Spousal Support in Arizona

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Spousal Support in Arizona

When couples plan a marriage, they do not usually anticipate that their union will end in divorce. Unfortunately, some couples will still experience the difficulties and frustrations of dissolving a marriage, including the various settlements involved in the divorce decree. One common divorce settlement decision involves a regular monetary amount one spouse may be obligated to pay the other, known as alimony, spousal support, or spousal maintenance.

At Gillespie, Shields & Taylor, our skilled family law attorneys can help you understand the complications of spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance could help you get the financial support you need to get back on your feet after your divorce. Alternatively, if you are required to pay spousal maintenance, we can help you ensure those payments are fair for you.

No matter which side of the spousal maintenance discussion you are on, learning more about what spousal maintenance is, how a person qualifies, and the legal obligations that surround it can help you ensure a fair, successful divorce process.

Spousal Maintenance and Alimony in Arizona

Spousal maintenance, as it is called in Arizona, refers to court-ordered payments from one spouse to another that may be awarded during the divorce process or after the divorce is final. These regularly occurring payments are awarded only when one spouse is able to prove they require financial assistance after a divorce, as outlined by the laws in Arizona.

Spousal maintenance is intended to help a lower-earning spouse maintain a lifestyle they have become accustomed to for a specific time period after a divorce. These monies are meant to provide for their care so they do not need to struggle during this transition period. Most often, alimony is awarded when a couple has arranged for one spouse to focus on his or her career while the other spouse maintains a home, cares for children, or otherwise sacrifices their own career and earning opportunities in support of the spouse’s career advancement. Because of this, the lower-earning spouse was not able to further his or her own career, which could mean passing up promotion opportunities, salary increases, and the opportunity to build wealth independently.

Types of Spousal Maintenance

In Arizona, spousal maintenance comes in four forms:

  • Temporary Spousal Maintenance – Temporary support, often granted during divorce proceedings, addresses the immediate financial needs of the less financially secure spouse. Any award of temporary alimony will stand until ordered by a court to cease or until the divorce is finalized.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony – This form of support focuses on assisting the recipient spouse in acquiring the necessary education or training to achieve financial independence. By helping to bridge the gap from support to independence, this type of spousal maintenance is generally in place for one to three years. The expectation of the receiving spouse is that they are actively pursuing his or her own independence so they can provide for themselves without the payments.
  • Permanent Alimony – This form of support is awarded in cases where one spouse may not be able to attain a standard of living similar to that during the marriage due to factors such as age, health, or other compelling circumstances. This is the least common form of alimony. However, while there is no time frame established for this type of alimony, it is not a perpetual payment made forever. The court will maintain oversight and modify the order as necessary.

Arizona Alimony Laws

Arizona Alimony Laws

Arizona alimony laws are covered in state statutes 25-319. Outlined under these statutes are court considerations, guidelines for veterans, and a spousal maintenance calculator the court will use to ensure a range for a fair award. Under these statutes, some of the factors that courts must consider include:

  • The ability of the requesting spouse to support his or her own needs
  • If charged with the care of children, the requesting spouse’s ability to gain employment to support those children
  • The ability of the requesting spouse to support themselves through employment
  • The amount of support given from one spouse to the other in pursuit of education or career opportunities at the cost of his or her own education or career
  • How long a couple was married and the age of the requesting spouse as it pertains to his or her ability to gain employment
  • The amount of time needed by the requesting spouse to earn the necessary education for gaining employment
  • The earning potential of each spouse
  • The length of time the marriage lasted
  • The lifestyle maintained during the marriage
  • The ability of the spouse who is required to pay to support themselves while also making spousal maintenance payments
  • The way both spouses handled finances and marital property during the marriage
  • The age of both spouses
  • The income differential between the spouses
  • The physical and mental health condition of each spouse
  • The occupations of both spouses during the marriage

These factors are often referred to as the qualifications for alimony in Arizona.

How Is Spousal Maintenance Calculated?

If a spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance, the court will then utilize a uniform spousal maintenance calculator that was introduced in 2023. The calculator allows attorneys to make an educated prediction regarding the potential alimony their client may need to pay or receive, and it also helps to keep judgments of alimony more consistent.

There are four parts of the calculation:

  • Size of the family – Family size could be as small as the two spouses involved or as large as necessary to include any children. However, family size does not include persons with disabilities, parents, or children from another marriage for whom either spouse is responsible for caring.
  • Yearly income – This calculation can be more complex than it seems. It is the combined total yearly income for both spouses, including the earning potential of each. Any income that could be attributed to either spouse must also be included. This is a critical reason why both spouses must reveal all sources of income during the division of assets. If either spouse is found to have been hiding any assets, the spousal maintenance determination could be affected.
  • Principal on monthly mortgage payments – While mortgage payments include interest, this calculator only uses the yearly mortgage principal in the calculation.
  • Expenditures – Using all the factors above, the calculator will generate the average expenditures for one adult per year as well as one-half of the total expenditures the family is responsible for.

Using these factors, the calculator provides a view of the total burden placed on the household to meet necessary expenses. This is then divided into the existing portion of each spouse’s annual income. The qualifying spouse’s share is subtracted from the total amount, leaving the remaining share to the paying spouse. This then provides a target range within which the court may order spousal maintenance.

The judge in a divorce case may deviate from this range, but they must put their reasoning for doing so into writing. The judge must cite specific laws and statutes in their decision, as well as the factors that were taken into consideration that led to the judgment.

While there are many spousal maintenance calculators available online, it is crucial to recognize that these provide extremely rough estimates of a spousal maintenance payment in your situation. The court will thoroughly examine all the factors above to make its decision. An experienced Arizona spousal maintenance attorney can help you more accurately predict what the outcome may be in your case.

Modifying Spousal Maintenance and Alimony in Arizona

Once a spousal maintenance order is in place, modifications may be requested for a variety of reasons. The only way a spousal maintenance decision can be modified is via court order, so while either spouse has the right to request modification, the court is not obligated to grant the modification. Some reasons a modification may be requested include:

  • Any changes to employment and/or salary
  • The spouse who is paying becomes able to pay more
  • The spouse receiving spousal maintenance payments has become more self-sufficient
  • Any increases or decreases in either spouse’s necessary expenditures
  • If both spouses agree to the change

If the paying spouse decides to pay a decreased spousal maintenance payment, does not pay at all, or otherwise refuses to follow the court order, they will incur penalties for failing to abide by the order. Under Arizona law, anyone who fails or refuses to uphold a spousal maintenance agreement can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. Under this criminal charge, the spouse failing to pay the order risks spending up to six months in jail.

In addition to jail time, the court could order enforcement of spousal maintenance, which will require the payments to be made by other means. This could include:

  • Property liens
  • Garnishing of wages
  • Levies on bank accounts

These penalties are not the only ways in which a court could enforce spousal maintenance payments owed, but they are some of the most common. Your attorney can help you develop a better understanding of the penalties you may face or the options you may have if your spouse does not follow the court order.

Arizona Alimony FAQs

Arizona Alimony FAQs

If you are facing a divorce, you likely have many questions about spousal maintenance. We’ve addressed a few of the most common.

What Qualifies a Spouse for Alimony in AZ?

Qualifications for alimony, or spousal maintenance, in Arizona rely on several factors. The most significant are the earning potential of both spouses, the amount of money needed to meet each spouse’s basic needs, and the ability of each spouse to earn income to support themselves. If the income differential is significant and one spouse is not able to support themselves after divorce, spousal maintenance may become necessary. For example, one spouse may have sacrificed his or her own career advancement or education to support that of the other spouse.

What Is the New Alimony Law in Arizona?

Beginning in July 2023, spousal maintenance has become more well-defined. Under the new statute, spousal maintenance payments are awarded for a specified amount of time with a court-determined amount deemed necessary only until the receiving spouse is able to become self-sufficient. To help ensure the consistency of this new statute, a spousal maintenance calculator was developed for both attorneys and judges to help more equitably determine what spousal maintenance should be awarded in various cases.

How Long Do You Have to Pay Spousal Maintenance in Arizona?

The length of time one spouse may need to make spousal maintenance payments depends on several factors. One such factor is the length of marriage. Generally speaking, the longer the marriage lasts, the more likely a spouse is to receive spousal support. However, the needs of each spouse, the standard of living, and the time necessary for the lower-earning spouse to become self-sufficient also play a part in the amount of time spousal support may be awarded.

What Is a Wife Entitled to in a Divorce in Arizona?

In any state, including Arizona, the decisions reached in any divorce settlement are independent of personal identifying qualities like gender and religion. The law is nondiscriminatory, so any spouse qualifying for spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, and more will qualify regardless of gender. The financial, educational, and career information of both spouses is the only thing considered while making spousal maintenance determinations.

Your Arizona Spousal Maintenance Attorneys

Arizona Spousal Maintenance Attorneys

Sharing a life, property, and finances with another is something many people choose to do. When that part of life ends, however, determining how both spouses can feasibly support themselves becomes an important part of divorce. No matter which side of the spousal maintenance question you might be on, our family law attorneys can work with you to pursue a spousal maintenance order that is fair for everyone.

Contact our offices to request a free consultation today.

*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published Nov 28, 2023 and has been updated January 25, 2024.


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