Alimony is now known as spousal maintenance and it is a primary issue in divorce. Among the first questions that separating spouses usually ask is “Will I get spousal payments after divorce?” Or conversely, “Will I have to pay alimony to my ex-spouse?” They also ask about the amount of spousal support that could be awarded, and how long the payments would last.
Arizona’s spousal maintenance law (Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-319) prescribes a two-part process for determining alimony. First, the court has to determine whether a spouse is eligible for spousal maintenance. If so, the court must then decide on the amount and duration of the payments. Here is a short explanation of the process.
Qualifying For AZ Spousal Maintenance
A spouse seeking alimony in Arizona qualifies for payments if they satisfy any of these criteria:
- Does not have enough property to provide for their own reasonable needs
- Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment
- Is the custodian of a child whose condition or age prevents the custodian’s employment
- Lacks earning ability to be self-sufficient
- Has significantly contributed (financially or otherwise) to the education or earning ability of the other spouse
- Had been in the marriage for a long time and is now too old to work for self-sufficiency
- Has significantly reduced their own income or career opportunities in order to help the other spouse.
A spouse only has to satisfy one of the above criteria to be found eligible for spousal support. However, it’s rarely as straightforward as asking about each party’s income. Often, divorcing spouses disagree as to whether alimony should be awarded. The party seeking maintenance must present a well-documented case, and the other party may request for a vocational evaluator if they don’t agree with their spouse’s financial claims.
How Does Arizona Calculate Alimony Amount?
Contrary to what many believe, there is no exact or legal formula to compute spousal maintenance amount and its duration in Arizona. Judges must decide on a case-to-case basis. They are guided by the law, though, which mandates considering these factors when deciding on spousal maintenance awards:
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- The age, work history, earning ability, physical health, and emotional wellness of the spouse asking for maintenance
- The capacity of the other party to pay maintenance while meeting their own needs
- How the financial resources and earning abilities of the spouses compare with each other
- The contribution that the spouse seeking maintenance has made to their spouse’s earning ability
- How much the spouse seeking maintenance has diminished their income or career opportunities to benefit the other spouse
- The ability of each spouse to contribute to their children’s future educational expenses
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance
- How much time the spouse seeking maintenance needs to get educated and trained for suitable work
- Excessive or abnormal spending of common property during marriage
- The health insurance cost for the party seeking maintenance
- Actual damages from the criminal acts of either spouse on the other.
The law also calls for the court to consider “all relevant factors,” which means the unique circumstances of each spouse may weigh on the decision. If you are seeking spousal support because you are in a particularly challenging financial situation, you’ll want a lawyer to effectively convince the judge on your behalf.
Estimating Spousal Maintenance Amount In AZ
Again, there is no Arizona formula for spousal support. However, if you want to get a rough idea of how much your alimony could be and for how long, there are some unofficial calculations used in this field.
To calculate the potential amount of spousal maintenance, some might use what is commonly called the Maricopa County marital duration factor. This was a formula formerly used in Maricopa County, until the court decided that it is no longer valid. For this computation, take the number of years you were married and multiply that by a number from 0.015 to 0.5. Then, take the resulting number and multiply it by the difference in your gross monthly salaries.
For example, if you and your spouse were married for 15 years, and your multiplier is 0.015, that would be 15 x 0.015 = 0.225. Next, find the difference between your and your spouse’s monthly salaries. If you earn $2,000 while your spouse $7,000, the difference is $5,000. Multiply this by 0.225 and you get $1,125. That’s the estimated amount of alimony you may receive.
To estimate how long the spousal support might last, multiply your number of marriage years by a number from 0.3 to 0.5 (the longer the marriage, the higher the multiplier). The result is the estimated length of spousal payments.
Taking the example above, a marriage of 15 years might be considered a medium-term duration, warranting a multiplier of 0.4. The computation would be 15 x 0.4 = 6, meaning the payments would last for six years.
These formulas are not officially prescribed by law. They are only informal models to help spouses prepare for possible court awards.
Consulting with an Attorney
The spousal maintenance decision in your case will be heavily influenced by your particular circumstances as well as the judge’s discretion. Thus, if you really want to prepare for the best alimony case outcome, you should consult with a reliable attorney. Talk to us at Goldman Law by calling (602) 698-5520 for experienced and case-specific advice.