Alimony, also known as maintenance, is one of several financial obligations that an individual may be required to pay to his or her former spouse after a divorce takes place. While this amount used to be almost always awarded to the wife in the divorce and could only stop under a few select circumstances, these days — given the rise in women in the workforce, changes in marital law, and rapidly changing financial circumstances — spousal maintenance is often a more temporary arrangement and may be received by either side when the marriage dissolves.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is a term used to describe court-ordered payments awarded to a spouse or former spouse in a separation or divorce agreement. This form of support is intended to maintain a spouse’s standard of living after a divorce until he or she has the opportunity to maintain that standard without the payments. Alimony is almost always awarded to the lower-earning individual in marriages that have lasted at least ten years. The amount of alimony that is awarded — and the duration for which it is received — depends on a number of factors, including how long the marriage lasted and the current or potential incomes of each partner in the marriage. Other factors that may impact who receives alimony and how much alimony is to be received include:
- Each spouse’s age, health, and physical capabilities
- The paying spouse’s ability to pay alimony
- Each spouse’s comparative financial resources and earning ability
- Contribution that the alimony-seeking spouse has made to the paying spouse’s earning ability
- Any excessive spending, gambling, or destruction of marital property that has been committed by either spouse.
For the receiver of alimony, the payments are a form of taxable income. For the payer, they are a deductible expense. Alimony payments cannot be discharged through bankruptcy, and they are specifically meant to be used to meet the needs of the spouse or former spouse. Payments intended to be used for the couple’s child or children’s needs are considered child support, not alimony. For further explanation on the types of support that may be ordered in divorce cases in Arizona, trust DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC for accurate and complete information.
What Arizona Law Says About Alimony and Remarriage
According to Arizona law, there are only two situations outside of an agreement between spouses or express provisions in the divorce decree that can end the obligation to provide maintenance payments as ordered:
- Death of either party.
- Remarriage of the party receiving maintenance.
The law also provides the ability to suspend alimony and other types of support payments if the paying party suffers a mental or physical injury that prevents him or her from working for a period of time. In these circumstances, payments generally resume when the situation that caused the paying party to be unable to meet his or her financial obligations improves.
The obligation to pay maintenance automatically ends in cases of death or remarriage, though the paying party will need to file a motion to terminate the support and provide proof to the court of the remarriage. If the paying party continues to make his or her payments without being aware of the remarriage, he or she may be entitled to a refund of those payments that were made after the remarriage occurs. Once a payment has been terminated due to remarriage, that payment cannot be reinstated, even if the receiving party’s remarriage ends in annulment or divorce.
Alimony and Cohabitation
According to an article published in the Atlantic, more and more people — particularly younger adults — are choosing to cohabitate rather than getting married. While there are many reasons for this, the fear of the psychological, emotional, and economic implications of divorce are at the top of the list. To many of these individuals, cohabitation offers the benefits of marriage, including help in paying the bills as well as physical and emotional companionship, without the risks posed by divorce.
Arizona law is not clear on how cohabitation impacts the provision of spousal maintenance payments. However, the more closely the cohabitation resembles a marriage, the more likely the courts are to consider the change in the cohabitating individual’s income that may no longer necessitate alimony payments by a former spouse. In order for a paying spouse to have a judge consider the modification or termination of spousal support to a cohabitating spouse, he or she must file a motion for modification or termination with the court. Evidence relating to the economic nature of the cohabitation, including proof that the support-receiving spouse and his or her cohabitating partner are sharing expenses will be required in order to prove that the cohabitating spouse’s expenses and needs for support have experienced a significant and continuing change.
If you are interested in modifying or terminating spousal support due to cohabitation by your former spouse, the experienced attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC can explain the process in more detail.
What if the Paying Spouse Remarries?
Alimony payments cannot be modified due to the remarriage of the paying spouse. Even if the remarriage comes with new household expenses or there are children born into this new marriage, the obligation to the former spouse receiving maintenance payments will continue unless there is a significant and continuing change in income that results in the paying spouse being unable to pay. Often, even if the spouse is unable to pay, the order will only be suspended — not terminated — until the spouse is again able to meet his or her obligations.
Do You Need to Modify Your Agreement?
The courts in Arizona realize that there are changes that may significantly impact the ability to pay or the need to pay support and allow for support agreements to be modified as situations warrant. If your spouse is remarried, planning to remarry, or is cohabitating, we can help you understand the legal options that are available to you. For more information and a case evaluation, contact the experienced family law attorneys at DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC online or by calling (602) 252-1968.