In Arizona, “Spousal Maintenance” is what historically people think of as alimony. It relates to the money paid by one spouse to the other as part of a Dissolution of Marriage Decree. The purpose of the payment is to provide support to a spouse unable to provide for his/her needs, as long as he/she also meets other state requirements. In many cases, the higher earner in the marriage must assist the lower earner financially for a certain period.
It is one of the most complex of all divorce areas because two judges looking at the same facts may reach very different conclusions. There is no set of “spousal maintenance guidelines” like there is for child support in Arizona. As a result, you need an experienced spousal maintenance attorney in Arizona to ensure the best outcome.
In order for the Court to even consider how much spousal maintenance will be paid, , you must prove that you meet one or more of the following qualifications:
- You do not possess enough property to provide for your “reasonable” needs even after marital distribution;
- You can prove you contributed to your spouse’s educational opportunities;
- You are the custodian of a child whose age/condition means you should not be forced to seek employment outside the home;
- You do not have the skills or health needed to be self-sufficient;
If the court decides you are eligible for spousal maintenance, it must decide the appropriate amount and duration. The court will consider a number of factors, including:
- Your living standard during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- Your age, emotional and physical condition, work history, and earning capacity
- Your spouse’s ability to meet your needs while still maintaining his/her own standard of living
- How the financial resources of you and your spouse compare; this will include your respective earning abilities
- How you contributed to the earning capability of your spouse
You can read the full list of considerations here.
How Spousal Maintenance Is Paid
In many cases, the court will require the paying spouse to make spousal maintenance payments via an Income Withholding Order. In this instance, the payer’s employer deducts the spousal maintenance amount directly from his/her paycheck and sends the funds to the appropriate authority.
The payment is recorded and sent to you. If your spouse is unemployed or self-employed, he/she will be ordered to send payments directly to the appropriate authority.
Termination and Modification
Couples are permitted to enter into joint agreements; for example, you and your spouse can decide to waive maintenance completely or make provisions so that neither party feels the need to seek changes to the existing agreement in the future.
However, you or your spouse can make a request to the court to terminate or modify periodic payments because of a material change in circumstances. Spousal maintenance payments end when the term set out by the judge expires, when either spouse dies, or when the spouse in receipt of the payments remarries.
If you are looking to receive spousal maintenance, or it has been requested and you feel as if you cannot pay, get in touch with an experienced Arizona spousal maintenance attorney and ensure your best interests remain protected.