Navigating Spousal Maintenance in Arizona

When a couple divorces, there is an equitable division of the assets. However, in some cases, one party has a significant financial advantage over another. They may have a much better paying job or have benefitted from their spouse staying home so they could advance in their career. If there is a difference in resources, the courts may order one party to make payments to the other. These payments used to be referred to as alimony, but the more modern term is spousal maintenance.

Types of Spousal Maintenance in Arizona

When you think of alimony or spousal maintenance, you may think of ongoing monthly payments that never end. And prior to 2023, this was an option in Arizona. This type of spousal maintenance is called permanent maintenance and is a spousal support order that doesn’t have a termination date. In some cases, the order only terminates if the party receiving the payments remarries. However, the Arizona family law code was amended in 2023 to eliminate this type of spousal maintenance.

Under the new code, courts can only “award spousal maintenance pursuant to the guidelines only for a period of time and in an amount necessary to enable the receiving spouse to become self-sufficient.” This limits spousal maintenance to temporary orders that have the main purpose of keeping the receiving party financially stable while they have a chance to establish themselves independently.

In some cases, the courts may award temporary spousal maintenance while the divorce is still being processed. This is called pendente lite maintenance and is designed to keep both parties financially stable until the divorce can be finalized and the assets divided. This type of spousal maintenance ends as soon as the divorce is completed.

Situations That Qualify for Spousal Maintenance

The best way to find out if you are eligible for spousal maintenance payments — or if you might have to pay — is to speak with an Arizona family law attorney. However, there are some general situations that may be more likely to end up including spousal maintenance. If one party greatly contributed to the other’s earning ability. This applies to situations where one party stayed home to raise the kids so that the other person could focus on building a successful career. Another example is if one party worked to put the other party through college so they could advance their earning ability. If one party is unable to work, usually because of age or disability reasons, this could also result in a spousal maintenance order.

Factors That Impact How Much Spousal Maintenance Is Awarded

Spousal maintenance is a complex topic, and there are many factors involved in determining the length and amount of an award. In general, the longer the marriage, the more likely spousal support is to apply. The couple’s standard of living during the marriage is another factor. If they enjoyed a high standard of living, the courts may award a higher spousal maintenance payment to ensure that both parties can maintain that standard of living until the dependent party has established themselves. Other factors that may impact spousal maintenance orders include:

  • The employability of both parties
  • The age of both parties
  • Past, current, and future earning potential
  • Level of financial independent
  • Any significant contributions to career or earning potential made by one party to the other during the marriage
  • How long it will take the dependent spouse to be able to start supporting themselves

To get a more specific idea of how long spousal maintenance payments may be awarded for in your case or how much the payments may be, speak with an attorney. They can talk with you about your situation and all of these factors and give you a potential range for the payments. They can also help you understand how long the payments may be ordered for and what you need to do in the meantime to ensure you’re able to financially support yourself when the order is terminated.

Waiving Spousal Maintenance

It is possible for the party who would be receiving the spousal maintenance to say they don’t want it. This is called waiving spousal maintenance. Some people may choose to waive spousal support as a way to negotiate a better divorce settlement. For example, if one party really wants the marital home, they may attempt to waive any claim to spousal maintenance to try to negotiate this. However, it’s important to understand all of the implications of this before doing so. You should always talk with an attorney before agreeing to waive anything in a divorce or sign any settlement.

Another potential scenario in which spousal maintenance may be waived is if there was a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place. If this agreement states that spousal maintenance won’t be awarded in the event of a divorce, spousal support can generally only be awarded if the prenup itself is found to be invalid and thrown out.

When Spousal Maintenance Payments End

As noted above, the state of Arizona now only allows spousal maintenance payments for a specific period of time on a temporary basis. However, that length of time is still up to the determination of the courts. Whatever the term length is, the spousal maintenance will end on that date unless there is a compelling reason for the courts to order that the payments be extended.

It’s important for anyone going through a divorce to understand their rights and what they may be entitled to in a divorce settlement. If you have questions about spousal maintenance in Arizona, contact The Dodds Law Firm, PLC, at 623-267-0026.