Spousal support–also known as alimony or maintenance–is financial support paid from one spouse to another following a separation or divorce. Not every divorce involves a spousal support order, yet when one spouse requests support, it can bring contention into the divorce process.
When two people get married, it is often natural to combine finances. A lower-earning spouse may rely on their higher-earning spouse’s salary to maintain their lifestyle or even to simply pay for basic expenses. This is often the case when one spouse decides to quit working or work part-time in order to care for children. That spouse sacrifices important work experience and training to contribute in other, non-financial yet valuable ways. However, in the event of a divorce, that spouse can be left with no way to pay for housing, food, or other expenses. The laws and the courts in Arizona consider non-financial contributions to a household to be as important as financial support and do not believe that a spouse should be punished for putting a career path on hold to care for the family. For this reason, courts will award alimony in certain situations.
Types of Spousal Support
Arizona courts can award spousal support for many different reasons and the amount and duration of the support can vary depending on the circumstances of each case. The following are some examples of types of alimony in Arizona:
- Spousal support during the divorce proceedings (“pendente lite”) — This support order solely applies during the separation and a new order will be issued in the final divorce decree.
- Limited spousal support — The type of support is intended to compensate a spouse who made significant contributions to the other spouse’s higher education or career advancement.
- Rehabilitative spousal support — This alimony is meant to temporarily provide support so that a spouse who was out of the workforce can gain the education, training, or skills needed to build their earning capacity and secure employment to support themselves.
- Permanent spousal support — Permanent support has no end date and is rarely awarded in modern times. Often, permanent spousal support is only awarded in long-term marriages in which one spouse is unable to work due to age, illness, or disability.
Factors Considered in Alimony Determinations
Courts consider many different factors when deciding whether to award spousal support, how much to award, and for how long the payments should continue. The following are only some of the many factors that may come into play:
- Whether a spouse does not have enough assets to support themselves following the divorce
- Whether a spouse is unable to be find suitable work to be self-sufficient
- How long the marriage lasted
- The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
- Whether one spouse contributed to the other’s educational or professional opportunities
- The comparative earning power of the spouses
- The spouse’s ability to pay alimony
- Whether awarding more marital property will help the spouse support themselves
- Whether either spouse engaged in excessive or irresponsible spending
- Any domestic abuse, infidelity, or other actions of a spouse
The court will also consider any other relevant circumstance that may or may not warrant spousal support.