When a married couple divorces or legally separates, one spouse may request spousal maintenance, which is also known as alimony or spousal support. Years ago, spousal maintenance was pretty common, but today it has gotten harder because more and more, both parents work and are able to support themselves. When spousal support is ordered, it may only be on a temporary basis. It all depends on the facts and circumstances.
Whether you seek alimony or want to argue against it, we at The Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp understand the factors on both sides of the issue. We will review your case honestly and provide your best options moving forward. Moving forward includes any pending divorce or legal separation. Contact us today at 928-753-6868 to get comprehensive legal representation for your divorce, legal separation, and/or spousal maintenance, among other related issues.
When Will an Arizona Court Order Spousal Maintenance?
Judges can order spousal maintenance to either spouse in a proceeding for maintenance or a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage or legal separation. According to Arizona Revised Statute § 25-319(A), a court can grant maintenance when it finds present one of the following reasons, i.e., the spouse seeking maintenance:
1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse's reasonable needs.
2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
3. Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability of the other spouse.
4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
5. Has significantly reduced that spouse's income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
But finding a reason for spousal support is just the first part of it. The court must also determine how much the support will be and how long it should last.
How Does an Arizona Court Determine Maintenance Amount & Duration?
The court must review several factors to determine what is a just amount and what period of time is fair. Arizona Revised Statute § 25-319(B) outlines the factors the court should consider in these determinations. Some of these factors include:
- standard of living during the marriage
- duration of the marriage
- the age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance
- the ability of the alimony-paying spouse to support own needs and ex-spouse's needs
- the ex-spouses' comparative financial resources
- the ex-spouses' comparative earning abilities
- contribution made by the spouse seeking maintenance to the other spouse's earning ability
- sacrifices the spouse seeking maintenance made his or her own career opportunities
- excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction of property, or commission of fraud
- costs associated with criminal activity.
Arizona courts are not permitted to consider marital misconduct, like alleged adultery, as part of its determination the amount and duration of spousal support. That said, an Arizona judge has broad discretion to decide whether alimony is appropriate, how much it should be, and how long it should last.
In this respect, it's important to retain an experienced family law attorney who knows both the courts and the judges because each judge's perspective on alimony differs, and knowing that judge's perspective can go a long way with developing arguments for or against alimony.
Can Spousal Maintenance be Modified in Northern Arizona?
Spousal maintenance can be ordered in accordance with type. In Arizona, there are three "types" of spousal maintenance.
- Permanent alimony, which is ongoing support without a specified termination date – this is awarded when it's expected the spouse will never be able to support him or herself (e.g., age or disability); or
- Rehabilitative alimony (the most common form), which provides financial support to a spouse for a period of time to allow that spouse to obtain education or other means to become self-sufficient; and/or
- Compensatory alimony, which is akin to reimbursement to a spouse who contributed to the other spouse's educational opportunities during the marriage.
Any one of these types of spousal maintenance can be modified unless you have agreed not to modify pursuant to Arizona Revised Statute § 25-319(C).
Modifiable Maintenance Support
Arizona Revised Statute § 25-327 governs modification or termination of maintenance. Basically, alimony can be
modified or terminated only on a showing of changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing except as to any amount that may have accrued as an arrearage before the date of notice of the motion or order to show cause to modify or terminate.
Changed circumstances can include things like changes in health care coverage or loss of income. The court determines if a changed circumstance is substantial and continuing by comparing the current circumstances with the circumstances at the time alimony was originally ordered.
Spousal support terminates when either party dies or the recipient of alimony remarries.
Non-modifiable Maintenance Support
Agreeing to not modify alimony in Arizona is usually based on the security that provides to both spouses, i.e., the court won't change the alimony later whether to increase it (which matters to the paying ex-spouse) or decrease it (which matters to the receiving ex-spouse). Agreement may have been made through a prenuptial agreement or during dissolution of the marriage or legal separation proceeding.
That said, even when spouses agreed not to modify, if there is an extraordinary change in circumstances to either party, modification may be possible, but this is on a very limited basis. For example, if fraud was made on the court with respect to alimony, it could mean the agreement and court order are voidable.
Contact an Alimony Attorney to Represent You in Northern Arizona Today
If you are seeking or arguing against spousal maintenance in Northern Arizona, contact us at The Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp. We are experienced. We know the court and the judges. And we represent clients throughout Northern Arizona, including Flagstaff, Kingman, Prescott, Lake Havasu, and Bullhead City.