How does alimony work in Arizona? Is it a temporary solution or permanent, and what decides that?
Most people know that divorce can have serious repercussions not only emotionally but financially. When married partners separate in Arizona, one spouse may have to provide the other with spousal maintenance (also known as alimony). If you earn more than your ex, you may need to give up some of your income to support them. However, this isn’t always the case.
If you’re wondering whether you’ll have to make payments to your wife or husband after divorce and how this works, you’ve come to the right place. Knowing ahead of time what to expect can help you plan smarter and protect yourself down the road.
How does Alimony Work in Arizona?
When you split up with your spouse, they may have a hard time covering their living expenses. In cases like this, a judge might require that you (as the one who earns more) assist your lower-earning spouse for a period during, after, or both during and after divorce.
The court may give one spouse limited alimony as a way to reimburse them for contributing to the other spouse’s earning capacity or advanced education. Once you finalize the divorce, the judge might require temporary or permanent alimony for a set amount of time.
The court will often award temporary spousal maintenance while divorce proceedings are still in progress. Sometimes, an order will direct you to provide your ex with a monthly amount for a period of time (the most common outcome) or a lump sum.
Permanent alimony isn’t very common, and courts usually see spousal maintenance as a rehabilitative measure. It’s usually used to temporarily allow the lower-earning partner to get back on their feet after the split. A judge may order permanent alimony in special cases, but typically only after long marriages where one spouse isn’t able to support themselves due to a disability, age, or another permanent limitation.
Spousal Maintenance Eligibility
For spousal maintenance to take effect, a judge must find that you have the means to pay and that your ex has financial need. The court in Arizona might determine that one spouse needs assistance if they don’t have enough property to cover their living requirements, even after the property has been distributed after the separation. As mentioned, if your ex contributed to your education, you may owe them alimony.
If they aren’t able to become self-sufficient by working, the court may also order alimony. The court will look at factors such as the lower-earning spouse’s experience and skills alongside the current job market to determine whether they’re able to support themselves. If one spouse is taking care of a disabled or very young child, they may not have to seek work outside of the home immediately.
How is the Spousal Maintenance Amount Determined?
If the court decides that your situation calls for spousal maintenance, they’ll look at the emotional and physical condition of the lower-earning spouse as well as their age. In addition to these considerations, they’ll set the duration and amount based on some of these factors:
- How long the marriage lasted
- The standard of living during the marriage
- Health insurance costs for both partners
- Whether you can meet both your needs and your spouse’s
- Each spouse’s earning abilities and current financial resources
- Both partners’ ability to cover educational costs for their children’s future
- Concealment, destruction, or excessive spending on jointly held assets
- Other resources (such as marital property or an award) that could meet the lower-earner’s needs
In addition, the court may consider the training or educational opportunities that the maintenance-seeking spouse has access to. They may also consider any judgments or damages from one spouse’s conduct that led to criminal charges where the child or other spouse was a victim. While an Arizona judge will consider these factors (and probably some others), they have discretion for deciding whether or not to award alimony and how much.
Does Fault Impact Spousal Maintenance?
Perhaps your marriage is ending because your partner was unfaithful or deceitful to you. In this case, do you still have to pay them alimony? In Arizona, the factors that determine spousal maintenance don’t specifically mention marital misconduct. Unfortunately, this means that your spouse cheating on you or otherwise being at fault for ruining the marriage doesn’t automatically mean you won’t still have to pay spousal support.
What About Prenuptial Agreements?
Some couples decide to get rid of alimony using an optional contract known as a prenuptial agreement that both spouses have to sign before they get married. If they divorce, a court in Arizona might uphold their agreement and bar the lower-earning spouse from receiving alimony payments. However, there are some cases where the legal system may not choose to uphold the agreement. If you’re unclear about whether your agreement will hold up, it’s best to speak with an attorney about it.
How Does Alimony Affect Taxes?
As a payer of spousal support, periodic alimony payments are typically tax deductible. For the receiver of the funds, the money is (most often) taxable. If the court orders that you go with a lump-sum instead of monthly payments, the IRS may consider it property distribution regardless of whether you refer to it as alimony. In this case, neither spouse should have tax repercussions.
Do You Have Questions About Alimony in Arizona?
Keep in mind that there’s no single factor that will instantly disqualify someone from receiving spousal support, even if the marriage ending was their fault. Each partner’s rights to alimony will depend not only on the predetermined factors mentioned earlier, but the court’s discretion. Every couple has a different situation, so it’s a good idea to get advice from a professional.
Divorce is one of the most devastating life events you can experience. Worrying about money on top of that can be almost unbearable. If you have questions about making payments to your wife after divorce, or have a complex financial situation, speak with a family law attorney as soon as you can.
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