How Do Courts Determine Alimony in Arizona?

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When starting divorce proceedings, many people wonder how much alimony will be awarded. A number of factors are considered by Arizona courts when determining whether and how long alimony should be paid. These factors include the length of the marriage, each person’s age, physical and emotional condition, earning ability, and need for education or training in order to find work that allows them to support themselves. Other factors to consider include whether one spouse contributed more financially than the other during the marriage and who has custody of any children from this relationship. In general, if you divorce after less than ten years of marriage, you will not be awarded alimony in Arizona.

The Types of Spousal Maintenance in Arizona

In Arizona, the type of spousal maintenance award is determined by where you are in the divorce process. Judges can award temporary support during the divorce process, which is also known as “pendente lite,” which means it is pending until the divorce is finalized. Pendente lite support will be ordered by a judge if one spouse requires the other’s financial assistance for regular living expenses and to otherwise remain financially stable during the divorce process. A temporary support award during a divorce does not guarantee a post-divorce award later on.

When the court enters the final divorce judgment, the judge will specify whether or not child support will be continued. The judge can order a temporary maintenance award, which means that financial support will be provided for a set period of time after the divorce. When courts award temporary post-divorce support, the goal is for the recipient spouse to use the money to improve job skills, obtain necessary education, and otherwise better prepare for the future.

Temporary support (also known as “rehabilitative maintenance”) gives the lower-earning spouse time to get back on solid financial footing after the divorce, particularly if the recipient spouse gave up a job during the marriage to raise a family or advance the other spouse’s career.

Permanent maintenance is also available in Arizona, but the courts reserve it for extreme cases. Even after a long marriage, the courts consider support to be rehabilitative, implying that the recipient spouse should eventually become financially independent. In rare cases, the court may order permanent spousal maintenance if the lower-earning spouse is unable to become self-sufficient due to illness, disability, or age.

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Who Qualifies for Maintenance?

Before the court can award maintenance, the requesting party must demonstrate a need for support as well as the ability of the other party to pay. A “need” for support will be determined by the court if the requesting spouse:

  • lacks sufficient property to meet that spouse’s needs, even after property distribution in the divorce
  • is unable to support themselves through employment
  • contributed financially to the other spouse’s training, education, or vocational skills in order to improve that spouse’s earning capacity
  • has significantly reduced his or her income or career opportunities in order to benefit the other spouse, or
  • Due to a long marriage and advanced age, she is unable to find work and become self-sufficient.

The judge must evaluate each case individually to determine whether a spouse can become self-sufficient through employment. For example, if you are caring for a very young child or your child has an illness or disability that makes full-time employment outside the home difficult, the court may order your ex-spouse to pay maintenance for a longer period of time.

How Does the Court Determine Maintenance?

After the court finds that spousal maintenance is appropriate, the judge must set the amount and duration of the award and will consider the following factors before deciding:

  • the marital standard of living
  • the duration of the marriage
  • each spouse’s age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional health
  • the paying spouse’s ability to meet the financial needs of both spouses while providing support
  • the comparative financial resources of both spouses, including their abilities to earn in the current job market
  • how much the requesting spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s earning ability during the marriage
  • the extent to which the recipient spouse reduced income or career opportunities for the other spouse’s benefit
  • each spouse’s capacity, after the divorce, to contribute to the future educational costs of the parties’ children
  • the requesting spouse’s financial resources and ability to be financially self-sufficient
  • the time necessary for the recipient spouse to obtain training or education to enable that spouse to find appropriate employment and whether education and training are readily available
  • either spouse’s excessive spending, or destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of jointly-held property
  • costs of health insurance for either spouse, and
  • any damages and judgments from a spouse’s conduct that resulted in a criminal conviction, if the other spouse or a child was the victim. (A.R.S. §25-319.)

Are You Looking for a Family Law Attorney You Can Trust?

The attorneys at GillespieShields are well-versed in a variety of different legal fields, ranging from family law to civil suits, employment disputes, and probate cases. Although we specialize in several areas of practice, our greatest passion is family law. We believe in giving families peace of mind no matter their situation, and we fight hard to maintain that peace. Whether you’re filing for dissolution or divorce, determining custody of your children, or thinking about adopting children, our experienced attorneys are here to help you every step of the way.  During our private, one-on-one consultation, we’ll take the necessary time to answer and all of our questions surrounding Arizona’s family laws, your family’s unique situation, and the possible court outcomes. Contact us today for your consultation!


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