be one of the more complicated and challenging aspects of your divorce case. You need to have a solid understanding of how the courts make decisions about whether to award or not award spousal support.
Spousal maintenance is determined through the court by taking into account a number of financial and work-related issues pertaining to both parties. Depending on the length of the marriage, the parties’ income levels, and work history, the court may (or may not) decide to include maintenance as part of the divorce settlement. To understand the support analysis, you need to review A.R.S. § 25-319 which is the controlling Arizona statute over spousal maintenance, and speak with an experienced Phoenix spousal support attorney. You can also use our Arizona alimony calculator to see what your spousal maintenance in Arizona might be.
Arizona is a “no fault divorce” state and the court cannot consider any acts of marital misconduct when deciding whether to award, or not to award, spousal maintenance. Whatever fault there may have been is not a factor in awarding alimony money. Which spouse initiated the divorce has no bearing on the court’s decision to award spousal maintenance either. Spousal maintenance guidelines are controlled by Arizona spousal maintenance statute 25-319 which involves a two-part analysis to determine the appropriateness of a maintenance award in any given family law case.
An award of spousal maintenance is only available to a party when one (or more) of the following circumstances exists. The spouse seeking support:
Once the court has determined that the spouse is eligible for maintenance under A.R.S. § 25–319 (A)(1), (2), or (4) above, the court examines all relevant factors in the case, along with the 13 factors listed below. None of these factors takes priority and none are given any particular weight in the court’s analysis.
“B. The maintenance order shall be in an amount and for a period of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and after considering all relevant factors, including:
Be prepared to present sufficient and accurate documentation to the court in support of your request for spousal maintenance. If you are requesting support as part of your divorce settlement, providing financial information about your earnings and work history will be necessary. If you haven’t worked or worked only part-time, then you may be eligible for maintenance. When you are in need of spousal support or believe you should not be required to pay it, familiarize yourself with Arizona’s spousal maintenance statute. Protect your rights. Understand how the court will analyze the factors relevant to your circumstances.
As you can see, there are many factors the court must take into consideration when making a spousal maintenance determination. Thus, the parties are encouraged to come to agreement on matters of spousal maintenance. Mediation and negotiation during the divorce process can help the parties resolve their support issues. The parties can agree on a spouse’s right to receive support, the duration of support, the amount of support, if the amount can be modified or not, when support will terminate or the event upon which it will terminate.
When all things are considered, it is often better for the spouses to negotiate their property and spousal maintenance awards between themselves, rather than leave those matters to the broad discretion of the court.
Spousal maintenance can be paid in a lump sum of money or be made in payments spread out over a specified period of time. The support may be in the form of property division such as a title transfer, or possession or interest in certain personal property, or possession or security interest in real property.
The court maintains continuing jurisdiction over spousal maintenance for the entire time it is awarded. The maintenance award may be modified when there is a substantial change in circumstances after the original order was issued. As when the paying spouse (obligor) experiences a reduction in income, perhaps because of an injury or job loss. When spousal maintenance is modifiable, either party has the right to ask that the court change the amount. The parties may have agreed, however, that the maintenance order will not be modifiable. In that case, non-modification of maintenance would be stated in the court’s order and final decree.
Once awarded, spousal maintenance is enforced across Arizona. In addition to civil remedies available for nonpayment of support, like wage garnishment, under A.R.S. § 25-511.01 when the noncompliant obligor has notice of the maintenance order, he or she can be convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor for having willfully and without lawful excuse failed to comply with the court’s support order.
Spousal maintenance ordinarily terminates when the recipient remarries or dies. Maintenance may terminate on a specific date, if it is scheduled to continue for a definite period. It may also terminate with the recipient’s continuous romantic cohabitation with another. The court may require that a life insurance policy be purchased to guarantee that maintenance payments continue for the entire ordered period, even if the obligor is deceased.
With spousal maintenance, the income tax obligation shifts from the paying spouse to the receiving spouse. The supporting taxpayer may deduct the money paid for spousal support, or alimony. The spouse or former spouse receiving the alimony must include it as income on his or her tax return. For further tax information, we recommend you consult with your independent tax advisor.
Determining the duration and amount of spousal maintenance is complicated. Some of the variables considered would be:
No. A spouse requesting alimony in Arizona must first establish that they are eligible for alimony.
Arizona is a community property state. All of the assets and property acquired over the course of the marriage are joint. A house bought during the marriage will belong to both spouses. An agreement must eventually be made between the parties how to divide the value of the house in a divorce.
Although it can be completely up to the judge or presiding official, one commonly used standard for alimony duration is that for every 3 years of marriage, 1 year of alimony is paid. That is a ballpark, and should not be ready as exactly what you’d be awarded upon petitioning for Alimony. Speak with an experienced Phoenix spousal maintenance lawyer to understand how long you would need to pay alimony.
Read other Spousal Maintenance FAQs Here
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