Understanding Entitlement Factors
According to ARS 25-319, “the court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:
“The spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to supply for his/her reasonable needs.”
The law does not explicitly define what constitutes “sufficient property,” but the courts have provided some guidance. It means that the property that is to be divided in a divorce/legal separation can provide for that spouse’s justifiable needs during their lifetime. Property allocated as a part of the divorce decree is taken into account on whether a spouse can provide for his or her needs with said property. In many cases, the property could actively produce income, either in its current form or through its sale.
In deciding whether someone has enough property, the court must evaluate the property element separately and determine if the person’s property is “capable of independently providing for a spouse’s reasonable needs during his or her lifetime.” Accordingly, this factor is not difficult to meet in most situations where there is not significant and substantial assets to divide.
“The spouse seeking maintenance is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment, OR is that the custodian of a toddler whose age or condition prevents the spouse from working outside the home OR lacks earning ability within the market that prevents them from being self-sufficient.”
Determining whether a spouse is in a position to be self-sufficient through employment requires the Judge to consider additional factors, including the present market, the spouse’s existing skills and knowledge, education, work history, etc. The courts give particular concern to older spouses who worked inside the house as homemakers or as a stay-at-home parent during long marriages. Generally, the courts find that age and years out of the work market may make it very difficult to find suitable employment that supports a lifestyle similar to that during the marriage.
During litigation, a judge will require each spouse to provide an Affidavit of Financial Information to disclose their current employment, education, income documentation, as well as their independant expenses. This information will provide the judge with a clearer picture of the financial ability of that spouse to be self-sufficient.
“Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability of the other spouse.”
Under the updated law, the legislature has included a more inclusive statement to define the intent of the above statement. Specifically indicating ways during which a spouse contributed to their spouse’s abilities to pay spousal maintenance..
“The spouse seeking maintenance had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.”
Judges subjectively view the duration of the marriage. A duration that one Judge may consider “long” might not be considered “long” enough by another Judge. Generally, about the duration of the wedding, a wedding of fewer than ten years is taken into account short-term, a wedding of 10 to 20 years is taken into account medium duration, and anything over 20 years is taken into account as long-term marriage. Usually, spousal support is not awarded for marriages of brief duration (for example, five years), but again, there is no set rule. Depending on the precise circumstances, even short term-marriages can qualify for an award of spousal maintenance.
“The spouse seeking maintenance has significantly reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the advantage of the other spouse.”
The fifth qualifying factor expands upon the requesting spouse’s contribution and sacrifices to the earning potential of the other spouse. For instance, if a party was a stay-at-home parent, their commitment to raising the children, maintaining the home, taking the children to school, doctor appointments, etc. would in most cases allow the other party additional time and opportunity to advance their career and potential earning capacity.
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.