Spousal Maintenance & Alimony in Arizona
When does alimony get paid?
Alimony in Arizona is called spousal maintenance. No other area of a divorce is more uncertain than alimony. Judges often say that no two judges looking at the same set of facts will come up with the same alimony amount. To try to take some of the guess work out of calculating alimony the court did prepare guidelines but these guidelines have not been adopted. These guidelines look at the years of marriage and the difference between the parties’ incomes to calculate any alimony but the court should not be relying solely on the guidelines and must take into account the factors expressed in the Arizona Revised Statutes governing spousal maintenance.
Spousal maintenance may be awarded in one of four situations: (1) a spouse lacks sufficient property to meet his or her reasonable needs; (2) a spouse can’t support him/herself by employment or must stay home with a young child; (3) a spouse supported his or her spouse’s education; or (4) the marriage was long and a spouse has little chance of employment. If a party qualifies for spousal maintenance under one of these four factors, then to determine amount and duration, the Court considers the length of the marriage, each party’s age, health, and employment, the standard of living established during the marriage, the parties’ respective resources, a party’s deferment of career opportunities and assistance in the career opportunities of the other party, as well as other factors in deciding the amount and duration of spousal maintenance.
As for how long an ex-spouse needs to pay alimony, a good rule of thumb is to multiply the years of marriage by 0.3 to 0.5. For example a person with a ten year marriage may have to pay spousal maintenance for three to five years. But again this is not a hard and fast rule and many other factors need to be considered.
When it comes to alimony in Arizona we are what is known as a rehabilitate state. Meaning that the purpose of the alimony should be to enable the other spouse to get back on their feet and be self-sufficient. Thus awards for alimony in Arizona may be for less number of years than what other states would award.
How does the court decide how much?
As discussed above it is very hard to give a client advice regarding alimony with any great degree of certainty. However common sense dictates that the amount of alimony should be based on the incomes of the parties, and the financial needs of the parties after the divorce. Of course determining income can be quite difficult and a lawyer must be cognizant of the potential income of the parties. A stay at home spouse, although making no income, may actually have the ability to quickly get a profitable job and elevate the need for alimony or at the minimum reduce the amount that should be paid.
What does it take to change alimony?
Alimony in Arizona is modifiable. Meaning that the parties can always go back at a later time and request that the court raise, lower, or terminate alimony. However, parties are allowed to agree to make the alimony award non-modifiable. Either option has risks.
Clearly if the spouse paying alimony had a high income when alimony was calculated and then, through no fault of their own, their income is substantially reduced, such as by lay-off or injury, the payer will be allowed to request that the court lower the alimony payments (unless the support is made non-modifiable).
When does alimony stop?
In Arizona the terms of the divorce will specify the conditions that alimony will stop. The obvious reasons for terminating alimony are the death or remarriage of the person receiving the payments. Since many spousal maintenance awards are for a fixed number of years, the lapse of that period of time will cause the termination of the payments.