During legal proceedings for both a divorce and a legal separation, a spouse may file for spousal maintenance, or alimony. A.R.S 25-319 defines both the eligibility requirements for spousal maintenance, and the amount and duration of the award.
Arizona has one of the highest divorce rates in the country with an average of about 11 divorces per 1,000 marriages. Sierra Vista ranked as the city with the second highest divorce rate in the nation.
Spousal Maintenance Eligibility
The first step courts must take is to determine if the spouse filing for support is eligible.
A spouse may be eligible for spousal maintenance if he or she:
- Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse's reasonable needs.
- Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
- Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.
- Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
The court will determine if a spouse should be able to find appropriate employment by considering the spouse's professional skills and the current job market. If the division of assets and property was unequal and left one spouse without sufficient means to support his or herself, if a spouse is too old to reenter the work force, or if a spouse is the sole caregiver of a child that requires constant childcare and the spouse cannot work, that spouse may be eligible for support.
Spousal maintenance is typically not awarded for short-term marriages. Sometimes “rehabilitative alimony” is awarded to spouses who were in a short-term marriage to help one become self-sufficient again. Short-term marriages are typically defined as being about one year long.
Both men and women are eligible for spousal maintenance.
Determining the Quantity of Spousal Maintenance
If a spouse is determined to be eligible for support, the courts then need to decide on the amount of support will be rewarded, and how long to support will last. To determine these factors the courts will look at the followings factors in accordance with A.R.S 25-319.
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
- The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse's needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
- The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
- The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse's income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
- The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse's ability to meet that spouse's own needs independently.
- The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.
- Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
- The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
- All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.
Arizona is a “no-fault” state, so marital misconduct, like adultery, will not factor into the award of spousal maintenance. Covenant marriages however maintain a different status than non-covenant marriages, and allow for fault-based divorces.
Unless otherwise agreed to at the time spousal maintenance is awarded, either spouse may prompt changes to the maintenance agreement.
Spousal maintenance will end after a determined number of years, if the spouse receiving gains employment that makes support unnecessary, if the spouse supporting has a serious illness that makes it impossible to pay support, or upon the remarriage or death of the spouse receiving it. Spousal maintenance can also be rehabilitative, allowing a spouse to find a job or gain skills for the workforce, or can be for reimbursement, if one spouse contributed more significantly to the marriage or worked to help the other spouse through school.
Prenuptial or Postnuptial
Prenuptials and postnuptials are legal agreements signed by the spouses that divide assets, child support, and other separation terms. They can be signed before marriage or during marriage. Courts will typically honor the terms of pre or postnuptials, unless a spouse will need to go on government-subsidized programs after separation and the terms agreed included no spousal support. In certain cases like this, the court might override pre or post nuptials to require spousal support.
If you are dealing with spousal maintenance issues, you want a good lawyer on your side. Cliff Hill is an experienced attorney who is dedicated to getting the case results you need. Contact our office today to learn more about your options.