Spousal support is financial assistance that recognizes a partner's contribution to the marriage and helps the recipient achieve financial independence. Arizona calls this spousal maintenance, while other states call it alimony.
A spouse in a divorce (dissolution of marriage) or legal separation case may be entitled to receive spousal maintenance from the other spouse. When dealing with the financial uncertainties of post-divorce life, people often just want to know what to expect with a spousal maintenance request.
One of the following reasons must exist in order to receive spousal maintenance:
1. A spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for their own reasonable needs.
2. A spouse 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 of the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
3. A spouse contributed to the education opportunities of the other spouse.
4. A 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.
If one of these grounds exists, then the court determines the amount and duration of the spousal maintenance order based on thirteen different factors set forth in the statute.
It is important for both parties to understand that there is no formula for determining spousal maintenance. Once a ground for awarding spousal maintenance is determined, judges have wide latitude to determine the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. There are many factors to weigh when assessing a potential spousal maintenance payment. Some of the most important include:
The ability of the one spouse to pay
The need of the receiving spouse
Total income that each spouse receives
Former standard of living
Total length of marriage
The length of marriage is always considered, but there isn’t a length of a marriage that automatically creates a spousal maintenance obligation.
The courts do not want to promote allowing one spouse to benefit unduly from spousal maintenance while the other goes into debt trying to pay what they can no longer afford due to a change in circumstances like loss of employment, disability or retirement. Whether you feel you are entitled to receive spousal maintenance or you are concerned that you will be ordered to pay more spousal maintenance than is fair, I can and will protect your rights. I have represented clients on both sides of the table. I will be honest with you and tell you whether your expectations are realistic.
Most divorce decrees that that spousal maintenance can be modified if either or both of the parties has a substantial and continuing change of circumstances, and I can assist you with a needed modification as well. However, in some divorce decrees, spousal maintenance is non-modifiable, in other words, it can never be changed as to amount or duration.