Spousal Maintenance Laws in Arizona
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Arizona Spousal Maintenance Laws
Alimony in Arizona and spousal maintenance laws can have an impact in an Arizona divorce case. An Arizona family law judge is authorized by the Arizona alimony laws outlined in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-319 to order one spouse to pay the other spouse an amount as and for alimony in Arizona, which is the Arizona spousal maintenance laws.
There are two parts to the statute, specifically section 25-319(A) contains the factors the court must consider first to determine if a spouse is entitled to alimony in Arizona. The second part of the statute provided in 25-319(B) contains the spousal maintenance laws the court must consider in determining the amount and duration of spousal support only if it has first found a basis to award alimony in Arizona under section 25-319.
Spousal maintenance laws in provide that alimony in Arizona is not necessarily appropriate in every case. An Arizona judge has broad discretion in deciding whether alimony is appropriate, as well as the amount and duration of that alimony award.
Additionally, many judges have differing views in regards as to the “how much” and “how long” questions related to spousal maintenance. It is imperative you have an attorney who has a lot of experience practicing family law and understands the spousal support laws in Arizona to guide you through the process and protect what is most important to you.
Spousal support is an issue that is important to both parties. It is important to the spouse receiving the money because he or she may be relying upon spousal maintenance to support themselves. It is also an important issue to the husband or wife paying the spousal support because it impacts his or her ability to pay their expenses.
There are three forms of spousal maintenance in Arizona. Specifically, there are “permanent” awards of spousal support, “rehabilitative” awards of spousal maintenance, and “compensatory” forms of spousal maintenance.
An ongoing award of alimony in Arizona just means the court has not placed a date upon which spousal maintenance will terminate, which may occur when there is no expectation the person will ever be able to support themselves due to the age of the spouse or because of a significant disability. These types of awards are not typical, but the facts of each case will be determinative of whether a permanent award of spousal maintenance is appropriate.
The second form of spousal maintenance, rehabilitative alimony, is the most common form of alimony in Arizona. The intent of rehabilitative spousal maintenance is to provide financial support to a spouse in such an amount and duration as necessary to allow that spouse to obtain the education, and work experience to become self-supportive.
Finally, there is a lesser-known form of spousal maintenance referred to as compensatory spousal support, which is designed to provide money to a spouse who has contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse during their marriage.
You may combine a claim for both rehabilitative and compensatory spousal maintenance in some Arizona spousal maintenance cases if the facts support doing so.
Entitlement to Spousal Maintenance in an Arizona Divorce
The first step in the analysis of a spousal support case begins with determining whether a spouse is entitled to alimony in Arizona. A spouse seeking maintenance in Arizona must prove one of four things to be eligible to receive an award of alimony in Arizona. Specifically, the spouse must prove any of the following:
The spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her needs. The spouse is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment. The spouse is the custodian of a child of such young age that he or she should not be expected to work. The spouse contributed to the other’s wife’s or husband’s education. The spouse had a marriage of long duration and is too old to be expected to work to be financially self-sufficient.
As to the first factor, there are appellate cases in Arizona indicating a spouse seeking spousal maintenance should not be required to use their assets to support themselves. The court concluded the court should not look at the property the spouse is receiving per se but, instead, the amount of investment rate of return the spouse will receive from investing those assets as a source of income to that spouse.
As to the second factor, the court determines the husband’s or wife’s prior educational and professional work experience of the husband or wife. The court will also consider the length of time the person has been out of the industry in which they previously worked and the likelihood that they could get a job in that industry.
Vocational Evaluators can interview a spouse, their job history, and their educational history and provide expert testimony as to what job the spouse should be able to secure and the amount of income he or she could expect to receive from that job.
The third factor, applies to what is called compensatory spousal maintenance and may justify an award of spousal maintenance to a spouse who can support themselves, but contributed to the other spouse’s education such that it increased that other spouse’s income.
It is unlikely an award of alimony in Arizona would be granted on this factor if the community benefited by the additional education for a great length of time and more likely if the community did not benefit from that additional education because the divorce is filed shortly after he or she completed that education.
The last factor is fairly self-explanatory and typically occurs when people reach their mid to late fifties or above, were in a long-term marriage, and had little to no work experience or skills.
Duration and Amount of Alimony in an Arizona Divorce
Once the court determines a spouse meets one of the four spousal maintenance laws requirements set forth above, the court will consider the thirteen factors outlined in the Arizona alimony statute including the following:
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is requested to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market;
- The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse;
- The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;
- The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children;
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently;
- The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available;
- Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common;
- The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is requested if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought can convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved;
- All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim;
Although, the first factor above requires the court to consider the standard of living enjoyed by the parties, the Arizona Supreme Court in the case of McClennen v. McClennen pronounced that a spouse is not entitled to be kept at the same standard of living established during the marriage if there are insufficient funds available to do so.
Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-319(D) provides that the court shall retain jurisdiction throughout the term of the spousal maintenance award, which allows the court to modify or terminate the award if a substantial and continuing change in circumstances occurs after the initial entry of the award of alimony in Arizona. Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-319(C), however, permits the parties to stipulate that the award of spousal maintenance shall be non-modifiable as to the amount of the award, the duration of the award, or both.
Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-327(C) provides that alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the receiving former spouse’s remarriage unless stated otherwise in the Decree.
Modifying or Terminating Spousal Maintenance in Arizona
Unlike some of the orders issued in a final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage, the court retains jurisdiction to modify or order an early termination of an alimony award in Arizona if a substantial and continuing change in circumstances exists justifying such modification or termination of the award.
It is helpful in determining if a substantial change in circumstances exists if the final Decree of Dissolution of Marriage sets for all of the reasons justifying the spouse’s eligibility for the award, as well as the justifications for both the amount and duration of the award.
Unfortunately, we have seen far too many attorneys who just state the amount and duration of the award in their settlement agreements; thereby making it harder to convince a court of changed circumstances when the initial basis for the award is not clearly and expressly stated in the Decree.
The result becomes a proverbial “trial within a trial”. Specifically, evidence in such situation should be presented on the facts demonstrated at the time of settlement or trial and then the new circumstances need to be proven to establish the change in circumstances since the date of that prior settlement or trial.
Frequently, the change in circumstances is a change in income of either former spouse or the spouse receiving spousal maintenance chooses to share a home with a new love interest or fiancé. We invite you to read our in-depth article entitled “Living Together and Spousal Maintenance” regarding the effect on alimony in Arizona when the spouse moves in with someone else and, therefore, reduces their living expenses.
Contact Our Scottsdale Arizona Spousal Maintenance Attorneys
Contact us today at (480) 305-8300 to schedule your consultation with one of our Scottsdale Arizona spousal maintenance attorneys regarding Arizona spousal maintenance issues or any other Arizona family law matter.
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