Determining Eligibility for Spousal Maintenance in Arizona

Because Arizona is a "no-fault divorce" state, our courts cannot consider any acts of marital misconduct when deciding whether to award spousal maintenance (alimony). Even if there was considerable fault leading to the destruction of the marriage, those acts are not factored into an award of spousal support. And as we mentioned in part one of this series, which spouse filed the petition for dissolution of marriage also has no bearing on the court's decision to award maintenance. Today, we'll discuss more specific requirements under the controlling Arizona statute — A.R.S. § 25-319. Awarding Spousal Maintenance. There will always be some variability in support awards, with judicial discretion applied on a case-by-case basis. In general, when determining the appropriateness of a maintenance award under the circumstances of a particular family law case, the court must conduct a two-part analysis. (To read the statute, click here.) STEP ONE: A.R.S. § 25-319(A) First, a spouse must be eligible for alimony. An award of spousal maintenance is ordered only when the facts presented establish that at least one of the following exists: 1. [Spouse lacks] sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse's reasonable needs. 2. [Spouse is] unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient. . . . 4. [The couple had] a marriage of long duration and [the spouse] is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient. The first step focuses on the recipient spouse's ability to take care of his or her own needs, within reason of course. In that effort, the court seeks answers to questions like the following: What property does the spouse have? Is the spouse already self-sufficient? Does the spouse need to stay home to care for a child? Could this spouse earn enough money to be reasonably self-sufficient? Did the marriage last many years, maybe a decade? Was the couple only married for a short time, maybe a year or two? Is the spouse at an age that would make self-sufficiency through employment impossible? STEP TWO: A.R.S. § 25-319(B) Second, after the court has determined that the spouse is eligible for maintenance under step one, the court opens its analysis to consider all of the relevant factors listed below. Every individual's circumstances are different, so no particular factor is more important and no factor is given any particular weight in the court's analysis. Here are some of the questions that should be asked in analyzing this second step: 1. Standard of Living… Did the parties live well? Were they affluent? Did they maintain a high standard of living? Did they live modestly? Did they get by with limited resources? 2. Marriage Duration… How many years were they married to each other? 3. Age, Employment, Earning Ability of Supported Spouse… Did one party quit working outside the home to raise their children? What jobs did the spouse have? How much could he or she reasonably earn? What education does the spouse have? Would training or an education improve this spouse's employment options? 4. Supporting Spouse's Financial Ability… How much does the supporting spouse earn? Can he or she take care of his or her own reasonable needs, as well as provide for the other spouse? 5. Comparative Financial Resources and Earning Ability of Both Spouses… Will one spouse substantially out-earn the other under most circumstances? Does one spouse's property interests greatly exceed the other's? Is there a significant financial imbalance between the spouses? 6. Contributions from Supported Spouse… Did one spouse maintain the household and care for the children, freeing the other spouse to concentrate his or her efforts on career employment? 7. Extent Supported Spouse's Lost Career Opportunities… Did one spouse set aside his or her career, education, or employment goals so the other spouse could get ahead? 8. Ability of Both Spouses to Contribute to Children's Educational Costs… Will each spouse have sufficient funds to help with the children's educational costs? Will a spouse only be able to help with the children's educational expenses if he or she receives help in the form of spousal support? 9. Financial Resources of Supported Spouse… Does the spouse have sufficient property to take care of all his or her needs without financial help? What makes up that spouse's community assets? 10. Time Needed for Training or Educational Program… Is it possible for the spouse to get vocational, college, or university training to improve his or her overall employability? With an education, will the spouse be able to build a career? How much money would be required to get the education or training required? How long would it take to get through that training or educational program? 11. Excessive or Abnormal Expenditures and Concealment… Did the spouse hide property and assets or commit other destructive acts? 12. Health Care Insurance Costs… What will be the cost of health care insurance coverage for the spouse after the divorce? 13. Damages and Judgments from Criminal Conduct… Was there a conviction of domestic violence committed against the other spouse or their child? Were there any other convictions in which the other spouse or child was a victim? After considering all of the relevant factors, the court has broad discretion in determining how much money will be paid and for how long spousal maintenance will last. Establishing the need for and amount of spousal maintenance can be a complicated and challenging aspect of the family law case. Contact a knowledgeable family law attorney at the Law Offices of Scott David Stewart when spousal maintenance is part of your divorce or legal separation. Get the legal advice you need and can always rely on. Resource: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 25-319: Maintenance, Computation Factors http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/25/00319.htm&Title=25&DocType=ARS

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