Is spousal support always mandatory in Arizona?

In Arizona, spousal support is not always mandatory. There are times when an individual will seek a divorce and the other spouse is indigent or has no assets to his/her name. In these cases, the court may waive any obligation for spousal support. Other factors that determine whether or not someone can receive spousal support in Arizona include:

How long did the marriage last?

  • At what age were the parties when separated?
  • What was the earning capacity of each party during the marriage?
  • How long did one person wait for another to complete school or training for a profession? 
  • Did they support that spouse’s education or training?

An individual will not be forced to pay spousal maintenance in Arizona if:

The recipient is cohabitating with someone of the opposite sex and, at the time maintenance would begin, either party objects;   The recipient remarries (unless pre-nuptial/post-nuptial agreement says otherwise);   The supporting spouse makes $150,000 per year more than the receiving spouse;   Maintenance paid by other persons on behalf of a party;   A marriage is not longer than five years;   The recipient cannot work due to health reasons or other hardships;   There are no children involved between the parties, and Both have reached an agreement on their own outside of court.

Each Person’s Financial Resources

When determining spousal support, the court must first determine the gross income of each spouse. The court will then deduct mandatory deductions from that number such as Social Security, federal and state taxes, mandatory union dues if an employee, mandatory retirement contributions required by law, and mandatory health insurance payments. Other items may also be included in mandatory deductions but can vary greatly depending on whether a person is self-employed. Once those mandatory deductions are deducted from your gross income, you have your net income for which spousal maintenance can be calculated. If you are married and filing jointly, your combined income will be used to calculate what amount would likely provide for your needs and help you move toward financial independence as soon as possible when separating or divorcing.

Education and Employability

In order to determine whether or not you should be required to pay spousal maintenance, the court will also consider how each person contributed to educational expenses. In some cases, an individual may have taken time off from work in which he/she was otherwise capable of working in order to obtain a degree or additional education that would allow him/her to be more self-sufficient post-divorce. In these cases, those individuals are usually awarded higher amounts for spousal maintenance.

Physical Condition of either Party

Those individuals that are determined to be disabled or in poor health by the court may also be entitled to receive higher amounts of spousal maintenance. This usually occurs when an individual is incapacitated and requires a form of care from his/her spouse that he/she would not ordinarily need if not in this situation.

Income Available to Both Parties

If you have sufficient income available to meet your own basic needs after mandatory deductions, then no assistance should be required from another person. If you do not have enough income available for your minimum reasonable needs, however, then there can be mandatory support ordered by the court. The amount will vary depending on several factors such as:

  • The type of case
  • Whether children are involved
  • How long the  marriage lasted
  • Whether one spouse worked full-time while the other stayed home to raise children or for some other reason

Age of each Party at Time of Separation or Divorce

The court must take mandatory deductions from gross income in order to calculate what each party’s net income is. The court will then consider whether or not there are mandatory deductions that may reduce the receiving spouse’s net income below the state minimum wage for one person, which is $787 per month at this time. If so, mandatory spousal maintenance can be ordered to bring the receiving spouse’s income up to state minimum wage levels with consideration given to his/her history of employment and education as well as any physical limitations he/she may have. There is no set formula used by a judge to determine spousal support; instead, it depends on the individual circumstances of each case. The Arizona Revised Statutes allow judges great discretion when determining what amount of support should be awarded.

Parties also have an option to enter into a written agreement specifying who will pay monthly payments for child care expenses during periods where one parent needs temporary relief from the responsibility. By doing this, it is possible to avoid court intervention and still ensure that the children are cared for during periods of mandatory or voluntary separation or divorce.

Legal representation is extremely important in these cases because oftentimes individuals feel they have an understanding with their spouse as to what will happen post-separation or divorce only to find that there was no such agreement when going before a judge. Having legal representation can ensure you adequately represent your interests and achieve results that are fair and which benefit you and your family.

If you have questions about spousal support in Arizona, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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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