DIVORCE AND SPOUSAL SUPPORT
“A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. That applies to flowers, but not to ‘alimony’ ‘spousal support’ or, as defined by the Arizona law ‘spousal maintenance’. You should have a basic understanding of how the system works before you speak with a divorce lawyer. Knowing how the law treats spousal maintenance will help you ask the best questions, and make financial plans while you have the marriage dissolved.
The Basics of Spousal Maintenance
In accordance with Arizona Statute 25-319, the court will first ask if the spouse is entitled to maintenance:
- Is the spouse unable to support themselves
- Does not have enough property to provide for their basic needs
- Provided support for the other spouse’s education
- The Marriage was ‘of long duration’ and due to age or lack of experience, the applicant will have trouble finding employment ( People married less than 5 years are seldom awarded spousal maintenance)
Applicants should give their lawyer financial records for the past several years. If you present the court with a well-documented claim, your chances of success increase.
What Happens Next
There can be two courses of action. It is better for all parties if the spouses can reach a maintenance agreement without court intervention. Such an agreement can be presented to the court and become part of the divorce decree. That would certainly save both partners the time and money spent on court hearings. On the other hand, divorce can be very contentious, and if there is no agreement, it’s better to let the court determine the financial settlement.
Factors used to Determine Spousal Support
Arizona Statute 25-319B lists the many facts that a judge will examine before awarding spousal maintenance. Yes, it is a subjective process, which is yet another reason the parties should try to negotiate their own settlement. Nobody can guarantee how a judge will apply the following details:
- Lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage
- Length of marriage
- Age, education, employment history of spouse who seeks maintenance
- Ability of other spouse to support themselves while paying maintenance
- How much did the applying spouse contribute to the other spouse’s education/career?
- Financial status of applicant, including community property granted during divorce
- How long will it take for applying spouse to finish school or training for employment?
- Has either party laid waste to, or concealed assets during the divorce?
- How much will it cost the applying spouse to get health insurance, and how much did the other spouse save when removing their spouse from their insurance plan?
A Few Final Thoughts
Judges have almost unlimited discretion when it comes to granting spousal maintenance. Once they make an award, the paying spouse has limited options: to apply for a reduction of the award due to a change in financial circumstances. The paying party may have been laid off, or taken a pay cut to save their job. Perhaps the spouse who got the maintenance award has finished school, and now has a full time position.
Spousal Maintenance can be temporary, for a fixed period of time or even permanent. A person who receives maintenance will have to pay income tax, while the party who pays maintenance can deduct it from their earned income. Review every aspect with your divorce lawyer before starting a divorce.