Understanding Alimony in Arizona
Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is one of the most stressful and challenging aspects of a divorce. Alimony is money that is paid from one spouse to another to provide financial assistance either during the divorce, or after the divorce. Alimony typically occurs when one spouse earns a much higher income than the other spouse, leaving the financially-challenged spouse with fewer options to establish a solid foundation following a divorce. If you are considering a divorce, or going through a divorce now, understanding how alimony is calculated and awarded in Arizona can help ensure your legal rights are protected. This guide to understanding alimony in Arizona will cover the following areas:
- Types of Alimony in Arizona
- Who Qualifies for Alimony in Arizona
- How the Court Calculates Alimony in Arizona
- How Long Alimony in Arizona Continues
- How Alimony is Paid in Arizona
- How Alimony in Arizona is Modified
- The Tax Consequences of Alimony in Arizona
Types of Alimony in Arizona
Judges can award different types of alimony in Arizona including temporary support (pendente lite), temporary maintenance (“rehabilitative maintenance”),and permanent maintenance. The state of Arizona does officially refers to the support of a spouse as maintenance under A.R.S. § 25-319.
Temporary support, also known as “pendente lite”, is alimony awarded only for the duration of the divorce process. This type of temporary alimony can help one spouse obtain financial support and assistance for regular living expenses and to start their new life. In many cases, this type of alimony is awarded when one spouse makes considerably more than the other spouse, or if one spouse does not work.
Temporary maintenance, also known as “rehabilitative maintenance”, is different from temporary support. Temporary maintenance occurs after the divorce has been finalized, and orders one spouse to pay alimony to the other spouse for a temporary and specific period of time following the divorce. When one spouse does not have the financial capacity to live independently without assistance, they will often be awarded temporary maintenance while they seek employment and prepare for financial independence. The duration of temporary maintenance will be different in every divorce, and rest upon many different facts and circumstances.
In some very rare cases, a spouse will receive permanent maintenance from another spouse. The order of permanent alimony in Arizona is rare, and typically only occurs when both spouses were married for several decades, and one spouse is permanently unable to financially support themselves due to disability, illness, or advanced age.
Who Qualifies for Alimony in Arizona
Alimony in Arizona is never guaranteed, and the spouse requesting alimony must demonstrate to the court a need for financial support, as well as proof that the other spouse can financially afford alimony payments. In order to determine who qualifies for alimony in Arizona, the court will require that a spouse complete an Affidavit of Financial Information. This document is required in every divorce case and will also address financial issues involving child support and the equitable division of marital property.
Qualifying for alimony in Arizona will require that a spouse prove the following:
- The requesting spouse lacks adequate or sufficient property or employment to provide for the needs of the spouse.
- The requesting spouse contributed financially throughout the course of the marriage to provide for the other spouse’s education or professional skills that allowed them to have greater financial resources
- The requesting spouse remains unable to find gainful employment due to disability, illness or advanced age
Courts will examine the Affidavit of Financial Information, the financial status of both spouses, and the entire marital landscape in order to make a determination regarding awarding alimony in Arizona. Every case will be dependent on each spouse’s individual facts and circumstances.
How the Court Calculates Alimony in Arizona
After the court makes the decision whether or not to award temporary support, temporary maintenance, or permanent maintenance, they will then begin the calculations to determine the exact amount one spouse will financially contribute to the other spouse. It is important to note that there are no specific set formulas or calculators that an Arizona court will use to determine alimony calculations. However, several facts will impact this calculation including the following:
- The length of the marriage
- The standard of living of both spouses during the marriage
- The earning ability of each spouse, the physical and emotional health of each spouse, the employment history of each spouse, and the spouses’ ages
- The ability of one spouse to actually have the financial ability to provide alimony to the other spouse
- The ability of the requesting spouse to find gainful employment in the near future, and how long it would take the requesting spouse to obtain gainful employment
- The amount of assistance that the requesting spouse provided to the other spouse regarding contributions to their earning ability (i.e., working while the other spouse when to school, payment of tuition, etc.)
- The reduction in the requesting spouse’s ability to find gainful employment and become financially independent due to reduce career opportunities as a result of caring for children or sacrifice of career to support the other spouse
- Examination of how both spouses will be able to meet the educational costs of their children in the future
- The cost and ability of the requesting spouse to obtain health insurance following the divorce
- Determination if one spouse attempted to conceal, destroy, or spend marital assets
- Any criminal convictions related to harming either the requesting spouse or a child under A.R.S. § 25-319.
How Long Alimony in Arizona Continues
Temporary support only continues throughout the divorce process and ends when the judge finalizes the divorce. At this point, the judge may award either temporary or permanent maintenance. If the judge orders permanent maintenance, the alimony will continue permanently, unless and until a modification of the alimony judgment occurs. Temporary maintenance may be awarded for a set number of months or years, until the receiving spouse obtains the education or training necessary to realistically seek gainful employment, until the receiving spouse remarries, or another stipulation created in the divorce judgment.
How Alimony is Paid in Arizona
Lump-sum payments of alimony in Arizona are rare. Instead, most orders of alimony require periodic payments to the other spouse done on either bi-weekly or monthly intervals. In most cases, even where one spouse agrees to pay alimony, the alimony payments will be withheld directly from the spouse’s wages directly from their employer. These payments are then collected by the court and distributed to the receiving spouse under A.R.S. §25-322
If a payment is missed for any reason, the receiving spouse has the ability to request assistance from the court to enforce the alimony order within the divorce judgment. Courts have the legal ability to place liens on property or seize tax returns of a spouse that fails to make court-mandated alimony payments. However, the deadline to request support from the court regarding non-payment of alimony is three years after the order terminates. The failure to pay alimony may even result in a class 1 misdemeanor criminal charge. If you have failed to receive court-mandated alimony from your former spouse, visiting with an experienced attorney can help ensure your legal rights are protected.
How Alimony in Arizona is Modified
Two people have the ability to change and modify alimony payments at any time. However, unless two people make the mutually-agreed upon decision to modify alimony payments, any formal modifications must be done through the courts. A spouse has the ability to request that the court either modify or terminate the continued alimony award based on a significant change in circumstances. For example, if one spouse remarries or obtains gainful employment with a significant salary, the paying spouse has the right to request modification or termination of alimony through the courts.
The Tax Consequences of Alimony in Arizona
If you were awarded alimony in Arizona prior to December 31, 2018, your alimony payments are tax-deductible to the payer, and considered taxable income to the recipient spouse. However, all alimony awarded after December 31, 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act now requires that alimony payments are taxable to the payer and tax-deductible to the recipient spouse. Visiting with an experienced attorney can help you understand the tax ramifications of alimony in your specific situation.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney
If you are considering divorce and expect that alimony will become a significant issue within the divorce process, you need to make sure that you protect your legal rights. Consider taking our free mini-course that provides additional answers to frequently asked questions regarding the divorce process, and then contact us to see how we can help. Alimony in Arizona is a complex and legally challenging area of law, and calculations are often subjective and arbitrary. Learn how one of our experienced family law attorneys at My Modern Law in Scottsdale, Mesa, Peoria, or Phoenix, Arizona can provide you with answers and ensure your legal rights remain protected. Contact us at (480) 470-7731 or online today.