Spousal Support in Arizona (Spousal Maintenance & Alimony in Arizona) | Arizona Alimony Laws
When couples in Arizona file for divorce, either spouse may request the court issue an order for Spousal Maintenance or Spousal Support (also commonly known as alimony). Spousal Maintenance is not awarded in every divorce in which it is requested, however. The purpose of maintenance is to help a lower-earning spouse complete education or training necessary to reenter the workforce and to support himself or herself. It is meant to be rehabilitative in nature. Spousal maintenance is often only ordered for a short duration of time following the end of a marriage. It may be ordered for a longer period of time when the marriages are considered to be long-term, which can be defined as lasting for more than 10 years. To determine if you are eligible for alimony or divorce support, consult with our expert Arizona divorce attorneys regarding Arizona law about these alimony guidelines.
How is Spousal Maintenance Calculated? Spousal Maintenance Factors
Judges are given broad discretion in whether to order spousal maintenance (alimony). It is not guaranteed. Further, the Arizona Supreme Court is directed to establish guidelines based on different factors that are outlined in A.R.S. § 25-319 that will determine the duration and the amount of alimony payments.
Some of the factors that a judge will consider during the divorce process include the following:
- Whether the requesting spouse is able to meet his or her needs on his or her own
- Inability of the requesting spouse to obtain employment because of caring for young children
- Inability of the requesting spouse to support himself or herself through a job
- Whether the spouse supported the other spouse through his or her education and career while forgoing his or her own opportunities
- Length of marriage combined with age that would preclude his or her ability to gain an education and enter the workforce
- How long it would take for the requesting spouse to obtain an education needed to get a better job
- The future earning capacities of both spouses
- The duration of the marriage
- Standard of living during the marriage
- The ability of the payor spouse to support himself or herself while making maintenance payments
- Whether either spouse concealed, wasted, or gave away property to prevent the other spouse from getting it in the divorce
- The ages of the spouses
- The difference in the incomes of the spouses
- Whether either spouse has a physical or mental condition
- The jobs of the spouses during their marriage
- The job-related skills of the requesting spouse
The Arizona Supreme Court launched an Arizona spousal maintenance calculator in 2023 to help judges and lawyers make fair and consistent decisions about alimony payments. This online Arizona alimony calculator uses a standardized formula based on several factors, including the length of the marriage, the income and earning capacity of both spouses and the standard of living established during the marriage.
This free spousal maintenance calculator is a starting point for negotiations and helps parties understand their options, guidelines, and rights in divorce court. However, it is important to note that the calculator is not a substitute for a judge’s decision or the advice of a lawyer. It is essential that you consult with an expert Arizona law attorney regarding the qualifications for alimony, what constitutes income, permanent spousal maintenance, temporary spousal maintenance, the different types of alimony, how property can affect spousal maintenance awards, spousal maintenance costs, and what is considered reasonable spousal maintenance.
Courts do not take marital misconduct into account when they are determining whether to award spousal support. Maintenance is also not meant to be punitive, so a judge will not order a spouse to pay maintenance simply to punish him or her. The statutes do not provide guidance for how much maintenance judges should order when they grant a maintenance request. After weighing the factors and taking them into account, judges can grant maintenance in an amount and duration that seems fair under the circumstances. Understanding the financial resources of each party, income, and marital property is key to understanding the guidelines that inform the spousal support calculator.
Finally, under the spousal maintenance statute, A.R.S. § 25-530, courts may not consider veterans’ disability benefits awarded for service-connected disabilities as a part of the income of spouses when they are determining whether to award spousal maintenance income under the AZ alimony calculator.
For a more detailed calculation from the Arizona Spousal Maintenance Guidelines Committee, click here.
How Long Do You Have to be Married for Spousal Maintenance?
Arizona does not have a minimum amount of time that people have to be married to get spousal maintenance (alimony). However, the length of the marriage is one of the factors that judges take into account when making spousal maintenance decisions. It is ostensibly possible for a spouse who has been married for less than a year to get maintenance (recipient spouse) from the other spouse, but it is unlikely. If maintenance is awarded to a spouse in a divorce case after a short-term marriage, it will likely only be ordered for a couple of months.
The length of the marriage may also have an impact on the amount of maintenance (alimony) that is ordered in Arizona, as well as how long the paying spouse will have to pay it under the Arizona spousal maintenance calculator guidelines. Courts are trending away from ordering maintenance, so it is unlikely to be awarded a duration of more than a few years. For people who are ending long marriages in which there is a substantial disparity between the incomes of the spouses or their financial resources, maintenance may be ordered for a longer time period to the requesting spouse, also known as the receiving spouse.
Rarely, spousal maintenance may be ordered by an Arizona judge to be paid until the receiving spouse either remarries or dies or until the paying spouse dies. This only occurs in situations in which the requesting spouse (receiving spouse) is unlikely to be able to get a job to support himself or herself because of his or her age or disability following a long-term marriage. It is important to understand how spousal maintenance works and to have all of your Arizona FAQS answered by an attorney familiar with spousal maintenance income.
Is Spousal Support Different than Child Support?
Spousal support is separate from child support. Arizona spousal support (alimony) under the Arizona alimony calculator guidelines is meant to provide financial help to a spouse to enable him or her time to become self-supporting. Child support is ordered in the best interests of the child to try to provide him or her with a similar standard of living to the standard of living the child might have had if his or her parents had stayed together. All parents in Arizona are expected to contribute to the upbringing of their children. Unlike spousal support, which may or may not be ordered, child support is automatically ordered by the court in a divorce with children.
Watch this video of David Cantor talk about “How is Spousal Maintenance Calculated with Children.”
In Arizona, if a spouse is ordered to pay both child support and spousal maintenance, he or she must comply with both orders. Failing to make spousal maintenance or child support payments may result in civil and criminal penalties. It is possible that a spouse will be ordered to pay child support but not have to pay spousal maintenance. It is important to consult with an expert Arizona divorce attorney to understand the different between alimony and child support.
What if my Ex-spouse Makes More Money Than Me?
You do not automatically qualify for spousal maintenance simply because your former spouse makes more money than you. Judges are able to exercise substantial discretion when determining whether or not to grant requests for maintenance, analyzing income, property, and other factors under the Arizona spousal maintenance calculator. They will take into account income differences and financial support, as well as the separate property that both spouses will receive in their Arizona divorce when they are determining whether an award of maintenance (alimony) is appropriate.
If you are already divorced and did not request maintenance (alimony) in your case, you cannot file a petition to receive spousal maintenance after the fact. Spousal maintenance is only awarded as part of the Arizona divorce process. Learn more about legal separation vs. divorce. The only exception to this rule is if the divorce was granted by a court that was unable to obtain personal jurisdiction over the paying spouse. In that case, you can file a petition for spousal maintenance from your higher-earning ex-spouse after your divorce has been finalized.
What if my Ex-spouse Lives Out of State?
Under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, each state must give full faith and credit to the judicial proceedings of other states. If you are awarded spousal maintenance in Arizona, and your ex-spouse subsequently moves to another state, you can still enforce the Arizona court’s order. People are not able to move to other states to try to avoid paying court-ordered spousal maintenance or child support. When a spouse moves out of state, the spousal maintenance order can be sent to the new state so that the maintenance can be garnished from his or her wages or income.
What if my Ex-spouse Has Remarried?
If you are ordered to pay alimony to your ex-spouse, and he or she remarries, the spousal maintenance will be terminated under A.R.S. § 25-327. This means that you will no longer have the obligation to continue paying spousal maintenance. It is a good idea to notify the court of your ex-spouse’s marriage to make certain that the spousal maintenance (alimony) payments will stop being collected from your wages or income. If you are the receiving spouse and receiving spousal maintenance income, and your ex-spouse remarries, his or her new marriage will not obviate the requirement to continue paying your spousal maintenance.
What if I Lost my Job or am Unemployed?
If you have been ordered to pay spousal maintenance to your ex-spouse and you have lost your job and income, or have become unemployed, you cannot simply stop making your maintenance payments. Instead, you must petition the court for a modification of your spousal maintenance order under A.R.S. § 25-327. To prevail on a motion to modify spousal maintenance orders, you must be able to show that there is a substantial and continuing change in your circumstances.
If the Arizona court modifies or terminates the order for you to pay spousal maintenance, the order will not be retroactive. This means that you will still be obligated to pay any alimony arrearages that you might owe. If you need a divorce modification, it is best to file for it as soon as your financial situation changes because the maintenance payments will continue to accrue while your modification case is pending.
Support Modifications can be tricky circumstances. This is why it is recommended to speak with an Arizona divorce attorney who can help.
What are the Penalties for Nonpayment?
If a spouse who is ordered to pay maintenance fails to pay it as ordered, there are several potential penalties. The spouse may be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor for willfully violating the court’s orders under A.R.S. § 25-511.01. To prove the criminal case, a prosecutor will be required to show the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- There was a maintenance order issued by the court;
- The order directed the defendant to pay spousal maintenance;
- The defendant received notice of the order;
- The defendant was willful or intentional; and
- The defendant disobeyed the order.
If the ex-spouse is convicted of the class 1 misdemeanor offense, he or she can be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail under A.R.S. § 13-707. In addition to potential criminal penalties, there are also potential civil remedies. A spouse who is owed maintenance that his or her former spouse has failed to pay may file a petition to enforce spousal maintenance under A.R.S. § 25-508. Once the petition is filed, the court will schedule a hearing. Since most spousal maintenance payments are made through the Support Payment Clearinghouse, it is possible to obtain records showing that the payments were not made or outline periodic payments.
If the maintenance was agreed to be paid directly in an agreement, the spouse who is responsible for paying will be responsible for proving that he or she did not miss a payment. If the court finds that arrearages are owed, it will issue a money judgment. The judgment can then be used to enforce the spousal maintenance arrearage amount of the judgment, irrespective of whether the spouse ordered to pay has sufficient property to make payment.
Spousal maintenance orders can be enforced in a number of different ways, including the following:
- Lien against property
- Garnishment of income
- Appointment of a receiver
The money judgment will include interest in addition to the alimony arrearage amount that is owed. If you are ordered to pay maintenance and are having difficulty with making the payments, it is better for you to talk to an experienced Arizona family law attorney at Cantor Law Group instead of simply ending your payments. If your circumstances have undergone a substantial change since the time that the maintenance order was issued, it is possible that an attorney may be able to secure a modification or termination of the order. Failing to pay can result in civil and criminal penalties and could be much costlier in the long run.
Can Spousal Maintenance Be Discharged in Bankruptcy?
Some people wrongly believe that they can discharge spousal maintenance payments and debts by filing bankruptcy petitions. Spousal maintenance debt and payments may not be discharged in bankruptcy under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(5) .[/toggle]
Contact a Cantor Law Group Spousal Maintenance Lawyer
If you are filing for divorce and believe that spousal maintenance may be an issue, it is a good idea for you to get help from one of the experienced Arizona family law attorneys at Cantor Law Group. Our divorce attorneys can analyze your finances and the factors under the alimony guidelines that the court considers to provide you with an assessment of whether spousal maintenance is likely to be ordered. We can also help with petitions to modify and petitions to enforce existing orders stemming from your Arizona divorce case. Call us today at 602.254.8880 or request a free consultation by filling out our online contact form.