Spousal Maintenance: Understanding Maintenance and How it is Determined

Spousal Maintenance Edwards & Petersen

Sometimes referred to as alimony or spousal support, spousal maintenance is determined according to a variety of factors, including but not limited to the length of the marriage and the needs of the spouse requesting maintenance. In making an order for spousal maintenance, the court must answer three questions. First, whether the requesting spouse is eligible. Second, the amount of maintenance to be paid, and finally the number of years the award is to be paid.

Who is Eligible for Spousal Maintenance?

Determining eligibility requires a finding that one spouse has financial need AND that the other spouse is capable of paying. Common reasons the court may award spousal maintenance include one spouse having contributed to the education of the other, not having ample assets to be self-sufficient, or being unable to obtain adequate employment to provide for their reasonable needs.

In its determination of self-sufficiency, the judge reviews the petitioner’s experience, skill level, and even the labor market. If the marriage was long-lasting and one spouse fulfilled the role of homemaker throughout, the judge may order that the petitioner’s age and lack of professional experience warrant an order of spousal maintenance. A similar decision may occur when the couple has young children, or a child with a disability, which often makes obtaining adequate full-time employment difficult.

Determining the Award Amount

If the court determines there is a need for spousal maintenance, it considers a variety of factors in arriving at a support amount and duration for said maintenance. The court considers how long the marriage lasted, and what standard of living the petitioner enjoyed during that time. In addition, the court looks at the age, employment history, and marketable skills of the petitioner.

A comparison of both spouses’ resources and earning capacity is made, as well as a determination of the paying spouse’s ability to financially support both parties. The court also looks at ways the spouse seeking maintenance contributed to the earning capacity, education, and career opportunities of the paying spouse.

The court also reviews the spending habits and financial history of both spouses, as well as the disposition of jointly held properties. Judges also look at any other financial resources available to the petitioner, as well as educational opportunities.

Judges look at all of these factors and more when determining an award for spousal maintenance. In Arizona, the final decision on spousal support rests with the judge.

What are the Different Types of Spousal Maintenance?

There are four types of spousal support.

  1. Temporary support is provided before the divorce is finalized, to help cover the needs of one spouse during the pendency of the divorce case.
  2. Rehabilitative support typically lasts for a fixed period determined by either the court or via an agreement between spouses. There are two common reasons for rehabilitative support. The first is to assist the spouse receiving support as he or she works toward attaining self-sufficiency via training, education, or gaining work experience. The second is to allow the custodial parent of small children to remain home with the child(ren) until the youngest child begins school.

For the spouse receiving rehabilitative support, ensuring the divorce decree calls for a review of support guarantees that the court will review the support amount and duration if necessary.

  1. Reimbursement support is exactly what it sounds like; it reimburses one spouse for expenses he or she paid in support of the other. One of the more common reasons for reimbursement support is when one spouse worked to help put the other through college and build a career. Reimbursement support may be paid over time or in one lump sum.
  2. Permanent support lasts until the death of either the payor or the payee; it may also end if the payee remarries (but not always). The payee may also request the payor carry a life insurance policy naming the payee as beneficiary. Either party may petition the court for an adjustment in the support amount, unless the parties agree that it will not be modified.

Schedule a Free Consultation

If you are considering divorce, or need to include or respond to a petition for spousal support, schedule a free consultation with Edwards & Petersen. Knowledge of your financial needs, resources and your assets coupled with our knowledge of the law will assist us into determining a fair support amount.

Resources

Divorce Modifications

Maricopa County Superior Court

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