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How Long Do I Have to Pay Spousal Support in Arizona?

Posted On August 12, 2021 In Divorce

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.

The Types of Spousal Maintenance in Arizona

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.

How Does the Court Determine a Need for Spousal Maintenance?

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:

  • They lack sufficient property, even after property distribution in the divorce, to provide for their own needs;
  • They are unable to be self-sufficient through employment;
  • They contributed financially to the other spouse’s training, education, or vocational skills to increase that spouse’s earning ability;
  • They significantly reduced their own income or career opportunities to benefit the other spouse; or
  • They are unable to find employment and become self-sufficient due to a long marriage and advanced age.

Judges evaluate each case individually to determine if spousal maintenance is appropriate.

How Does the Court Decide the Amount and Duration of Spousal Maintenance?

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:

  • The marital standard of living;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • Each spouse’s age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional health;
  • The paying spouse’s ability to meet the financial needs of both spouses while providing support;
  • The comparative financial resources of both spouses, including their abilities to earn in the current job market;
  • How much the requesting spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s earning ability during the marriage;
  • The extent to which the recipient spouse reduced income or career opportunities for the other spouse’s benefit;
  • Each spouse’s capacity, after the divorce, to contribute to the future educational costs of the parties’ children;
  • The requesting spouse’s financial resources and ability to be financially self-sufficient;
  • The time necessary for the recipient spouse to obtain training or education to enable that spouse to find appropriate employment and whether education and training are readily available;
  • Either spouse’s excessive spending, or destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of jointly-held property;
  • Costs of health insurance for either spouse; and
  • Any damages and judgments from a spouse’s conduct that resulted in a criminal conviction if the other spouse or a child was the victim.

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.

How Long Will Spousal Maintenance Continue?

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:

  • The term in the divorce decree ends;
  • The recipient spouse remarries; or
  • Either spouse dies.

Can Spousal Maintenance be Modified or Terminated?

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.

Contact an Experienced Arizona Spousal Maintenance Attorney Today

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.