Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is commonly ordered in Arizona divorce cases. Oftentimes, the spouse responsible for making the payments faces difficult financial circumstances, and missing a payment might cross their mind.
Regardless of the economics of their situation, the responsible spouse should do everything in their power to fulfill their court-mandated obligation. The risks of not doing so are never worth it.
Who has to pay alimony?
In Arizona, a spouse has to prove to the judge that they need alimony. And the dollar amount of their alimony payments will be primarily based on their financial situation and history of supporting their spouse. Guided by A.R.S. § 25-319 (A), the court will look at the following factors to determine whether the spouse:
- Lacks sufficient property to provide for their needs
- Lacks the means to support themselves through self-employment
- Contributed significantly to their spouse’s education or training
- Has been married for a long duration that now precludes them from employment
- Put their own career at risk for the benefit of their spouse
If your spouse can demonstrate any of these, then it is likely you will be paying spousal maintenance for a period of time, which brings up an important aspect of alimony — it has an expiration date. You won’t be paying it forever. Whatever time period the court decides, it’s worth it to do whatever you can to meet this temporary obligation.
What are the risks of failing to pay alimony in Arizona?
You risk both civil and criminal action by not paying alimony in Arizona. The spousal support system is highly regulated and administered by the court system, and there are actions that the government and the entitled spouse can take to enforce a judgment for spousal support.
If you fail to pay alimony, your spouse has options that may wreak havoc on your financial situation. The first thing they will do is seek a money judgment, which will empower them to take a variety of legal actions against you to recover missed spousal support payments.
Typically, a spouse with a money judgment may have the court:
- Put a lien on your property
- Garnish your wages
- Seek a writ of execution
- Levy your bank account
In other words, if you have the resources to cover the money judgment, then there’s probably a way for your spouse to get them. The result of them doing so can have more consequences than simply reducing your net worth.
For example, all of the above-listed actions can negatively affect your professional reputation and your credit report. Employers are increasingly interested in employees’ histories of fulfilling their financial obligations. Failing to pay court-mandated spousal support can reflect badly on a job applicant.
Additionally, failing to pay alimony in Arizona puts your credit rating at serious risk. According to Arizona law, court-ordered spousal maintenance shall be included on your credit report. Missing payments will drop your score and stay on your record for years.
The district attorney takes an interest in failure-to-pay cases. Under the Criminal Code of Arizona, it’s a misdemeanor and comes with the possibility of up to six months in jail and fines.
Effective Help for Divorced Couples
If you have missed or might miss a spousal support payment, there are actions you can take to help remedy your situation.
With Cohen Family Law, we represent clients from diverse backgrounds in all aspects of family law. We understand the stressful nature of divorce proceedings and appreciate the high stakes involved. We constantly work to resolve the many conflicts involved in divorce and obtain favorable settlements for our clients. Contact our team today.