How Is Alimony Calculated in Arizona?

Man giving alimony to ex-wife.

Every year, more than 20,000 Arizona couples file for divorce. Under the best circumstances, separating couples can be civil with one another and remain practical enough to reach settlements on their own. But in many cases, especially those that include arguments over money, emotions take over and make finding a resolution next to impossible.

If you are contemplating divorce or are in the midst of divorce proceedings, you may be struggling to reach an agreement with your spouse or wondering how you’ll support yourself after you separate. During this time, understanding the nature of alimony laws and the full extent of your legal rights is critical. Our experienced alimony lawyers can help you understand how alimony payments should be calculated and what you should be doing to plan for your future.

What Is Alimony?

Arizona state law refers to alimony as “spousal maintenance” or often just as “maintenance” or “support.” This is due in part to the fact that alimony payments are intended to help each former spouse “maintain” a certain standard of living following a divorce. Simply put, alimony is a court-ordered payment from one former spouse to another during or following a legal separation.

If one spouse has more income or assets than the other, a judge may decide that one side needs to contribute financial support, so the other side is not left penniless. Alimony is not guaranteed by Arizona law, and courts evaluate many factors to determine whether, how much, and how long alimony is required.

Who Can Receive Alimony in Arizona?

A spouse requesting alimony before a court must prove that two basic conditions exist:

  • The requesting spouse requires material support from the former partner to maintain a reasonable standard of living.
  • The other spouse has the ability to provide that kind of support.

Arizona courts require spouses to fill out an Affidavit of Financial Information to obtain a full picture of each person’s financial circumstances when making alimony decisions. To determine whether alimony is necessary, courts will also consider whether the requesting spouse:

  • Has the ability to be self-sufficient with his or her current income
  • Currently has custody of a young, ill, or disabled child
  • Lacks the skills or education to attain enough income to be self-sufficient
  • Lacks property to provide for his or her and the dependents’ needs
  • Contributed to the other spouse’s earning ability by accepting primary childcare responsibilities or helping to pay for the partner’s education
  • Reduced his or her own earning potential in any way to benefit the spouse

How Is the Amount of Alimony a Person Receives Calculated?

If spouses are unable to reach a mutual agreement through divorce mediation, Arizona family court judges are responsible for calculating alimony. Arizona law provides judges with a list of computation factors to help determine alimony payments on a case-by-case basis. Factors include:

  • The standard of living of each spouse during the marriage
  • The age of each spouse and how long the marriage endured
  • The relative financial resources of each spouse
  • The comparative earning abilities of each spouse
  • The requesting spouse’s contribution to the other’s earning ability
  • The ability of each spouse to contribute to future child education costs
  • The ability of each spouse to obtain health insurance
  • The amount of time it may take the requesting spouse to obtain the education or skills training needed to become self-sufficient
  • The existence of excessive spending by either spouse during the marriage
  • The existence of property destruction or concealment by either spouse
  •  Any criminal convictions that exist for either spouse

Are There Different Types of Alimony?

Three main types of alimony can be awarded by a family court judge:

  • Pendente lite or “pending litigation” support: This type of temporary support is available to those who require support for regular living expenses during divorce proceedings. This kind of support is commonly awarded in marriages where one spouse earns a lot more than the other, or the requesting spouse does not work. It is not necessarily a guarantee of any future awards of support.
  • Temporary maintenance or rehabilitative maintenance: When the court determines that a requesting spouse has the ability to eventually become financially independent, it will sometimes award temporary or rehabilitative support. This type of maintenance is meant to continue for a fixed period, which may be months or years following a divorce, or until the lower-earning spouse can maintain a reasonable quality of life without assistance.
  • Permanent maintenance: Also called “permanent support,” this type of alimony is rare. Permanent maintenance is awarded in extreme circumstances, such as in marriages that end after multiple decades or when a spouse is considered too ill, disabled, or advanced in age to sufficiently support themselves after divorce.

How Long Do Alimony Payments Last?

The time span of alimony payments depends on the type of support being mandated and certain other factors evaluated by judges. One common element is the length of a given marriage, with one customary standard providing a year of alimony payments for every three years spent married.

Alimony is rarely paid out as a lump-sum, so spousal maintenance is often delivered in regular installments over months or years. Some factors that can alter alimony payment requirements include:

  • The divorce being finalized, so pendente lite support ends
  • The receiving spouse remarrying
  • The receiving spouse becoming otherwise self-sufficient
  • Another stipulation in the divorce agreement being met
  • The death of either spouse

Can Alimony Be Modified at a Later Date?

Some divorce agreements may order that terms cannot be modified. But most divorced couples can change their alimony agreements at any time. It is important to note, however, that unless a mutual agreement is reached, any changes must be requested formally before the court.

Some changes of circumstance that can lead to alimony modifications include a change in health insurance coverage, the requesting spouse remarrying, or the requesting spouse securing gainful employment.

Talk to an Arizona Alimony Lawyer Now

As you face the emotional turmoil and complicated financial considerations of divorce, an experienced and empathetic advocate can help you defend your rights and re-establish your life. Contact the legal team at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC today for a free consultation to learn how we can help you.

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About the Author

Heather Baker-Mushkatel graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2001, and obtained her Juris Doctorate from Brooklyn Law School in 2004. Heather is an Arizona native that left the state for school, but returned home to practice law in 2004 with her primary area of focus being family law….