Will I have to pay spousal maintenance (alimony)?
Determining if someone has a valid claim for spousal maintenance is very different than determining if someone has a claim for child support. The answers to a few questions will determine a right to receive child support, but determining a right to spousal maintenance involves significant detailed analysis. Claims for spousal maintenance are determined on a case by case basis, dependent on many different facts. Simply reading the statutes are not likely to answer your questions. Anyone attempting to do so should proceed with great caution. It really does take an experienced attorney to properly analyze a spousal maintenance claim. The reason is because there many general terms and phrases used in the statute that will require interpretation. For example, when you read the statute, you will likely ask yourself, what do they mean by: "reasonable needs," "sufficient property," and "appropriate employment"? To make matters worse, the answers to those questions are not the same in every case? In fact, the answers to these questions can vary tremendously depending on the facts in your specific case. Keep this in mind when you read the law, A.R.S. §25-319(A), which provides that spousal maintenance can be awarded if the party asking for spousal maintenance:
1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse's reasonable needs.
2. 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.
3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.
4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
How much spousal maintenance will be ordered?
If a spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance, the amount and duration of support will either be determined by an agreement of the parties or by a Judge after hearing all of the evidence. In order to properly determine the amount and duration, there are certain specific factors set forth in A.R.S. §25-319 which need to be considered, including the following:
1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
2. The duration of the marriage.
3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse's needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse's income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
8. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
9. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse's ability to meet that spouse's own needs independently.
10. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.
11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
12. The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
13. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction. Of course these are only general factors that do not include the individual and specific circumstances of your situation. Once an attorney has the specific facts in your case, a proper analysis can be done to determine the appropriate amount and duration of spousal maintenance.
Can an order for spousal maintenance ever be changed?
Unless you and your spouse agree otherwise, the amount and duration of spousal maintenance can be changed at any time while the spousal maintenance order is in effect. This can be done by either an agreement of the parties or by proving to the Court that there has been a substantial and continuing change of circumstances which warrants a change in the existing order. However, if you and your spouse agree that the order for spousal maintenance is to be non-modifiable and the actual order accordingly states that it is non-modifiable, then it cannot be changed, unless there is another agreement to the contrary. The decision of considering whether to make a spousal maintenance award non-modifiable can have serious and life altering consequences so it is best to consult with an experienced attorney first.