One of the most contested topics in any divorce is spousal support. While many divorce issues are settled without the court’s help, spousal support is often left for the court to decide. If a spouse will receive support, for how long, and in what amount can bring even the most settlement-minded couples to an impasse.
Spousal maintenance, also called “alimony” or “spousal support,” is money that one spouse pays to the other for financial support during the divorce, after the divorce, or at both times. When one spouse is ill-equipped for one reason or another to pay for their regular living expenses, the judge may require the other spouse to contribute financially to ensure that neither party is without means of support during or after a divorce.
There are different types of spousal maintenance awards in Arizona. The specific type of maintenance a spouse receives depends on where the couple is in their divorce process.
An Arizona judge may award are in temporary support during the divorce or pendente lite. This is temporary support for regular living expenses during the divorce process. This award does not guarantee a spouse post-divorce maintenance.
When the final divorce decree is entered by the court, the judge can end any temporary support, continue temporary support for a fixed time, or order permanent spousal maintenance. A temporary post-divorce award of spousal maintenance is intended to allow the recipient spouse an opportunity to gain job skills, education and otherwise better prepare themselves for financial independence.
Permanent spousal maintenance awards are for rare cases where a spouse is unable to become self-supporting due to illness, disability, or age.
The court awards spousal maintenance based on the requesting party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay. A spouse needs support if they can demonstrate the following:
Judges evaluate each case individually to determine if spousal maintenance is appropriate.
After the court finds that there is a need for spousal maintenance, the judge will consider the following in setting any amount and duration of support:
Arizona judges have broad discretion in deciding spousal maintenance awards. If a couple prefers, they can agree to their own spousal maintenance terms and eliminate judicial involvement in laying out their plan.
Temporary spousal maintenance during the divorce continues until the judge finalizes the divorce and a new maintenance award is put in place, or spousal maintenance is terminated. Post-divorce spousal maintenance ends when specified by the judge in the divorce decree.
However, spousal maintenance will typically end when the following occurs:
Unless a couple enters into an agreement waiving spousal maintenance entirely or creating a non-modification provision, or unless the final divorce order says otherwise, either spouse may ask a court to modify or terminate periodic payments due to a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.
If you have questions or concerns about a current spousal maintenance order or spousal maintenance in your upcoming divorce, an experienced Chandler divorce attorney can help. At Wilson-Goodman, PLLC, our skilled attorneys will gladly meet with you and explain Arizona’s spousal maintenance laws and how they may affect you and any children you may have and any potential tax ramifications of a spousal maintenance order.
Contact Wilson-Goodman, PLLC, now to schedule a confidential consultation. We pride ourselves on providing sound legal advice you can trust and rely on both now and in the future.