One of the most contested parts of a divorce case is spousal support, which is also called alimony or spousal maintenance. Arizona spousal maintenance laws protect families from the often devastating economic impacts of a divorce. This guide covers essential questions about spousal maintenance in Arizona and what to expect from AZ alimony laws today.
What Factors Determine Arizona Divorce and Alimony?
Arizona is a “no-fault” divorce state which means that when determining a spousal maintenance case, marital misconduct is not a determining factor. It doesn’t matter whose fault it led to the divorce or which spouse initiated the divorce proceedings. Additionally, alimony is not mandatory in Arizona, therefore, the court must decide whether a spouse is eligible for spousal support.
AZ alimony laws consider every case as unique. In the ideal scenario, the couple should negotiate their spousal support out of court with the help of an experienced family lawyer. If a settlement is impossible and the case proceeds to court, certain factors determine Arizona spousal maintenance. A spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance if:
- They lack sufficient property to reasonably provide for their needs after a divorce.
- They are unable to be self-sufficient in terms of their employment status.
- If their child needs full-time care because of their age or health condition and the spouse cannot reasonably return to the workforce after the divorce.
- They have contributed their resources to their partner’s education, training, or career.
- They have been in marriage long enough that finding employment at their age would be difficult or impossible after divorce.
However, the actual amount of Arizona spousal maintenance depends on:
- The length of the marriage
- The financial ability of both spouses to pay for their children’s education
- The age, physical and mental condition of both spouses
- The employment history and earning power of both spouses
- The couple’s quality of living
- Their health insurance costs
- Any history of poor handling of joint property by either spouse, such as concealment, fraudulent use, or lavish spending
- Any education opportunities that may help the spouse to become financially independent after divorce
Of all these factors, the most critical considerations for AZ alimony laws are the duration of the marriage and the financial health of both spouses. If one spouse sacrificed their career to raise their children and maintain their home, this counts towards their financial ability. The longer they were out of the workforce during the marriage, the longer it may take to find work after the divorce to maintain their standard of living.
The Arizona court will determine the spousal maintenance award as somewhat as possible to give all parties an equal chance of a sustainable life after divorce.
How Do You Calculate Spousal Maintenance in Arizona?
There are some basic guidelines that the court follows to figure out Arizona spousal maintenance awards. The first thing is the difference between each spouse’s income. For example, if one spouse makes $10,000 per month, while the other makes $5,000 a month, the difference between their incomes is $5,000. Next, the judge may award 15% up to 25% of the income difference to the lower-earning spouse.
Various factors determine the percentage: if the couple was married longer, the rate of alimony award would be higher. The ratio may also be higher or lower depending on the couple’s living standards since this must be sustainable after the divorce.
How Do You Pay Spousal Support in Arizona?
If the court awards alimony in Arizona, the cash amount is payable in lump or installments. Alimony installments may be bi-weekly, monthly, or determined by the court. It can also be a title transfer in the case of real estate property exchange or a security interest in other personal properties.
Keep in mind that Arizona is a community property state. This means that any property or assets that a couple acquires during the marriage can become jointly owned property. The spouses must therefore agree on how they will divide their home or business assets in their divorce.
The Arizona court maintains its jurisdiction over the alimony awarding process until it is complete. This is because the circumstances for either spouse can change at any time. For example;
- The paying spouse may lose their job, or
- The receiving spouse may discover a medical condition that needs additional health care support
This is why the couple must agree whether their spousal maintenance agreement is reviewable or final. If it is modifiable, the court must determine how much the alimony is adjustable. If it is not flexible, the spousal support amount remains unchanged despite the circumstances of the involved parties.
Can You Stop Paying Alimony in Arizona?
There are three main ways that a spouse can stop paying alimony in Arizona. Alimony payments stop if:
- The court-determined spousal maintenance duration expires
- If the receiving spouse remarries or lives with another romantic partner over a prolonged period
- If either spouse dies
In some cases, the court may order the paying spouse to take out a life insurance policy to provide the spousal maintenance even after death.
Who Pays Taxes on Alimony in Arizona?
Before January 2019, the receiving spouse was responsible for the alimony tax in Arizona since it counted as a source of income. The paying spouse could reduce their taxable income, while the receiving spouse would pay income tax on their alimony at a lower tax bracket. However, from January 1, 2019, alimony is no longer taxable in Arizona. This still applies to divorces settled in 2018 or earlier. A tax advisor is best suited to guide you on how to manage alimony payments in Arizona.
How Long Do You Have To Pay Alimony in Arizona?
As mentioned before, Arizona divorce and alimony cases are all unique, and the court determines each one individually. That said, the most common alimony duration is that one year of alimony is payable for every three years of marriage. In other words, alimony in Arizona is awarded 30% to 50% of the duration of the marriage.
If you were a couple for 12 months, the spousal maintenance might last between just over three months and six months. A 10-year marriage may yield 3 to 5 years of alimony in Arizona.
A judge may also order temporary spousal support when the divorce process starts and another maintenance award after the divorce is final. It depends on the couple’s circumstances, but there is no minimum marriage duration to qualify for Arizona spousal maintenance.
Note: Arizona divorce and alimony laws aim to rehabilitate the receiving spouse. The alimony award seeks to help the receiving spouse become stable in their work and finances after the divorce. If the recipient needs to enroll for a degree or advanced training to help them return to the workforce after the divorce, the alimony award covers the duration of this training.
Arizona’s East Valley Divorce Attorney Who Will Fight For You
Divorce is never pleasant, but all parties can get a fair outcome regarding alimony in Arizona. With the right divorce lawyer on your side, rest assured that your needs are a priority throughout your case. Brent Bryson is an experienced lawyer who will work hard to get you through your Arizona divorce and alimony process. For sound legal advice about divorce, child support, or spousal maintenance in Arizona, get in touch with Bryson Law today. Schedule a consultation with Brent Bryson by filling out the contact form, or by calling 480-813-0444.