Spousal maintenance, or alimony, as it is commonly referred to, is an order of the court requiring one spouse to make maintenance payments to the other spouse for a period of time. Arizona Revised Statute § 25-319(A) provides four factors for courts to consider when deciding whether to order spousal maintenance.
When a married couple decides to divorce, a number of financial arrangements must be made. Alimony is money that is paid to a spouse in a marriage to support him or her financially, either during or after a divorce. In general, the party that is the higher earner pays money to the lower earner for a period of time. In the state of Arizona, alimony is called “spousal maintenance,” and it is subject to a number of statutes and procedures. Determining the amount of maintenance takes into consideration a wide range of factors, including the ability of the spouse to find employment, their contribution to the marriage, the financial condition of the paying spouse and other factors.
Understanding Alimony in AZ
In past times, women did not work outside the home, and alimony provided an income for them after the marriage was dissolved. Today, alimony for long periods is rare. In general, spousal maintenance payments are offered temporarily, as a way to allow an individual to transition back to single life. In some cases, assets are divided into lump sums, but most often, a spouse will receive monthly payments for a period of time. Permanent alimony is only rarely awarded, and it is usually reserved for those who cannot work because of age or disability. In addition, spouses who have made a significant contribution to the education or career of an individual may receive larger spousal maintenance payments.
Who Can Receive Spousal Maintenance in Arizona?
Spousal maintenance, sometimes called spousal support, is awarded through a two-part process in Arizona. The court first determines if the spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance, and then, a fair amount is calculated, based on a number of different factors.
Qualification is usually based upon:
- Whether the spouse has sufficient property to provide for his or her needs
- Whether the spouse is able to be self-sufficient and can acquire employment
- Whether the spouse has appropriate earning ability in the job market
- Whether there are young children or disabled children in the household that prevent employment
- Whether the spouse contributed to the education of the other party
- Whether the marriage is of a long duration and the age of the spouse prevents acquiring appropriate employment to support him or her
What Factors Disqualify An Individual From Receiving Spousal Maintenance?
A number of circumstances could disqualify someone from receiving maintenance payments, such as:
- Although there is no minimum time for qualification for spousal maintenance, a marriage of very short duration would be unlikely to qualify for more than transitional support.
- The spouse is currently self-supporting or could easily resume the employment.
- A premarital agreement has been signed that limits or eliminates the possibility for spousal maintenance. However, if the existence of a premarital agreement and lack of spousal maintenance would cause the spouse to be qualified for public assistance, the court could decline consideration of the premarital agreement.
- Fault cannot be considered in determination of spousal support, such as punishing an individual for infidelity, either on the part of the person receiving the maintenance or the person paying the maintenance.
Factors Considered in Determining Spousal Maintenance Amounts
Once the spouse is considered qualified to receive maintenance payments, the amount must be determined. A number of formulas exist that help judges to determine an appropriate amount of payment. However, the individual circumstances of the parties involved are always taken into consideration when deciding a fair amount. Some of the factors that are considered include:
- The length of the marriage – Although there are no set rules regarding length, a marriage of less than 10 years is considered to be a short marriage and would be awarded an amount less then if the marriage had lasted 20 or more years.
- The age, past employment, earning ability and physical and emotional fitness of the spouse in regard to potential employment
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The paying spouse’s ability to make the maintenance payments
- Each spouse’s financial assets and earning ability
- How much a spouse has contributed to the earning ability of the paying spouse
- Each spouse’s ability to contribute to children’s future education expenses
- Educational or training opportunities that a spouse could utilize and the time needed to complete the coursework.
- Evidence of each party’s attempts to conceal, destroy, spend or fraudulently dispose of property that was jointly held
- Health insurance costs for each spouse
- Damages or financial judgments resulting from a spouse’s conduct from criminal conviction, if a child or the spouse was the victim
- Other financial resources that could be used to support the spouse, such as awards of marital property
- Whether distribution of property during the divorce has left a spouse at financial disadvantage, leaving the individual without adequate support.
Tax Effects of Spousal Maintenance Payments
Couples should also consider the tax consequences of spousal maintenance payments. Generally, lump sum payments are considered part of the division of assets and are not taxable. Periodic payments are generally taxable to the recipient and non-taxable to the payer. If significant assets are in question, the couple should discuss the matter with a tax attorney to ensure the best tax management.Modification of Spousal Maintenance Arrangements
In Arizona, either spouse may file to modify a spousal maintenance arrangement if their financial circumstances change. A paying spouse may have a significant reversal in their career, a severe illness or other issue that affects their ability to continue the payments. The spouse receiving a temporary payment may become ill and require a re-consideration of the agreement. A number of circumstances can arise that require re-visiting the spousal maintenance agreement, and these conditions can be considered by the court unless the couple have a separate agreement to not modify the arrangement.
Termination of Spousal Maintenance Arrangements
Generally, a spousal maintenance arrangements expires when the agreed-upon term ends, when the spouse remarries or when either party dies. However, there may be other changes in circumstance that require terminating the agreement.
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