Arizona Alimony in a Nutshell

Arizona law does not use the term “alimony,” and instead uses the term “spousal maintenance” when referring to support payments made by one spouse to another.

Spousal maintenance can be awarded as part of the terms of a divorce decree, during the time between filing for divorce and the court entering a final decision, or even while the parties are still married. Spousal maintenance is awarded to ensure adequate income for those who have become economically dependent on their spouse through the marriage.

Spousal maintenance is NOT used to punish a spouse for any wrongdoing and is NOT dependent on gender. However, while either party in a divorce can ask for spousal maintenance to be awarded, the trend in recent years has been to award less support than what has been seen in the past.

Whether or not one is eligible to receive spousal maintenance is a question left largely to the Court, which has a fair amount of discretion in determining if an order for support is appropriate. Arizona statutes provide a number of factors for the court’s consideration, which include the length of the marriage, the earning ability of the spouses, contributions made to education or work opportunities during the course of the marriage, and the ages and health of any minor children still living at home. The court will typically examine the facts before them, while keeping the appropriate statutes in mind, and determine the appropriateness of spousal maintenance on a case by case basis.

Arizona statutes also provide a factor for the court to consider when determining what amount of spousal maintenance is appropriate. Here, the court will look at elements such as the standard of living established during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, the financial resources of the parties, and the time needed to obtain education or training for appropriate employment.

In Arizona, it is not common to see a permanent award of spousal maintenance. The Courts do not prefer to order a spouse to make payments for life, so the bulk of spousal maintenance awards come with a definitive end date, or with a condition that will result in an end to the support obligation (i.e., the spouse who is receiving spousal maintenance remarries). Most often the Court will allow spousal maintenance to run until a given party is able to get back on his or her feet financially, or for a specified length of time that is usually influenced by the length of the marriage (longer marriages usually result in longer periods of support obligation).

The issue of spousal maintenance almost always pops up in divorce situations, and is quite often a sticking point when it comes to negotiating a settlement between the parties. Moreover, because the court has quite a bit of leeway in determining whether or not an award of spousal maintenance is appropriate, and due to the number of sub-issues usually involved, it’s always a good idea to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side to advise you on how best to proceed.

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