Alimony or Spousal Maintenance
Phoenix Alimony and Spousal Maintenance Help
Individuals facing divorce are often uncertain about what their financial future will hold for them. Especially if alimony or spousal maintenance is a potential issue moving forward. It is sometimes shocking to learn how life as unmarried people can result in a significant change in the standard of living experienced during the marriage. When individuals anticipate their needs could exceed income post-divorce, they often come to us for assistance in obtaining financial support from their soon-to-be ex-spouses. We have experience assisting divorcing parties in securing this type of support. Also known, in Arizona, as alimony (or spousal maintenance). In many cases, we also have represented the spouse who is defending against an alimony claim.
Not every divorcing individual is entitled to receive an award of spousal maintenance. In deciding whether you or your spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance, a review of the applicable Arizona laws is helpful. Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-319A sets forth the first step in the alimony or spousal maintenance determination process.
According to the Arizona Revised Statutes, prior to being entitled to receive an award of spousal maintenance, a person must demonstrate that he or she:
(a) has insufficient property to reasonably support him or herself or
(b) is unable to be self-supporting through employment or
(c) contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse or
(d) is of an age that would preclude the possibility of being self-sufficient after a marriage of long duration.
Although the four factors set forth above appear to be bright-line rules which dictate whether or not a person is entitled to receive alimony or spousal maintenance, the inquiry is not always that simple. For example, what constitutes “sufficient property (letter (a) above)”? What type of support is “reasonable (letter (a) above)” in view of the circumstances? What is a marriage of “long-duration”? These questions (and many more) are often the subjects of debate in contested litigation regarding alimony. The assistance of an experienced, qualified attorney will help you sort through these gray areas.
If, and only if, a determination is made that an individual satisfies one of the four factors set forth above, the inquiry into the appropriateness of spousal maintenance in a particular case continues. If alimony is found to be warranted in a case, the next questions become “how much?” and for “how long?” Unlike the Child Support Guidelines, currently, there are no spousal support guidelines in Arizona. Should the decision of alimony (or spousal maintenance) be placed into the hands of a judge, that judge has complete discretion as to the amount and duration of the award. Based upon Arizona Revised Statutes Section 25-319B, the judge will consider the following factors in making a decison:
1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
2. The duration of the marriage.
3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
8. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
12. 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 sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
13. 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.
In pursuing (or defending against) an alimony or spousal maintenance claim, it is vital to provide the other party and court with documentation and evidence regarding your financial picture during the marriage, your expected financial needs after the marriage, the amount of income any investments could generate post-divorce, information about vocational training and experience (for the person seeking alimony), and any efforts the party seeking support has made to secure employment. In some circumstances, it could become necessary to retain an expert to evaluate you or your spouse to provide a professional opinion on experience, education, qualification and abilities as it relates to employment. In addition to all this, it is equally as important to present your story of the marriage and relationship, each party’s roles within the marriage, and agreements that were made during the marriage.
The issue of alimony or spousal maintenance is often one of the “hot buttons” for divorcing individuals. Regardless of the side on which you find yourself, skilled representation in support of your position could make the difference between paying and/or receiving spousal maintenance. In some cases, for the rest of your life. When you think about it in these terms, investing money in high-quality legal representation now could garner or save you tens (and maybe hundreds) of thousands of dollars in your future.