Spousal maintenance—also known as alimony—is money that one spouse pays to another during or after a divorce. Who receives this money depends on the primary role that each spouse played during the marriage, and the funds are intended to help the receiving spouse maintain the same standard of living that he or she enjoyed during the marriage.
Arizona Law Regarding Maintenance
Arizona law grants spousal rights to maintenance during the proceedings for the dissolution of a marriage or legal separation for the following reasons:
- There is a lack of sufficient marital property, including property awarded to the spouse during dissolution proceedings, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs.
- One spouse is unable to be self-sufficient through employment, is caring for a child whose age or condition is such that the parent should not be required to seek employment outside of the home, or the spouse lacks the ability to be financially self-sufficient.
- One spouse made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career, or earning ability of the other spouse.
- The marriage was of long duration—generally at least 20 years or more, and the spouse is of an age that may prevent the possibility of holding a job that will provide enough income for them to achieve self-sufficiency in the future.
- There was a significant reduction in one spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
Spousal maintenance is often temporary, until such time as the spouse receiving the support is able to become financially self-sufficient. Special consideration is given to older or disabled spouses who are unable to become self-sufficient, and these cases may result in a court order for permanent spousal maintenance.
Factors That Do Change the Amount of Spousal Maintenance
When determining the amount of maintenance one party must pay the other and the duration of time that the maintenance will last, the court considers the following factors:
- The standard of living that the couple enjoyed during the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- The age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the party who is seeking maintenance
- The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her own needs as well as those of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The financial resources and earning abilities of each spouse in the labor market
- How much the spouse seeking maintenance contributed to the earning ability of the other spouse
- How much the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced his or her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse
- Whether both parties after the divorce are able to contribute to the future educational costs of their children
- The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including marital property awarded to them and that spouse’s ability to meet his or her own needs independently
- The time necessary to acquire education or training that will enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is available to them
- Excessive expenditures or the destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of marital property jointly owned by both spouses
- The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance; courts also consider the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if he or she is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the dissolution of the marriage.
- Any damages and judgments resulting from a criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or a child was the victim
Factors That Do Not Change the Amount of Spousal Maintenance
Arizona is a “no-fault” state when it comes to divorce, meaning that there is no need to prove that marital misbehavior—such as adultery—occurred to obtain a divorce. Likewise, courts don’t consider marital misbehavior as a reason to deny spousal maintenance. Other issues that do not impact the amount of spousal maintenance include:
- The receipt of veteran’s benefits, which are not factored into income
- A pre-marital agreement in which the spouses agreed that neither one would pay maintenance in the event of a divorce if the lack of maintenance would cause one spouse to become eligible for welfare
- Short-term monetary gifts that are not regular or frequent enough to qualify as income
What Financial Information Is Needed to Calculate Maintenance?
To determine the proper amount of spousal maintenance, the court requires an Affidavit of Financial Information from both parties. This affidavit requires specific documentation, such as:
- Recent pay stubs and other documentation that establishes an individual’s income. Income may include wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, dividends, severance pay, trust income, workers’ compensation benefits, annuities, capital gains, previously awarded spousal maintenance, unemployment insurance benefits, and disability insurance benefits, including Social Security benefits.
- Information regarding the children who reside in the household
- Information about the childcare expenses that each party pays
- Information about all other people residing in the household
- Information about medical, vision, and dental insurance available to each party
- Information about each party’s current and past employers
- Each party’s past three years of tax returns
- Information about any self-employment
- An accounting of all monthly expenses for both parties
- A record of the debts that each party owes and the monthly payments required for each of those debts
How Are Maintenance Payments Made?
Generally, a court will order that one party make spousal maintenance payments to the state’s support payment clearinghouse, and then have the payments forwarded on to the party who is entitled to receive them. The clerk of the court or the support payment clearinghouse keeps records of the amount of each payment, the dates that the payments are due, and contact information and addresses for both parties, as well as the contact information and address for the employer of the individual ordered to pay the spousal support. Both parties are required to notify the support payment clearinghouse of any changes to their residential address in writing within ten days of the address change. Additionally, the party making the payments must also notify the support payment clearinghouse within ten days of any change in employer or employment status.
If you have further questions about spousal rights to maintenance in Phoenix, an experienced family law attorney can provide guidance. Call DeShon Laraye Pullen PLC today at (800) 409-0262, or contact us online, to discuss the details of your case with a qualified family law attorney.