In Arizona, the term “spousal maintenance” is used to refer to alimony, the support given by one divorcing spouse to the other. Alimony was originally conceived during a period when men were the traditional wage earners and most women were housewives (unprepared for the job market and often staying at home to care for young children). In recent years, spousal maintenance is less frequently awarded because both spouses are commonly working and daycare services are more available. There are still many instances, however, in which one spouse earns a considerably higher income than the other and/or other circumstances make alimony necessary. Spousal maintenance may be awarded to either partner.
Arizona is a purely no-fault divorce state, meaning that neither spouse is blamed for the marital split. The spouses simply agree that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” There is no connection between spousal support and misconduct of one of the spouses with the possible exception of instances in which one partner has wasted family funds, for example, to support an addiction.
At times, spousal maintenance is awarded for just the period of divorce proceedings. At other times, spousal maintenance is awarded to provide one spouse with time to pursue the further education or training necessary to enhance employment opportunities. Long-term spousal maintenance may also be awarded in certain situations, especially when older long-term marital partners split up.
If you are considering divorce, it is important to understand how spousal maintenance may figure into your calculations, whether you are likely to be on the paying or receiving end of the distribution of funds. At times like this, having a knowledgeable family law attorney like Mitchell E. Cohen at your side is invaluable. His decades of experience in the field have given him a track record of successful outcomes and hundreds of very satisfied clients.
Types of Spousal Maintenance in Phoenix
Permanent spousal maintenance has become increasingly rare throughout the country, including in Arizona. Even when a marriage has lasted for many years, the typical judicial view is that in most cases spousal maintenance is offered as part of a process of rehabilitation during which the receiving spouse prepares for a more independent single life.
Eligibility for Spousal Maintenance
In order for a court to award spousal maintenance, it must determine two things:  that one spouse has financial need for assistance and  that the other spouse has the ability to pay support, at least temporarily, while still supporting him/herself. To this end, both parties must submit comprehensive financial records of their assets and incomes to the court. The criteria for spousal maintenance in Arizona may include one or more of the following:
- One spouse lacks enough property, even after marital distribution, to support him/herself
- One spouse contributed to the other spouse’s educational opportunities and in so doing lost opportunities for further education or career advancement for him or herself
- One spouse is unable to be self-sufficient with present skills in the current labor market
- One spouse, having been a homemaker for many years, never prepared for the job market and as a result cannot earn enough to support him/herself in a style comparable to the marital lifestyle
- One spouse has sole custody of a very young or disabled child and may not be considered able to seek employment outside the home due to the needs of the child
Under what circumstances is spousal maintenance awarded?
The court will decide whether spousal maintenance is warranted in a particular case, and, if it is, will establish the amount and duration of that support, taking into account all relevant factors. With the accomplished professionals of Cohen Family Law on your team, you have agile negotiators and vigorous litigators protecting your best interests.
In awarding spousal maintenance, the court will consider:
- The marital standard of living
- The length of the marriage
- The age, employment history, earning capacity of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The physical and emotional health of the party seeking maintenance
- The ability of the paying spouse to meet the financial needs of the former spouse
- The comparative financial resources and earning power of each spouse
- Both spouses’ ability to contribute to their children’s future educational costs
- Whether there are other financial resources available to meet the needs of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The educational or training opportunities available to the spouse seeking maintenance and time required to take advantage of any such opportunities
- Either spouse’s excessive spending, wastage, destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of jointly held property
- Costs of health insurance for each spouse
- Any criminal convictions of either spouse for domestic abuse
Termination or Modification of Spousal Support Agreements
As we all know, circumstances change — children grow and become more independent; wage earners get raises or lose their jobs; former spouses become ill or are injured; the stock market goes up or down; people inherit substantial sums, get arrested, or even win the lottery. For these and other reasons, former spouses may request modifications or terminations of spousal maintenance payments. Spousal maintenance payments also terminate if the receiving spouse remarries or if either spouse dies.
How Maintenance Affects Taxes
Court orders usually direct the paying spouse to make regular periodic payments, typically once or twice monthly. In such cases, spousal maintenance payments are taxable to the recipient and tax-deductible by the person paying support. In some cases, couples can work this situation to their advantage, structuring payments to be most beneficial to both spouses in terms of their tax responsibilities.
How the Duration of Spousal Support Is Determined in Phoenix
While there are no written guidelines, a rule of thumb is that spousal maintenance is usually awarded for .3 to .5 times the number of years married. For example, if you have been married for 10 years, if spousal maintenance is awarded, it will probably be ordered for somewhere between 3 and 5 years.
Contact Our Spousal Maintenance Attorneys Today!
While in many divorces, spousal maintenance is not even considered, when it is requested by one spouse, there is likely to be discord surrounding the issue. Whether you are dealing with this matter from the side of the potential payer or potential recipient, it is crucial that you have strong legal representation to assist you to ensure that your point of view is well-articulated and your financial interests are well-protected. For a free consultation with Mitchell E. Cohen, please phone our office or fill out a contact form on our website.
Cohen Family Law helps his clients with family law matters throughout Arizona including the areas of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Glendale, Goodyear, Peoria, Laveen, Gilbert, Chandler, and Mesa.