Divorce is a stressful experience, one that is filled with many questions and trials. While some couples will manage to divorce without much issue, even those who are looking to make it as simple and easy as possible can run into an impasse that makes it difficult to determine what ongoing financial support is appropriate.
Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is money that one spouse pays to the other following a divorce. How much alimony should be paid will depend on the circumstances of each party and how a judge rules on the case. We’ll get more in-depth with how this is done by looking at the types of spousal support in Arizona, who can qualify, and how the courts determine the amount of spousal support to be paid.
What Types of Spousal Maintenance Are in Arizona?
Not all spousal maintenance is the same. For example, let’s first look at pendente lite.
Pendente lite is what is more commonly known as temporary support. This is a type of spousal support awarded during the divorce process itself. Temporary support is meant for one spouse to help the other with remaining financially stable and paying for regular living expenses during the divorce process itself.
Being awarded temporary spousal support does not guarantee anything about a later, post-divorce award.
Temporary support can also be awarded as the court enters the final judgment of the divorce. This type of support continues for a fixed amount of time after the divorce and its purpose is to help the recip[ient to get back on their feet by boosting job skills, getting more education, and other things that will help them to become financially independent.
Finally, there is permanent maintenance. This only happens in the most extreme cases, as the purpose of spousal support is to offer rehabilitative help towards becoming financially independent rather than relying on the support as their only means of income. Cases where permanent maintenance may be awarded are those where one of the spouses cannot support themselves because of an illness or disability they’ve suffered.
Who Can Qualify for Alimony?
Either spouse can make a request to the court to receive spousal support as part of the divorce. However, the courts won’t just award alimony to anyone. If you want to get spousal support then you need to prove to the courts both that you need that support to keep up with regular living expenses or to seek resources to improve your financial situation, as well as the fact that the other spouse has the ability to pay.
The courts will decide that the requesting spouse has a need for spousal support if:
- They lack sufficient property to provide for their needs
- They are unable to be self-sufficient through employment
- They have contributed financially to the other spouse’s education, training, or skills with the goal of increasing that spouses ability to earn money
- They have given up significant income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse
- They are unable to find employment or become self-sufficient because the marriage was long and they’ve grown old
A judge will need to consider the circumstances of the requesting spouse and their ex to determine whether or not they can become self-sufficient or whether they are likely to face issues there and could use some spousal support to ease the transition.
How Does the Court Determine the Size of Alimony Payments?
The courts will first determine whether spousal support is appropriate, following the guidelines above. If alimony is appropriate then the court will need to determine how much support should be paid, as well as what time period it should be paid over.
To determine this, the courts will consider a number of factors. How a judge determines the exact amount to be paid will vary depending on the judge themselves, as well as the circumstances surrounding the issue at hand. But the factors that they will consider when determining the size of alimony payments are:
- The marital standard of living
- How long the marriage lasted for
- The age, employment history, earning capacity, physical and emotional health of each spouse
- The paying spouse’s ability to meet the financial needs of themselves and their ex
- The financial resources that each spouse has, including how much they could earn in the current job market with their skillset
- How the spouse requesting the support contributed to the paying spouse’s ability to earn a higher income during the marriage
- The extent to which the asking spouse reduced their income or career opportunities to support their spouse
- How much each spouse could earn, after the divorce, and contribute to the future educational costs of their children
- The requesting spouse’s financial resources and ability to be fully self-sufficient
- How much time it will take the requesting spouse to obtain training or education to enable them to seek out further employment, as well as how long it may take to achieve the training in question
- How much each spouse spends excessively, destructively, or fraudulently with a jointly-held property
- The cost of health insurance for either spouse
- Whether either spouse requires continued medical care because of injury or illness
- Any damages or judgments that resulted in a criminal conviction and whether or not the other spouse or their child was a victim
Can a Lawyer Help with Alimony?
It may be possible for the couple in question to come to an agreement about alimony without needing to bring the courts into the situation. In these cases, each party should be represented by its own attorney. A lawyer is also extremely helpful should your ex refuse to send you the alimony they are required to.
If it is left up to a judge to determine, then the alimony will be whatever it is the judge sets. But one way that you can improve your chances of getting alimony (or avoiding it) is to work with a lawyer to get all the necessary information for the courts together. This work may provide important information that they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
If you’re going through a divorce or having any kind of issue with alimony payments, reach out to Arizona Family Law Attorneys. We’re always happy to help.