In Arizona, spousal maintenance—also called alimony—is money paid by one spouse or ex-spouse to the other as part of a divorce or legal separation. Spousal maintenance is not awarded in every case; it depends on the circumstances or mutual agreement of the couple. Having the assistance of a spousal support attorney can help ensure that you get a fair support arrangement.
Types of Spousal Maintenance in Arizona
Temporary spousal support may be paid from one spouse to the other while a divorce is pending. Usually the spouse with a lower income receives payments from the other spouse according to a court order that lasts only until the divorce is final.
Rehabilitative spousal maintenance and “bridge the gap” spousal maintenance may be paid for a short term while the lower-earning ex-spouse becomes retrained, educated, or otherwise financially self-sufficient.
Lump sum spousal maintenance may be awarded as part of—or instead of—a property division. This single payment is thought to compensate one spouse financially and is not dependent on whether he or she later gets a higher paying job or remarries.
Permanent or “long-term” spousal maintenance may be included from one ex-spouse to the other in a divorce decree or divorce settlement agreement. The goal is to restore the receiving (payee) spouse to a financial standard of living close to the one established during the marriage.
A party may be entitled a combination of these types of support, depending upon one party’s financial need and the other party’s ability to pay.
Advice from an Attorney: What You Need to Know About Spousal Maintenance
As with many aspects of your divorce, you and your spouse may agree on spousal maintenance. But if you cannot agree, the court will decide whether to award spousal maintenance, how much, and for how long.
Calculating spousal maintenance is complex and very case-specific. A spousal maintenance award is not based on detailed, specific guidelines like child support. Rather, the attorneys and court often must take an in depth look into the parties’ actual incomes and available assets, the marital standard of living, and other elements of the property division.
For tax purposes, beginning January 1, 2019 spousal maintenance is no longer recognized as income and is not includable in a supported spouse’s federal income tax return. This new change in the tax law will need to be accounted for when determining agreements or court orders for spousal maintenance.
Spousal maintenance orders can be changed under certain circumstances, including loss of a job, or any increase or decrease in the income of the supported party or even the party paying support.
Finally, if your ex-spouse stops paying, there are ways to enforce your spousal maintenance order through the help of an attorney or the court. At the time of your divorce or separation, you and your attorney should consider the likelihood of future enforcement issues: if you fear your ex-husband or ex-wife won’t pay over time, you may prefer an up-front lump sum support payment or a property division that takes your future financial needs into account.
If determining spousal maintenance sounds complicated, that’s because it is. But it’s not impossible, and your best options can be made clearer with the help of an experienced attorney. At Shaffer Family Law, we have the benefit of years of experience offering honest and aggressive advocacy in both seeking financial support and defending spouses who are ordered to pay support. We know what factors to consider and what kind of arrangements are often considered equitable by Arizona courts. We also believe that the best divorce attorneys don’t go it alone when financial complexities are involved: when appropriate, we will work with professional appraisers, accountants, and actuaries to evaluate your situation.
Spousal Maintenance in the Valley and the Surrounding Communities
Our attorneys assist with establishing, modifying, and enforcing spousal maintenance orders in Maricopa County and the surrounding communities. Contact Shaffer Family Law online or call (480) 470-3030 for a free case evaluation.