A primer on Arizona spousal maintenance

Arizona alimony standards are relatively traditional and leave much discretion with the judge in divorce.

Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support, is the payment of support from one ex-spouse to the other usually on a monthly basis. While some states have recently imposed formulas or guidelines on alimony awards, the Arizona maintenance statute is still fairly traditional and straightforward.

When a married couple faces divorce, they may be able to negotiate a marital settlement agreement in which they decide the legal issues in the divorce themselves, including whether alimony will be paid, its amount and duration. The agreement is then submitted to the court for approval and incorporation into the divorce order.

If alimony cannot be negotiated to agreement, the judge will have to decide whether it will be granted and its terms as part of the divorce proceeding. The Arizona statute gives the judge discretion to order maintenance for any one of these reasons if the spouse who seeks to receive alimony:

  • The recipient does not have enough property, including that received in the division of property in the divorce, to provide for "reasonable needs."
  • The recipient is unable to be "self-sufficient" by working; has custody of a child "whose age or condition" merits that the parent not work; or does not have the "earning ability" to support him or herself.
  • The recipient contributed to the education of the payor spouse.
  • The marriage was of long duration and the recipient's age "may preclude" working to support him or herself.

If the judge determines that the spouse requesting alimony meets one of these conditions and is eligible, the amount and duration must be set. The Arizona maintenance statute says that the terms must be "just, without regard to marital misconduct," and after the judge has weighed all relevant factors that include a specific list of 13:

  • Marital standard of living
  • Marriage duration
  • Recipient's age, job history, earning ability and "physical and emotional condition"
  • Payor's ability to meet his or her own needs while meeting the recipient's needs
  • The parties' relative financial resources and earning abilities
  • Contribution of the recipient spouse to the other's earning ability
  • How much the recipient spouse has given up income or career opportunity for the other's benefit
  • Both parties' ability to contribute to their mutual children's educational costs
  • Recipient's financial resources, including the property division in divorce as well as his or her ability to meet his or her own needs independently
  • How long it would take for the recipient to get education or training that would allow him or her to get an appropriate job and whether this education or training is available
  • Either spouse's "[e]xcessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of ... property ..."
  • Each of their individual health insurance costs going forward
  • Damages and judgments from acts by either resulting in conviction of a crime of which the other was a victim

Whether a spouse in Arizona faces alimony issues in divorce as a potential recipient or payor, it is important to retain an experienced divorce attorney who has knowledge of alimony jurisprudence in the state. Legal counsel can answer questions, assist in negotiation with the other party's attorney and advocate in court for a fair maintenance award, if necessary.

From their Phoenix office, the family lawyers of Lasiter & Jackson represent clients in divorce.