Qualifications for Alimony in Arizona
If a married couple decides to dissolve their marriage in Arizona, there are multiple important details that they must address before they can finalize the divorce. In addition to child support, parenting time, and the division of property, alimony is a critical aspect that both partners will need to consider during the divorce process. While alimony will not be a factor in every divorce, payments may be required from one spouse to the other to ensure both parties can maintain their standard of living after the marriage is dissolved.
Arizona’s alimony guidelines and laws can become complicated quickly, particularly if you’re not familiar with them. From determining whether you qualify for payments to understanding how long payments will last, it’s important to educate yourself on how alimony works if you’re going through a divorce in Arizona.
Alimony in Arizona
Alimony, commonly known as spousal support or spousal maintenance in Arizona, is a payment that may be ordered by the court during or after a divorce. Spousal maintenance requires one spouse to make regular payments to the other when the requesting spouse demonstrates that they are in need of financial assistance due to specific circumstances outlined by Arizona law.
Spousal maintenance is meant to help the lower-earning spouse maintain their lifestyle and care for themselves during or after a divorce so that they are not left struggling when the divorce is official. These payments are often established when one spouse advanced their career and made the majority of the income during the marriage while the other spouse remained at home to take care of children. This puts the lower-earning spouse at a disadvantage since they were unable to pursue their own career and develop earning potential during the marriage. In this and other situations, the court may award spousal maintenance to help spouses with a reduced earning potential survive through this transitional period and beyond.
Arizona Family Court may grant spousal maintenance in one of four main forms.
Temporary (During Divorce)
In some cases, the court will award temporary spousal maintenance during the divorce process. This is to help the lower-earning spouse throughout the divorce process, especially when the divorce is in litigation. To request temporary spousal maintenance in Arizona, you must file a petition through your local family court and provide sufficient evidence regarding why you require financial assistance. Most temporary spousal support orders are valid until the divorce becomes finalized unless the court decides to extend the order.
Short-term spousal maintenance, often called “rehabilitative” support, is a form of spousal maintenance that is awarded once the divorce is finalized and is only effective for a certain period. Most rehabilitative support orders last from one to three years, depending on the unique circumstances of a couple’s case. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to help the low-earning spouse “bridge the gap” from shared marital finances to solo earning during this transitional part of their life. If awarded short-term alimony, the receiving spouse is expected to pursue education, apply for jobs, and get themselves back into the workforce. It is not meant to remain in place for a long period of time.
On What Basis Is Alimony Awarded in Arizona?
Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is not granted in every Arizona divorce case. Instead, it is only offered to those who meet certain criteria.
The main factors that a court will examine when determining whether an individual is eligible for alimony after a divorce include the following:
- Whether the spouse requesting alimony lacks “sufficient property” to care for their needs, even after the marital property is distributed
- Whether the requesting spouse is unable to become self-sufficient through employment
- Whether the couple was married for an extended period of time
- Whether old age or disability affects the requesting spouse’s ability to work
- Whether the requesting spouse funded and supported the career of the other, for example, by furthering their education, and ultimately helped that spouse have a higher earning capacity at the detriment of their own
- Whether the requesting spouse has a substantially lower income or gave up work for the marriage
How Are Alimony Payments Determined in Arizona?
After the court decides that an individual qualifies for spousal maintenance in Arizona, the next step of the process will be determining how much that spouse will receive and how long payments will last. Some of the most key details the family court will evaluate to determine alimony payments include:
Reasonable Spousal Maintenance
The term “reasonable spousal maintenance” is used when determining an alimony figure that is fair for both parties involved. In Arizona, alimony is considered reasonable if it is less than 50% of the paying spouse’s income pre-divorce. Most reasonable spousal maintenance payments fall between 15% and 30% of the paying spouse’s pre-divorce income to enable the receiving spouse to meet their own needs.
Because alimony payments depend on a variety of factors, there is no specific formula in Arizona that determines alimony payment amounts. However, there are rough guidelines in place for individuals looking to estimate how much they will be paying or receiving and how long they may do so. Using these guidelines, you can follow some general steps to estimate how much you might pay in alimony. Keep in mind: these guidelines were intended to be used in situations where the receiving spouse has a gross income that is 75% or less than the paying spouse’s after a marriage that lasted at least five years.
To estimate how much you may pay or receive in alimony:
- Input the yearly gross income of both spouses
- Take the number of years the marriage lasted and multiply it by your duration factor, which ranges from 0.15 to 0.5
- Take the difference in the yearly gross incomes of both spouses and multiply them by your duration factor (0.15 to 0.5)
- The result is a rough estimate of how much you may pay or receive in alimony
- Input the number of years the marriage lasted
- Depending on the length of the marriage, your multiplier will range from 0.3 to 0.5 (the longer the marriage lasted, the higher the multiplier will be)
- The result is a rough estimate of the length of alimony payments you can expect
Is It Possible to Have Alimony Orders Modified?
While changes to alimony are not granted easily, it is possible to request modifications to your spousal maintenance order after the divorce is finalized. However, the spouse requesting the modification must provide substantial evidence regarding why they believe the order should be changed.
The most common circumstances that may warrant an alimony modification include the following:
- A significant change in the income of the paying spouse
- The paying spouse loses their job
- The receiving spouse becomes self-sufficient
- Either spouse suffers a serious medical injury or is diagnosed with a serious disease
- Either spouse retires
- Either spouse becomes disabled
- The receiving spouse begins to live with another partner or remarries
- Any other kind of significant financial change occurs for either spouse
How to Request Modification to Your Spousal Support Order in Arizona
Both spouses have the opportunity to request a change to the spousal support order. Generally, you can follow this straightforward process to request a modification on an alimony order after it has been finalized in Arizona:
How Long Does Alimony Last in Arizona?
The amount of time you must pay or receive spousal maintenance in Arizona will depend on what kind of alimony you were granted, the financial circumstances of each spouse, and whether those financial circumstances change.
If there are no outside factors involved that require modifications, there are some general guidelines regarding how long each type of alimony will last.
- Temporary Support – Until the divorce is finalized, unless the court decides to extend it
- Rehabilitative (Short-Term) Support – As long as it takes for an individual to collect the skills, education, or experience they need to enter the workforce and become self-sufficient (anywhere from 1-5+ years)
- Permanent (Long-Term) Support – Only ends when one spouse passes away, the receiving spouse gets remarried, or the court grants termination due to a change in circumstance
- Compensatory Support – Usually, compensatory support is short-term and involves a spouse paying for opportunities that can help the receiving spouse find work or become self-sufficient to make up for their career and financial sacrifices during the marriage
The Valley Law Group: Arizona Spousal Maintenance Attorneys
At The Valley Law Group, our team of attorneys shares decades of experience working in Arizona family law. We have extensive knowledge of Arizona spousal maintenance laws, including modifications, and are well-equipped to guide individuals through many types of divorce and spousal maintenance cases. To schedule a consultation to speak with one of our spousal maintenance lawyers, contact us today.
*Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted Sep 19, 2021 and has been rewritten May 10, 2023.
Ryan Reppucci, Co-Founder of The Valley Law Group, is recognized as one of Phoenix’s leading family law attorneys. After graduating from Arizona State with the highest honors and inclusion in America’s most prestigious student honor societies, Ryan attended the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. His career as a law student was decorated with numerous awards, including the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Book Award, nomination for membership in Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities, as well as Moot Court.