One of the major issues surrounding divorce is that of spousal support. Along with child custody, support and visitation rights, it needs to be fully worked out as part of the terms of agreement following a divorce. The basic principle behind spousal support, more commonly known as alimony, is that the spouse with the higher income has an obligation to ensure the reasonable needs of the spouse with the lower income are met. Alimony is not compulsory, and whether or not it is granted by the courts can be influenced by a number of factors. These include:
- The length of the time the couple was married.
- The contributions each spouse made to the marriage.
- The chances of a spouse who is unemployed finding employment.
- The income and other financial assets of each spouse.
- The custodial responsibilities of each spouse.
The courts can also consider other factors such as the cost of health insurance, and any damages or judgments suffered by one spouse because of the criminal convictions of the other in which the spouse or their children were victims.
The duration of a marriage is an area needing careful consideration, both in terms of contributions previously made by the spouse now seeking support, and the reluctance of the courts to award support to those seeking to gain financial advantage. In addition, Arizona courts now take into account the ability of either spouse to contribute to a child’s education. For example, contributions to a child’s college fund could be a condition of alimony being granted.
Calculating Spousal Support
There are many complex issues surrounding the amount of spousal support to be awarded. Factors that the courts can take into account include the standard of living established by a partner during their marriage, and any falsehoods regarding income that a partner might have presented to the court. It is possible that a court may consider a wife’s social position when awarding alimony, but this does not mean that she will automatically be entitled to be kept at the same standard of living she enjoyed when she was married. Equally, no spouse is obliged to support their former partner above their normal standard of living.
Spousal Support & Marital Misconduct
Previously a wife could be denied alimony on the grounds of misconduct. Arizona state law has now been changed, however, and specifically states that the awarding of spousal support shall be made “without regard to marital misconduct.” Grounds for denial that can be considered include excessive or abnormal expenditure, or the destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposal of marital property.
The age of a spouse is another factor the court may take into account, particularly if it is unlikely they will have the opportunity to become self-sufficient. The deadline to petition the court regarding non-payment or arrears in spousal support is no later than three years after the date the alimony was awarded.
All these matters are in the hands of the judge presiding over the case. There is no specific formula in Arizona law for calculating the level of spousal support. The judge also has the discretion to decide on the length of time alimony remains in force. It can end when the spouse obtains employment or starts receiving social security payments. In some cases it will only apply while the spouse is undertaking retraining or rehabilitation. The court has extensive powers to ensure alimony is collected, such as intercepting an income tax refund due to the partner paying alimony.
The courts prefer it if divorcing couples can come to an agreement themselves regarding spousal support. This is not always possible, however, and it can be a difficult issue to resolve. It would therefore be best to enlist the services of a Phoenix family lawyer who can negotiate with the other spouse’s attorney to reach an agreement, thereby avoiding high court costs. If the matter cannot be resolved amicably and has to go before a judge, a lawyer’s expert advice and experience in defending a client’s rights and interests will be invaluable.
With over 70 years combined experience , the Cantor Law Group is ideally placed to negotiate spousal support agreements and avoid costly legal battles. We can mediate on your behalf and provide an opportunity to resolve any issues without going to court. Our team of attorneys is AV® Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®, is listed in the Bar Register of Pre-Eminent Lawyers® and is a member of Arizona’s Finest Lawyers®.
If you are seeking or fighting alimony, please call (602) 254-8880 or email us to arrange a free consultation, and discuss how an attorney from the Cantor Law Group can help you.