If you are preparing to go through a divorce in Arizona, you probably have lots of questions about alimony: Do all divorces lead to alimony? If not, when is alimony awarded? How much will I (or my spouse) have to pay, and how long will the payments continue? In this article, Phoenix divorce attorney Adam Weingart explains what you need to know.
Do All Divorces in Arizona Lead to Alimony?
No, in Arizona, not all divorces lead to an alimony obligation for one of the spouses. While divorcing spouses must divide their marital assets, and while divorcing parents must address child custody and child support, alimony only comes into play when warranted by the circumstances involved.
When is Alimony Awarded in an Arizona Divorce?
The Arizona Statutes specify five circumstances in which an alimony award is appropriate. Under Section 25-319.A., alimony (technically called “maintenance” under Arizona law) may be awarded if the spouse seeking maintenance:
- “Lacks sufficient property . . . to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs;”
- “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 . . . ;”
- “Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability of the other spouse;”
- “Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient;” or,
- “Has significantly reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.”
If any one of these circumstances is involved in your divorce, you or your spouse may be entitled to alimony under Arizona law.
How Much Will I (or My Spouse) Have to Pay?
The amount of alimony to be awarded is also heavily dependent upon the circumstances involved. Unlike child support, there are no strict guidelines for calculating alimony. Instead, divorcing spouses must arrive at a mutually agreeable alimony determination by considering the factors outlined in Section 25-319.B. of the Arizona statutes. Some of the primary factors include:
- The standard of living you and your spouse established during your marriage;
- The duration of your marriage;
- You and your spouse’s comparative financial resources and earning abilities;
- You and your spouse’s respective earning capacities ;
- The time it would take for the spouse seeking maintenance to acquire sufficient education or training to become financially independent;
- The ability of the spouse from whom alimony is sought to support both spouses post-divorce; and financially,
- The contributions (if any) of the spouse seeking alimony to the other spouse’s earning capacity.
What if you and your spouse are unable to agree? Because alimony is not automatically required and there are no strict “alimony guidelines,” the alimony calculation tends to be one of the more confrontational aspects of the divorce process for many couples. If you and your spouse are unable to come to terms, you may be able to resolve your differences through mediation; or, if an agreement is not in the cards, then you (or your spouse) can seek a final resolution in court.
How do Long Will My (or My Spouse’s) Alimony Payments Continue?
In Arizona, there are three primary forms of alimony, each with its own potential duration. These are (i) “permanent” alimony, (ii) “rehabilitative” alimony, and (iii) “compensatory” alimony.
1. Permanent Alimony
Despite its name, an award of “permanent” alimony is not necessarily permanent. Rather, this signifies that no precise end date has been established—which may effectively amount to a permanent award in some cases.
These types of alimony awards are typically reserved for circumstances in which the spouse to whom alimony is to be paid is unlikely to establish financial independence at the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. For example, a “permanent” alimony award may be appropriate if the recipient spouse is at or nearing retirement age.
2. Rehabilitative Alimony
“Rehabilitative” alimony is the most common form of alimony in Arizona. As its name suggests, rehabilitative alimony is intended to give the recipient spouse time to establish financial independence without facing financial strain or going into debt. A rehabilitative alimony award may have a set end date, or payments may be scheduled to terminate upon the occurrence of a specific event in the future (i.e., the recipient spouse securing a well-paying job).
3. Compensatory Alimony
The third type of alimony in Arizona is “compensatory” alimony. Compensatory alimony is intended as a sort of subsidy for a party who contributed to his or her spouse’s earning ability during the couple’s marriage. Similar to rehabilitative alimony, compensatory alimony awards typically have a specified duration that is determined based on the circumstances at hand.
What if My (or My Former Spouse’s) Financial Circumstances Change After Our Divorce?
As a general rule, alimony is subject to modification when there is a material change in one or both spouses’ financial circumstances post-divorce. However, in appropriate circumstances, divorcing spouses in Arizona can agree that their alimony award will not be subject to modification. Section 25-319.C. of the Arizona Statutes states: “If both parties agree, the maintenance order and a decree of dissolution . . . may state that its maintenance terms shall not be modified.”
Even so, even “non-modifiable” alimony awards may be modified in some circumstances. While this is something you should keep in mind for the future, as you go through the divorce process, you should view the calculation of alimony as a long-term proposition. You should focus on calculating an alimony award (if one is warranted) that will work for you for years to come, and you should make sure that your alimony award (if any) makes sense in light of the other terms – i.e., property division and child support – of your divorce.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Phoenix Divorce Lawyer Adam Weingart
Do you have questions about alimony (or any other aspect of the divorce process) in Arizona? If so, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation at Weingart Family Law. To speak with Phoenix divorce lawyer Adam Weingart in confidence, please call 480-542-0099 or contact us online today.