Spousal support or maintenance refers to the money that a court orders one spouse to pay an ex-spouse during and/or after a divorce. In Arizona, a court will decide whether or not a spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance or “alimony.” Many people use the terms spousal support and spousal maintenance interchangeable, but there is a difference. While both involve the payment of money from one spouse to the other, spousal support is paid when the couple are still married, while spousal maintenance is paid after a divorce.
Maintenance may be awarded to a spouse if he or she lacks sufficient property and is unable to support him or herself through appropriate employment. When determining an amount to pay in spousal maintenance, a judge will usually look at how much money each person earns per month, the reasonable expenses for each person, and whether an award of spousal support would make it possible for each person to maintain a lifestyle that is similar to what each person experienced when the couple were married.
Factors that Influence the Amount of Spousal Maintenance
If a court determines that a spouse who is seeking spousal maintenance is entitled to an award, many different factors will help determine the amount awarded. The amount of spousal maintenance should be reasonable for both the payor and payee to prevent either party from experiencing financial challenges after a divorce that were not present during the marriage.
Some of the most common factors a court will look at when calculating the amount and length of spousal maintenance include:
- The duration of the marriage
- The standard of living that was established during the marriage
- The age, earning ability, and employment history of the spouse seeking spousal maintenance
- The physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The spouse’s ability to pay spousal maintenance while still being able to meet his or her own needs
- The extent in which the spouse seeking maintenance contributed to the earning ability of the spouse
- The financial resources of each spouse
- The amount of time the spouse seeking maintenance requires support to acquire training or education
- The cost of health care or other expenses of the spouse seeking maintenance
- Relevant abnormal or excessive expenditures made during the marriage
Calculating Spousal Maintenance
There is no exact formula for calculating spousal maintenance as the amount awarded is based on a wide range of factors. However, there are basic guidelines that can determine the estimated amount that a person can expect to receive in maintenance.
The formula requires you to first determine the difference between the income of each spouse. For example, one spouse may make $10,000 per month, while the other spouse may make $2,000 per month. That is a total difference of $8,000 per month. The judge will then award the lower-earning spouse with between 15 and 25 percent of that difference. On the lower end, a spouse may receive $1,200 (15% of $8,000). On the higher end, a spouse may receive $2,000 (25% percent of $8,000). That means that the spouse would likely receive somewhere between $1,200 and $2,000 per month.
The percentage in which a spouse is paid will depend on several factors, such as the length of the marriage. The longer that a couple were married, the higher the percentage will likely be. The court will also take standard of living during the marriage into account when calculating spousal maintenance.
How Long Spousal Maintenance Is Paid
There is no specified amount of time in which one spouse will need to pay spousal maintenance to the other following a divorce. Temporary support may be ordered by the judge at the start of the divorce process and a new maintenance award may be created when the judge finalizes the divorce.
Spousal maintenance after a divorce will continue for the duration that the judge sees fit based on the influential factors mentioned above. The duration of post-divorce support will be established in the final judgement. Spousal maintenance may end automatically if the recipient spouse remarries, the term in the divorce judgement ends, or if either spouse dies.
Most spousal maintenance payments are made periodically, either bi-weekly, monthly, or otherwise determined by the court. In rare cases, a court may order the paying spouse to provide the recipient spouse with a one-time lump-sum cash payment or the delivery of equivalent property.
Contact JacksonWhite Law Today to Learn More
With nearly 40 years of experience serving families and businesses throughout Arizona, JacksonWhite Law has built a stellar reputation for effective, responsive, and dedicated legal services. If you would like to know more about how spousal maintenance amounts are calculated or for assistance with your spousal support or maintenance case, reach out to the experienced family law attorneys at JacksonWhite Law today.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.