Spousal Maintenance Basics

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In Arizona alimony is called spousal maintenance. Judges are given plenty of discretion when it comes to determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance in a divorce. Therefore, it is often difficult to determine what a particular Judge will decide when it comes to spousal maintenance. The Judge must first decide whether a spouse should receive any spousal maintenance.

The court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse if the spouse seeking maintenance meets any of the following criteria: 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.

If the Judge decides that a spouse is in need of spousal maintenance, the next step is to determine how much spousal maintenance the spouse will receive as well as the period of time in which the spousal maintenance shall be paid. In order to determine the amount and duration of the spousal maintenance, the court will assess multiple factors. Click here for a list of those factors.

Unless otherwise agreed in writing or expressly provided in the decree, the obligation to pay future maintenance is terminated on the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance.

Spousal maintenance can be either modifiable or non-modifiable. In Arizona, any award of spousal maintenance is modifiable unless the parties agree to non-modifiable spousal maintenance. Modifiable permits spousal maintenance to be changed in the future based on a substantial and continuing change in the circumstances of the parties. If agreeing to non-modifiable spousal maintenance, the parties are giving up their right to petition the court in the future for a change in the amount and/or duration of the spousal maintenance award. Sometimes it makes sense for the parties to agree that spousal maintenance shall be non-modifiable. For instance, the parties may prefer to know exactly how much they will be paying or receiving in spousal maintenance without the uncertainty of having spousal maintenance susceptible to being changed in the future. However, there is also inherent risk for either party when they agree to make spousal maintenance non-modifiable. What seems like a fair amount of spousal maintenance now may change in the future if either party has a substantial change in circumstances.

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