Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance is also known as spousal support or alimony. Spousal maintenance may be paid by one spouse to the other during and after divorce. Spousal maintenance is often one of the most challenging issues to settle in a divorce case. In Arizona, multiple forms of spousal maintenance exist to accomplish different goals.

The Different Types of Spousal Maintenance

Temporary spousal maintenance may be ordered while the divorce is pending. Your judge may require temporary spousal maintenance payments to enforce fairness between spouses during divorce.

Short-term spousal maintenance is valid only for a short period of time immediately following the divorce. Normally, short-term spousal maintenance lasts only a few years. When the spouses cannot agree, the duration of spousal maintenance awards are determined by your judge.

Rehabilitative spousal maintenance is designed to support one spouse while they retrain to reenter the workforce. Rehabilitative spouse maintenance normally lasts until the spouse is back to work.

Permanent spousal maintenance is usually available only when spouses divorce after a long-term marriage. Permanent spousal maintenance can last for the rest of the spouse’s life or ten years or more. In Arizona, permanent spousal maintenance is withheld except for extreme circumstances that require it. Most cases, including long-term marriages, are not eligible for permanent spousal maintenance. Certain factors may require permanent spousal maintenance such as when one spouse is disabled, older, or ill.

Reimbursement Spousal Maintenance

Reimbursement spousal maintenance is when one spouse sacrificed certain opportunities, education, or money in order to support the family or marriage. Reimbursement spousal maintenance may be ordered by your judge to promote fairness and equity between the spouses.

Spousal Maintenance: A Two-Part Test

Arizona courts decide spousal maintenance in two parts. First, the court will determine whether one spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance.

The Amount and Duration of Spousal Maintenance

If the court finds the requesting spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance, it will then determine the amount and duration of the award. The court will use the following factors to determine the amount and duration:

  • the standard of living during the marriage
  • the duration of the marriage
  • the age, employment history, earning ability, and mental and physical condition of the spouse seeking maintenance
  • the ability of the spouse to pay maintenance and be self-sufficient
  • the comparative financial resources of both spouses, including the ability to earn money through employment
  • the contributions the spouse seeking maintenance gave to the career prospects of the other spouse
  • the extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance contributed to the career opportunities of the other spouse
  • the ability of both spouses to contribute to the future educational costs of their children
  • the financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance
  • the time necessary to acquire new education or training
  • whether one spouse has engaged in fraud, waste, or excessive spending
  • health insurance costs
  • other damages from judgments involving criminal convictions

Arizona courts may consider unique facts and circumstances of your case when deciding the amount and duration of spousal maintenance.

Spousal maintenance is normally paid each month. Rarely, spousal maintenance is paid in a lump sum. Payment can be made by agreement of the spouses. Payment through the clerk of the court is preferred to keep an accurate record in case of a dispute. Payments can also be withheld from paychecks through an income withholding order.

It is important to keep detailed records of all spousal maintenance payments made by your spouse. If your spouse misses a spousal maintenance payment, you can request the court to enforce the payment.

Spousal maintenance payments are either modifiable or non-modifiable. If spousal maintenance payments are modifiable, the court can change award. If it is non-modifiable, the court cannot change the award. If the spousal maintenance award is modifiable, the court will be able to change the award while the payments are being made. After the final payment of spousal maintenance, the court will no longer have the ability to modify spousal maintenance.

Spousal maintenance is a difficult and subjective determination for courts to make. Courts must first consider many different factors in order to see if a spouse is even entitled to spousal maintenance. Then courts must consider even more factors to determine the amount and duration of the spousal maintenance award. Courts must try to balance the amount of spousal maintenance being paid while supporting the other spouse at the same time.

Hiring a family law attorney can help you present your best facts to the court. Having a family law attorney to negotiate on your behalf can also encourage a settlement. Working out a settlement with your spouse or spouse’s attorney will save you money and time. Spousal maintenance laws are specific and can be confusing at times. Having a family law attorney navigate you through this process can help ensure you receive the best possible outcome.

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