Spousal maintenance, alimony, or spousal support are all words that describe one thing–money one spouse might be ordered to pay to the other following a divorce. According to one source, alimony or spousal support “is a legal obligation on a person to provide financial support to their spouse before or after marital separation or divorce. The obligation arises from the divorce law or family law of each country.”
Spousal Maintenance, Alimony, and Spousal Support
Alimony is money paid from one party to the other throughout the divorce process or after. The party that receives alimony is dependent on who made the most money throughout the marriage and the position the spouses played. Once specifically called alimony, now typically called Spousal Maintenance or Support. It’s granted by a court order to retain the standard of living that each spouse became accustomed to throughout the marriage.
Permanent alimony will be paid to the other until the death of the one receiving the payment. In many situations, remarriage doesn’t stop alimony. If it was a long-term marriage or one party has a disability that keeps them from working, the court has and will grant lifetime alimony that continues whether or not the recipient cohabitates or marries again. The drawback is that lump sum alimony can be taxed so make sure you know the tax repercussions prior to agreeing to a lump sum.
Temporary alimony lasts for a set period of time. If the divorce creates a financial burden on a spouse, temporary alimony can be granted until that spouse can financially recover. The divorce laws and common judicial practices in the area you get divorced in will establish the length of temporary alimony.
Rehabilitative alimony is granted in cases in which a spouse requires assistance with college expenses or job training, so they can eventually get back to the workforce following the divorce. It’s typical for husbands or wives that have been stay at home dads or moms and haven’t worked in a while. Rehabilitative alimony allows a dependent spouse to take special job training or courses that will assist them in becoming independent financially.
Points to Consider
Each state has laws for establishing whether spousal maintenance/ support/ alimony will be paid. Having said that, you should also consider that judges have the right to utilize judicial discretion when deciding such matters. The following factors are typically thought about when deciding alimony:
- The duration of the marriage.
- How much a spouse contributes as a homemaker.
- Possible earning potential of each spouse.
- The age, emotional, physical and mental state of each spouse.
- In the event of the custodial parent earning less due to parenting the child(ren).
Those elements including the judicial discretion of the judge has a role in if a spouse pays alimony and the amount. Because the judge has a little legal flexibility it is best to settle alimony matters when negotiating the divorce settlement. Doing this takes away the control from the judge and leaves it with you and your spouse.
Arizona Spousal Maintenance
A spouse wanting maintenance in Arizona needs to prove one of four things to be qualified to accept an award of alimony in Arizona. Particularly, the spouse is required prove any of the following:
- The spouse doesn’t have adequate property to provide for their needs.
- The spouse can’t be self-reliant through suitable employment.
- The spouse had a long-lasting marriage and is too old to be able to work to be financially self-reliant.
- The spouse is the custodian of a child of a younger age that they shouldn’t be expected to work. The spouse was a contributor to the other’s husband’s or wife’s schooling.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not intended to be legal advice. You should always talk to an attorney who is skilled at family law about your unique situation.
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Financial Incentive for Spousal Maintenance
The reward comes because the person paying spousal maintenance is sometimes more likely to agree when they can deduct the payment off their income. I have cases where one spouse claims they are entitled to $6000 a month for ten years. The other spouse claims no maintenance should be paid. Getting the agreement to pay is a reward in itself. This is a way that in collaborative divorce cases, many couples have structured financial support to keep money in the family. Less money goes to the government in taxes this way. Spousal Maintenance can be a highly emotional issue. An argument about alimony may be especially frustrating for the “out” spouse, the one who stayed home with the kids. “Out spouses” may feel they gave up their opportunities but now, no one recognizes their sacrifice. From the financially “in” spouse, we hear a different story. The “in” spouse will claim they felt unsupported, alone, or undermined. Emotions cause legal fees to increase dramatically if you are facing this battle in a traditional court case.
New Tax Laws Will Change Incentive to Pay Spousal Maintenance
The new tax laws that go into effect in 2019 say that if you are being paid spousal maintenance, you don’t have taxable income. If you pay alimony based on an agreement or order reached after 2018, you can’t deduct the payment off your taxes. No tax deduction means less incentive for a person to pay alimony. The incentive is important because in Arizona, there is not a spousal maintenance calculator. The alimony calculator that judges previously used is not applied to court orders anymore. Though some attorneys do use a formula we have developed. An agreement is the best insurance that a spousal maintenance order will actually happen and the amount is one that everyone can live with. What most couples will do is agree that they want to create their own spousal maintenance award. This is because neither person in the couple wants to take the chance of allowing the judge to decide. Judges vary from case to case and person to person in deciding spousal maintenance. If a judge orders too much money, the paying spouse can appeal. So people who fight about everything else agree they don’t want to take the biggest risk. The biggest risk is to take the case to a judge.
Spousal Maintenance Qualifications
Spousal maintenance is the term used by judges in Arizona family courts. Spousal maintenance is paid under certain circumstances in Arizona. To qualify for a spousal maintenance order, a spouse has to show one of the following criteria based on an Arizona Statute:
- They lack sufficient property, including property awarded to them in the divorce, to provide for their reasonable needs.
- One spouse is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or cares for a child whose age or condition means the parent should not have to be employed outside the home. Or, the spouse doesn’t have the ability to earn adequate income.
- A spouse contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse, the payor.
- The spouses were married for a long time and now, the spouse seeking maintenance is at an age where they would not likely gain employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
In a litigated divorce case, once the court has found that one of these factors does apply the court will then examine sub-factors. For instance, the court will examine the standard of living during the marriage. When I have gone to trial on this issue, I’m looking at vacations the couple took. I look at the bank account balances for several years. We analyze credit card statements.
You Can Self-Determine
You know your standard of living better than I do. You know – and your spouse knows – if everyone is being fair, how you lived. Lawyers can try to prove that you lived like kings or a meager lifestyle. But this will cost so much in money and time. You can still reach an agreement that keeps the money in your family. You can structure your taxes to keep money out of the government’s hands. People who can’t agree on anything else usually agree they would rather their kids have the money. Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not intended to be legal advice. You should always talk to an attorney who is skilled at family law about your unique situation. For the Arizona Revised Statute on Spousal Maintenance, click here for A.R.S. §25-319. See our other articles, “Trumps New Tax Plan Impacts Spousal Maintenance” and “Alimony Mistakes Even Big Law Firms Make in Divorce.” Also see, “Can Your Marriage Be Saved?” and “Trumps New Tax Plan Will Save YOU Money!” Want to learn more though our Online Divorce Course? If you’d like a copy of our free E-Book to avoid the Traps of an Arizona Divorce, click here.
Meyer, Cathy. “The Different Types of Alimony, Spousal Support, and Spousal Maintenance.” LiveAbout, LiveAbout, 11 Mar. 2018, www.liveabout.com/the-different-types-of-alimony-spousal-support-and-spousal-maintenance-1102807.