What are the factors in determining spousal maintenance? When couples divorce, there are a number of issues that must be resolved. One of the common issues is spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance, called alimony in other states, is payment made by one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. Not every spouse is entitled to receive maintenance. Arizona utilizes a two-prong approach to factors in determining spousal maintenance. First, a determination must be made as to whether the spouse needs the support, and if so, then a decision must be made regarding how much money is needed and for what length of time.
Eligibility for Maintenance
A spouse must be eligible or entitled to maintenance before it is awarded. The person must meet one of these criteria:
- Must have a lack of property to provide for his or her own needs
- Is not able to be self-sufficient through employment, or is the custodian of a child who requires full-time care
- Has contributed to the education of the other spouse
- Was in a long-term marriage and is now too old to find reasonable employment that would allow the person to be self-sufficient
Generally, a spouse must genuinely need financial help in order to meet basic living needs. If a spouse is entitled to maintenance, the amount must then be determined.
When spousal support is deemed necessary, the next step is for the courts to determine the correct amount of money that must be paid, as well as the duration of payments. Some factors that are considered include:
- Standard of living that the couple was accustomed to during the marriage
- Length of the marriage
- Age, health, and emotional state of spouse seeking support
- Ability to earn an income
- How much the other spouse can afford
- Contribution of earning ability to other spouse
- Financial resources of person seeking support
- How long it will take to return to the workforce
- Costs for health insurance / Ability to get health insurance
- Any concealment or waste of community property
The amount of maintenance that must be paid is determined by what is fair and is highly discretionary. There are no “guidelines” recognized by Arizona law in determining maintenance. Marital misconduct is not taken into consideration when deciding on spousal support other than if a spouse has dispensed with community property wastefully. Support may be temporary or indefinite, depending on the specific needs of the spouse. Sometimes support may be provided for a period of time necessary for the spouse to reenter the workplace.
Spousal maintenance is made as part of the divorce decree and is terminated only under the conditions of the agreement or if there has been a substantial and continuing change of circumstances which warrants a modification of the spousal maintenance award. For example, maintenance may end if the spouse remarries, . Those who are seeking a divorce may be entitled to spousal maintenance. Discuss the issue of support with your divorce attorney to ensure that support is provided if it is required.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Factors in Determining Spousal Maintenance, or other family law issues, please feel free to contact Jonathan D. Brooks at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.