We live in a time where divorce is common and socially acceptable, with 40-50% of marriages ending in divorce in the United States. Even though that number may seem high, it is on the decline for most age groups except one, seniors.
Those over 50 years old have had their divorce rate doubled since the 90’s and those older than 65 have had their rate tripled. With divorce rates continuously rising, many seniors are coming face to face with divorce and challenging topics such as alimony and division of property that come about during the normal process of a divorce.
What is Alimony?
Arizona law A.R.S. 25-319 declares that following a dissolution of marriage or legal separation of a couple, a court has the ability to grant a “maintenance order” requiring either spouse to pay alimony or what is often called spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is paid by one of the spouses and is not meant to be a pay out or splitting of money, instead it is meant as a way to lessen the financial burden that they will be going through.
According to A.R.S. 25-319, a court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse for any of the following reasons if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:
1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs.
2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
3. Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability of the other spouse.
4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
5. Has significantly reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
Arizona’s spousal maintenance laws allow for judges to determine whether or not spousal maintenance is appropriate or needed on a case by case basis. This allows for Arizona judges to have broad discretion in deciding whether spousal maintenance is needed as well as the amount and duration.
Length and Types of Alimony Payments in Arizona
When it comes to determining the type and amount of alimony to be awarded, a judge will use varying criteria to determine if and how much spousal maintenance is needed. If a judge determines that a spouse deserves spousal maintenance he will use one of three criteria to determine the length of the payments as well as the amount.
Temporary Spousal Maintenance
The first form of spousal maintenance is “pendente lite”, which is a fancy legal way of saying temporary arrangement. This temporary arrangement when granted by the court allows for the lower-earning spouse to receive payments during the divorce process until a final decision has been made by a judge.
Temporary spousal maintenance can be paid either in a single lump sum payment or on a monthly basis for a set amount of time. Once a final decision has been made by the judge, this temporary maintenance will be re-evaluated by the courts and they will determine if the spouse deserves more, or if the money that has already been paid is sufficient to cover their needs.
Permanent Spousal Maintenance
The second form of spousal maintenance is not hidden behind fancy legal jargon and is frank; the second form is “permanent maintenance”. Though it is rare, if a judge awards a spouse permanent maintenance, the other spouse will have to pay a specified amount indefinitely.
Though a judge may rule that a spouse deserves “permanent maintenance”, this decision is based off of their current financial circumstances which are often poor and over time these circumstances may change for the better. This means that if the spouse who is receiving alimony payments remarries or has obtained a job that now allows them to be self-sufficient, a judge can end the alimony payments they are receiving.
The third criteria used is “limited maintenance” which is used when a spouse paid for the schooling or contributed towards the career of the other spouse. Limited maintenance allows for spouses to be reimbursed for the money, time and effort they used to help their spouse advance their education and increase their earning capacity.
Unlike permanent or temporary maintenance, limited maintenance is not time based and is instead based on a determined amount that needs to be reimbursed. This means that the payments will not go away until the full amount has been paid off, and once it has been fully paid off the court granted limited maintenance is terminated.
Frequently Asked Questions about Seniors Facing Divorce
The following questions are some of the most frequently asked questions about seniors facing divorce:
Q: Is my ex wife/husband entitled to my retirement savings in a divorce?
Retirement assets, including pensions, are treated in the same manner as all other community property(cars, bank accounts, property, etc.) in Arizona and therefore are divided between spouses when they divorce.
Q: Is my ex wife/husband entitled to my pension in a divorce?
Pensions, just like retirement assets, are treated in the same manner as all other community property in Arizona and therefore are divided between spouses if they divorce.
Q: Do I have to pay alimony payments forever?
There is such things as permanent spousal maintenance which would require alimony payments until you or your former spouse pass away, however it is extremely rare for permanent maintenance to be awarded and most alimony cases are temporary until the spouse can become financially self-sufficient.
Q: Do i have to pay alimony if I am retired?
Retirement may or may not be grounds for a modification of alimony payments, but your ex is entitled to part of your pension and any retirement assets you have.
Ensuring You Get What You Deserve
With the divorce rate for seniors seemingly skyrocketing, divorce has become a common occurrence in our society. If your marriage has reached its end and you will be seeking a divorce, speak with a divorce lawyer today.
Whether it’s obtaining a divorce decree on your behalf or protecting you from being taken advantage of by ensuring the correct amount of alimony is being paid, an experienced lawyer is here to help.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.
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