Spousal Maintenance in Arizona
In Arizona, an award of spousal maintenance, also called spousal support or alimony, is a two-part process. First, the court must determine if a spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance. Second, if the spouse qualifies, the court must determine the amount and duration of the award. If both criteria are met, then one party will pay alimony to the other.
Who qualifies for spousal support
A spouse qualifies for an award of spousal maintenance after a divorce if the spouse seeking spousal maintenance:
lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs;
is unable to be self sufficient through appropriate employment;
lacks sufficient earning ability in the job market;
is the custodian of a child whose age or condition prevents the spouse from working;
contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse; or
had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may prevent the spouse from gaining employment adequate to be self sufficient.
Any of the above mentioned factors qualify a spouse for an award of spousal maintenance.
How the amount and duration of spousal support is determined
When determining the amount and duration of the award, Arizona courts will consider the following factors:
The standard of living during the marriage.
The duration of the marriage.
The age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
The ability of the other spouse to pay spousal maintenance while meeting his/her own needs.
The comparative financial resources of the spouses.
The extent the spouse seeking maintenance contributed to the earning ability of the other spouse.
The extent the spouse seeking maintenance reduced their income or career opportunities of the benefit of the other spouse.
The ability of both spouses to contribute to the future educational expenses of their mutual children after the divorce.
The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance.
The time needed for the spouse seeking maintenance to acquire the education and training needed to find suitable employment.
Excessive or abnormal expenditures during the marriage.
The cost of health insurance for the spouse seeking spousal maintenance.
Actual damages resulting from the criminal acts of one spouse on the other.
As you can see, basically all of the above-mentioned factors deal with the financial resources of the spouses and the ability of each spouse to provide for their own needs after the divorce.
Calculating spousal support
The problem with all of the factors is that they do not spell out any sort of formula for a spouse to determine a reasonable amount to ask for. Individuals involved in a divorce or legal separation want to know what they can expect to pay or receive in spousal maintenance and for how long, so they can plan accordingly. The following is a rough calculation to determine an amount and duration of spousal maintenance. For example, suppose the parties have a 15-year marriage with Husband earning $10,000 per month and Wife earning $2,000.00 per month.
Calculating the amount
First, determine the difference between the gross monthly incomes of each spouse. The difference in income in this example is $8,000.00 per month.
Then, take the number of years of the marriage multiplied by 1.5%. Suppose the marriage lasted 15 years. 15 years x .015% = .225%
Finally, multiply this number by the difference in gross monthly salary. $8,000.00 x .225% = $1,800.00. This would be a reasonable amount of spousal maintenance for a 15-year marriage with an $8,000.00 difference in monthly income.
Calculating the duration
To determine the duration of the award, multiply the length of the marriage in years by a factor of .30 to .50: the longer the marriage, the larger the factor and the longer the duration of the award.
In the above example, the 15-year marriage is not a marriage of short duration but it is not exceptionally long either. Using a factor of .4 gives a duration of 6 years (15 x .4 = 6).
Based on the above example, the Wife could reasonably request a spousal maintenance award of $1,800.00 per month for six years.
Keep in mind that these calculations are not hard and fast rules. They are only guidelines to give a ballpark estimate of what a spouse might receive as a spousal maintenance award in Arizona.
Generally, a marriage of less than 10 years is considered short-term, a marriage of 10 to 20 years is considered medium duration, and anything over 20 years is considered a long-term marriage.
Depending on the circumstances, even short term-marriages can qualify for an award of spousal maintenance. Additionally, if circumstances change for either party, it may be possible to modify the alimony payments.