Divorce is a challenging and emotional process that can significantly impact the lives of both spouses and their children. In Tempe, AZ, one critical aspect of divorce proceedings is the concept of alimony or spousal maintenance. Alimony helps one spouse maintain a comparable lifestyle to the one they experienced during the marriage, especially if they were financially dependent on the other spouse. As one of the most contentious issues in divorce, it’s crucial to understand alimony and its potential impact on your divorce proceedings.
In this blog post, we will deep dive into the process of determining alimony in Tempe, AZ, the possible outcomes, and provide expert guidance to help you navigate this critical aspect of divorce with confidence and clarity. Read on to learn more about alimony, called spousal maintenance, your rights, and practical steps to prepare for this potential aspect of your divorce proceedings.
What Is Alimony
Alimony, or spousal maintenance, refers to the financial support that one spouse provides to the other after a divorce. The purpose of alimony is to help the spouse receiving spousal support maintain a standard of living similar to what they were accustomed to during the marriage. Alimony should not be mistaken for child support, which serves to provide financial assistance for the upbringing of the children.
In Arizona, alimony is not automatically granted as part of the divorce process. The court must consider several factors when determining whether to award alimony and, if so, the amount and duration of the support. Some factors the court will consider include the length of the marriage, the financial resources and needs of each spouse, the earning ability of each spouse, the age and health of both parties, and any marital misconduct such as infidelity or abuse.
It’s essential to note that each case is unique, and the court has significant discretion in making its decision. This is why it’s crucial to work with a skilled family law attorney who can gather and present all necessary information, ensure that your interests are appropriately represented, and increase the chances of a favorable outcome.
Understanding the Process of Determining Alimony
The first step in determining the necessity and amount of alimony in a divorce proceeding is to establish whether one spouse is eligible for spousal maintenance. This evaluation is based on several factors, such as the potential paying spouse’s ability to pay, the recipient’s needs, and each party’s contributions to the marriage.
- To determine alimony (spousal support) eligibility, the court evaluates multiple elements, including:
- The duration that the receiving spouse would require to acquire sufficient education, training, and employment to become financially self-sufficient
- The couple’s standard of living during the marriage
- The recipient spouse’s age, employment history, earning ability, and physical or emotional health
- The paying spouse’s ability to maintain their standard of living while providing spousal support
Once eligibility is established, the court proceeds to evaluate the amount and duration of alimony to be paid.
The spousal maintenance statute (law) A.R.S. § 25- 319, underwent revisions on September 24, 2022. The revised statute now calls upon the Arizona Supreme Court to establish guidelines for the assessment and granting of spousal maintenance.
The Judicial Branch of Arizona now provides an online Spousal Maintenance Calculator for statewide use (available here: https://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/app/selfsuffcalc/) that is useful in estimating potential spousal maintenance obligations during divorce proceedings.
The AZ Courts Spousal Maintenance Guidelines (SMG) Subcommittee Guidelines were approved on June 30, 2023 and applicable to divorces files after July 10, 2023. The Guidelines include the following steps for using the Spousal Maintenance Calculator to calculate the spousal maintenance award:
Step 1: Determine Family Size including the parties and any child for whom at least one of the parties has a legal obligation to support and for whom that party is actually paying support.
Step 2: Determine the parties’ combined Spousal Maintenance Income
Step 3: Determine the Family’s Average Monthly Mortgage Principal
Step 4: Determine Expenditures
Step 5: Calculate the Amount Range
Step 6: Determine the Duration Range
Step 7: Determine the Spousal Maintenance Award
Starting October 1, 2024, a review process will begin by the Family Court Improvement Committee, to assess the guidelines and provide additional recommendations, if necessary. Subsequently, these guidelines will undergo periodic review every four years to ensure their ongoing relevance.
It’s crucial to remember that the court’s ultimate decision is a discretionary one. Having a skilled family lawyer on your side can help ensure your rights are protected and presented effectively to the court.
Types of Alimony and Methods of Payment
There are different forms of alimony awards in Arizona, designed to meet various needs and situations:
- Temporary Spousal Maintenance: This is granted during the divorce proceedings to assist a spouse in meeting their immediate financial needs that happens with separation and life changes due to divorce. It ends when the divorce is finalized or replaced by a permanent award of spousal maintenance/alimony.
- Rehabilitative Spousal Maintenance: This form of alimony is meant to provide a spouse with financial support for a specific period, allowing them to acquire the necessary education, training, and skills to become self-sufficient. This type of support is encouraged by the underlying policy.
- Permanent Spousal Maintenance: In fewer cases, the court may grant permanent maintenance when a spouse is unable to become self-sufficient due to age, disability, or another factor. This type of alimony typically lasts until the recipient remarries, the paying spouse dies, or the court terminates the support.
Spousal maintenance can be paid in various ways, including a lump-sum payment, periodic payments, or a combination of both methods. The court may also order that alimony be paid through wage garnishment, ensuring that the payments are made directly from the paying spouse’s employer to the recipient spouse.
Modifying or Terminating Alimony
Major changes in circumstances can sometimes necessitate a reevaluation (modification) of alimony payments. In Arizona, either spouse may request a modification or termination of spousal maintenance if there’s been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. Examples of such changes include a significant increase or decrease in either spouse’s income or a change in a recipient spouse’s financial need due to remarriage, employment, or other factors.
It’s crucial to work with an experienced attorney when seeking a modification or termination of alimony to ensure your rights and interests are protected during the process.
Understanding the role and impact of alimony aka spousal maintenance aka spousal support in your divorce proceedings is critical. Familiarizing yourself with the factors considered by the court will allow you to tackle this complex issue head-on. By working with an experienced family law attorney like McMurdie Law & Mediation, you can ensure your voice is heard and represented effectively during your divorce proceedings.
Whether you’re seeking spousal maintenance aka alimony or contesting your spouse’s spousal maintenance aka alimony demands, knowing what to expect and being prepared is essential. At McMurdie Law & Mediation, our team of Tempe divorce attorneys have extensive experience in handling alimony matters and can provide you with the guidance and representation you need. Let us help navigate your divorce process with confidence, facilitate negotiations, and achieve a fair outcome that respects your financial well-being and future stability. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!