Spousal maintenance, also referred to as alimony or spousal support, is a court-ordered obligation for one spouse to financial support to his or her spouse or former spouse. In Arizona, a spouse can request maintenance during divorce or legal separation. Broadly, the goal of maintenance is not to punish a spouse, but to minimize the economic harm to the poorer spouse caused by the divorce or legal separation.
Under A.R.S. § 25-319(A), a spouse may be eligible for spousal maintenance if he/she:
(1) lacks sufficient property, including property awarded during the divorce or separation, to provide for his/her reasonable needs;
(2) is unable to be self-sufficient through employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition justifies his/her unemployment;
(3) contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse; or
(4) had a marriage of long duration and is an age that may preclude employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
Amount and Duration
But, just because a spouse is eligible under one or more of those criteria does not guarantee an award of spousal maintenance. Maintenance awards are highly discretionary and life-altering, so it is imperative to hire the best attorneys if your divorce or separation involves a claim for maintenance.
When maintenance is awarded, it is typically withheld directly from the owing spouse’s paycheck for a prescribed number of months or years. Permanent maintenance is increasingly rare. Arizona Family courts, at least in Maricopa County, favor temporary or transitional awards. Still, these awards can be significant duration, depending on how long the parties were married and their respective financial resources. The family court has considerable discretion to determine the monthly amount and duration of maintenance.
Unless the parties agree to make maintenance non-modfiable, it can be modified upon a showing of substantial and continuing changes to the factors material to the family court’s award. However, maintenance generally cannot be modified retroactively and non-payment can result in incarceration. Additionally, unpaid maintenance cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and may subject the owing spouse to harsh collection action.
Contact our family law attorneys for a free consultation to discuss establishment, modification, termination, or enforcement of spousal maintenance.