It’s no secret that divorce is draining and emotional, but a lot of couples can avoid long, prolonged divorce cases by negotiating huge divorce-associated matters without the assistance of a judge. Nevertheless, even the most settlement-willing couples often come to an impasse when they begin talking about continual financial support, in which is one of the most challenged matters in divorces.
Spousal maintenance—(“alimony” or “spousal support”)—is money that one spouse pays to the other for financial support either throughout or following the divorce. In many marriages, one spouse earns more leaving the other devoid of many options following a separation. When the lesser-earning spouse can’t pay for typical living expenses, the judge might require the other spouse to financially contribute to guarantee that neither party is penniless throughout or following a divorce.
The Types of Alimony in Arizona
The type of alimony award in Arizona is subject to where you are in your divorce process. Judges can award brief support throughout the divorce —sometimes called “pendente lite”—meaning it’s unsettled until the divorce is finalized. Judges are going to order pendente lite support when one spouse requires the other’s financial assistance for general living expenses and to otherwise stay financially steady throughout the divorce process. An award of brief support throughout the divorce does not ensure a post-divorce award down the road.
As the court enters a final judgment of your divorce, the judge is going to specify if support is going to continue. The judge can order a brief maintenance award, meaning financial support is going to continue for a fixed period of time following the divorce. When courts award brief, post-divorce, support, the intention is for the recipient spouse to utilize the brief financial maintenance to enhance job skills, acquire vital education requirements, and otherwise better set themselves up to be independent financially.
Temporary support (Occasionally known as “rehabilitative maintenance”) enables the lesser-earning spouse time to get back on solid financial ground following the divorce, especially in cases in which the recipient spouse abandoned a job throughout the marriage for raising a family or to enhance the other’s career.
Arizona additionally offers permanent alimony, but the courts earmark it for severe cases. Even following a long marriage, the courts view support as restorative, meaning down the road the recipient spouse needs to gain their financial independence. Nevertheless, in some unusual cases, the court might order permanent alimony if the lesser-earning spouse is unable to become self-sufficient because of ailment, disability, or age.
Even following a long marriage, the courts deem support as restorative, meaning down the road the recipient spouse needs to become financially independent.
Who is Eligible for Maintenance?
Prior to the court can awarding any maintenance, the requesting spouse must prove a need for support and the other’s capability for paying. The court is going to determine a “need” for support when the requesting spouse:
- Devoid of sufficient property, even following property division in the divorce, to offer for that party’s needs
- Cannot be self-reliant through working
- contributed financially to the other spouse’s schooling, education, or vocational skills to expand that spouse’s earning capability
- has considerably reduced income or career possibilities to benefit the other spouse, or
- cannot find employment and become self-reliant because of a long marriage and elderliness.
Whether a spouse is able become self-reliant through working requires the judge to assess each case separately. For instance, when you are caring for a very young child or your child has an ailment or disability making it challenging to maintain full-time employment outside of the residence, the court could order your ex-spouse to pay alimony for a more extensive period.
How Does the Court Establish Alimony?
Following the court finding that spousal maintenance is suitable, the judge is required to set the amount and duration of the award and is going to consider the below factors prior to deciding:
- the marital quality of life
- how long the marriage lasted
- each of the spouse’s age, employment record, earning capability, and physical and emotional health
- the paying spouse’s capability to fulfill the financial needs of both spouses at the same time providing support
- the comparable financial resources of each spouse, including their capabilities to earn in the present job market
- the amount the requesting spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s earning capability throughout the marriage
- the degree to which the recipient spouse decreased income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse
- each spouse’s capacity, following the divorce, to assist in the future educational expense of the parties’ children
- the petitioning spouse’s financial resources and capability to be financially self-reliant
- the time needed for the recipient spouse to acquire training or education to allow that spouse to seek appropriate employment and if education and training are readily accessible
- either spouse’s unreasonable spending, or damage, concealment, or fraudulent inclination of jointly-held property
- expense of health insurance for either spouses, and
- any damages and judgments from a spouse’s behavior that ended up in a criminal conviction, when the other spouse or a child was victimized. (A.R.S. §25-319.)
Alimony is different from child support because there is no set method. Lately, some courts in Arizona have tested with using methods to calculate a beginning point for alimony, but any Arizona judge that consults a method still needs to consider all the factors aforementioned. After taking those factors into consideration, a judge has wide discretion in determining what amount to award, or if they were to award any amount at all.
It’s important to know that couples are able to agree to the kind, amount, and duration of alimony through an agreement, in which eliminates a requirement for a judge’s assessment.
How Long Is Spousal Maintenance Going to Last?
Temporary support goes until the judge signs off on the divorce and devises a new maintenance award.
Post-divorce support is going to continue for the length that the judge establishes in their final judgment. Usually, alimony automatically ends when:
- the conditions in the divorce judgment concludes
- the recipient spouse gets remarried, or
- either spouse passes away.
In uncommon cases, the court is going to order the paying spouse to bestow lump-sum capital or property to the recipient spouse. Lump-sum payments usually alleviates the paying spouse from subsequent alimony payments.
A lot of spousal maintenance payments are periodic, which means the paying spouse pays either every other week, monthly, or any other stipulations the court puts in place. Usually, the court is going to issue an income retention order, in which requires the paying spouse’s employer to retain the support payments straight from their employee’s paycheck. The money is routed through a specific department of the court, then to the recipient spouse. (A.R.S. §25-322.)
When the paying spouse fails to make the necessitated payments, the recipient can petition the court for assistance recouping the missed payments.
Alteration and Conclusion
Couples can enter into their own agreement either renouncing maintenance altogether or creating a non-alterable stipulation that prohibits either spouse from pursuing a modification.
Unless they make an aforementioned agreement, or unless the final divorce order declares otherwise, either spouse may petition a court to alter or terminate recurring payments because of a significant and continuing change of situation.
If a judge finalized your divorce prior to December 31, 2018, alimony payments are tax-deductible to the paying spouse and taxable income to the payee.
Nevertheless, for any divorce finalized following December 31, 2018, considerable changes to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are going to impact your final result. Starting on January 1, 2019, alimony payments are not a tax-deductible expense anymore for the paying spouse and the recipient is going to no longer pay taxes on their payments.
The newer up to date of the tax law in theory removes the motivation for paying spouses—the tax deduction—in which could result in a more convoluted divorce procedure.
For spouses enduring a divorce, it could be beneficial to talk with a tax and divorce attorney prior to negotiating alimony, as the changes could affect your taxes, retirement, and down the road savings.
How Length Of Marriage Impacts Spousal Maintenance in Arizona
There is no single format for determining the amount and length of alimony in Arizona. The court determines these on a case-by-case basis, assessing factors like the financial resources of each involved, their earning capability, their lifestyle, and of obviously, how long the marriage survived.
When examining the length of the marriage, Arizona judges usually classify if the marriage was long-term or not. A marriage lasting fewer than 10 years could be considered short-term and is going to likely result in a smaller maintenance payment. Nevertheless, a marriage lasting over 20 years could be thought of as long-term, resulting in a larger payment… but not every judge adheres to this (or any other) guideline.
In terms of the length of alimony, a lot of court orders require spousal maintenance payments to last thirty to fifty percent of the marriage period. One year-long marriages, for instance, may result in spousal support lasting around four months. This is not an official rule decreed by law, but an approximate estimate based on court awards.
Melissa Heinig, A. (2019, September 24). Understanding and calculating alimony in Arizona. www.divorcenet.com. Retrieved November 23, 2021, from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/divorce/spousal-support/understanding-and-calculating-alimony-ar.
Speak with our Divorce Attorney in Phoenix & Scottsdale, AZ
Moshier Law should be your choice when you need the best divorce attorney in Phoenix. An experienced family law attorney will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. We advocate for our clients, so they have the brightest future possible. Give us a call today at 480-999-0800 for a free consultation.