In Arizona and most other states, there is considerable debate as to the nature of spousal support. Some people believe these payments should be limited, with the objective of helping the obligee (spouse receiving payments) to achieve economic self-sufficiency, while others see alimony as an important part of the divorce property settlement and a way to permanently equalize the standard of living between the ex-spouses.

Truth be told, both of these views are perfectly valid, at least to some extent. Therefore, Arizona and most other states have a system in place that gives judges a considerable amount of discretion to set the amount and duration of payments based on the facts of the case.

Eligibility

Alimony is not a given in Arizona divorce cases. As a matter of fact, there is essentially a presumption in Section 25-319 that maintenance is inappropriate unless the obligee:

  • Lacks sufficient property, including separate property awarded in the divorce, to meet his or her “reasonable needs,” a phrase that usually means a standard of living above the poverty line,
  • Cannot be self-sufficient due to inadequate job skills or educational background,
  • Has custody of a minor disabled child that requires full-time care,
  • Made substantial noneconomic contributions to the marriage as a “caregiver” spouse, or
  • Is “of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.”

To meet eligibility requirements under that last bullet, the marriage must have been “of long duration,” a phrase that generally means at least ten years.

Some of these items, such as the obligee’s age, are permanent because the obligee will not get any younger. Others, such as a lack of job skills, are temporary, and therefore a judge is more likely to modify the order at a later date.

Types

Judges can order pre-divorce alimony, post-divorce alimony, or both.

Alimony pendente lite helps obligees cover unexpected expenses in a divorce, such as attorneys’ fees, daycare deposits, and so on, assuming that they do not have the resources to pay these costs, the obligor (spouse paying alimony) has the ability to pay spousal support, and other facts in the case weigh in favor of pre-divorce financial support.

Post divorce support is usually temporary, if it is based on one of the temporary factors mentioned above. Permanent alimony is rather rare, and almost exclusively limited to cases involving the obligee’s age or a disabled child.

Factors to Consider

To set the specific duration of payments, as well as the amount, the judge may look to a number of factors, including:

  • Length of the marriage,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Obligee’s financial need,
  • Obligor’s ability to pay,
  • Future earning ability, and
  • Dissipation (waste) of marital assets.

That last listed factor allows the judge to consider marital fault, such as adultery, if the fault harmed the other spouse. For example, the mere fact that Husband had a girlfriend is probably not admissible for property division and alimony purposes, but the adultery is admissible if Husband spent money on gifts for his paramour.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

Spousal support is an important component of most marriage dissolutions in Arizona. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Tempe, contact the Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack. After hours appointments are available.