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New law has significant impact on those working with couples facing divorce

If you work in a profession that involves advising individuals facing divorce, it’s important to be aware of the significant changes in the spousal maintenance guidelines in Arizona. These changes are likely to result in high-income earners paying more alimony than they would have in the past.
The new guidelines were introduced through SB 1383 and are in effect and binding since September 24, 2022. Under the previous law, the court could award spousal maintenance “in an amount and for a period of time the court deems just.” However, the new law stipulates that the court may only award spousal maintenance in an amount and for a period of time to allow for self-sufficiency.
This means that the court now has a non-discretionary amount for spousal maintenance, and a deviation from this amount is only necessary in specific circumstances. The court may only deviate from the guidelines if the award would be inappropriate or unjust.
The guidelines aim to establish consistency in spousal maintenance awards, guide the establishment of awards, and promote settlements. They also provide a preliminary target range for spousal maintenance, which the court can select a number from, or deviate from if necessary.
One significant change under the new guidelines is that the court will calculate spousal maintenance based on income rather than on the previous method of attributing income based on spending or Affidavits of Financial Information. This means that living above your means on credit card debt will not lead to a spousal maintenance award.
The new guidelines also require the court to determine the average monthly mortgage principal amount for both parties. This information is then combined with other data to determine the total household expenditure amount, which is divided pro rata based on each party’s share of income. This calculation produces the final target range for the award.
If you have clients who are already receiving spousal maintenance, it’s worth noting that the new guidelines may impact them. Awards of spousal maintenance entered after September 24, 2022, are subject to modification based on the guidelines. However, agreements made prior to this date are still binding.
It’s important to keep in mind that the court can deviate from the guidelines if the award would be inappropriate or unjust. The court may also deviate if there are significant differences in the cost of living or if tax rates for the parties are different.
Overall, the changes to the spousal maintenance guidelines in Arizona represent a significant shift in the law, and it’s important for professionals who work with individuals facing divorce to stay informed about these changes. By doing so, you can help your clients navigate the legal process with confidence and ensure that they receive fair and just treatment under the law.

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