Arizona Divorce FAQs – Alimony

This is about alimony after divorce in Arizona, including when courts order alimony, how the amount of alimony is set in Arizona, and how and when Arizona courts stop alimony once it’s awarded.

This information is from Alexander Nirenstein, the DivorceInfo Network Lawyer for Arizona. Click here to visit his firm’s web site.

When does alimony get paid?

In Arizona alimony is called spousal maintenance.  No other area of a divorce is more uncertain than alimony.  Judges often say that no two judges looking at the same set of facts will come up with the same alimony amount.  To try to take some of the guess work out of calculating alimony the court did prepare guidelines but these guidelines have not been adopted.  These guidelines look at the years of marriage and the difference between the parties’ incomes to calculate an alimony.  But the court should not be relying solely on the guidelines and must take into account the factors expressed in the Arizona Revised Statutes governing spousal maintenance.

Obviously factors such as the age of the parties, the years of the marriage, the sacrifices the spouses made for the marriage and how those sacrifices negatively affected the requesting party’s income and earning ability, the employability of the requesting party, the financial needs of the parties after the divorce, and the difference in incomes of the parties all play a role in determining the final alimony amount and duration of the payments.

As for how long an ex-spouse needs to pay alimony, a good rule of thumb is to multiply the years of marriage by 0.3 to 0.5.  For example a person with a ten year marriage may have to pay spousal maintenance for three to five years.  But again this is not a hard and fast rule an many other factors need to be considered.

Arizona is what is known as a rehabilitate state when it comes to alimony.  Meaning that the purpose of the alimony should be to enable the other spouse to get back on their feet and be self-sufficient.  Thus alimony awards in Arizona may be for less number of years than what other states would award.

How does the court decide how much?

As discussed above it is very hard to give a client advice regarding alimony with any great degree of certainty.  However common sense dictates that the amount of alimony should be based on the incomes of the parties, and the financial needs of the parties after the divorce.  Of course determining income can be quit difficult and a lawyer must be cognizant of the potential income of the parties.  A stay at home spouse, although making no income, may actually have the ability to quickly get a profitable job and elevate the need for alimony or at the minimum reduce the amount that should be paid.

What does it take to change alimony?

In Arizona alimony is modifiable.  Meaning that the parties can always go back at a later time and request that the court raise, lower, or terminate alimony.  However, parties are allowed to agree to make the alimony award non-modifiable.  Either option has risks.

Clearly if the spouse paying alimony had a high income when alimony was calculated and then, through no fault of their own, their income is substantially reduced, such as by lay-off or injury, the payer will be allowed to request that the court lower the alimony payments.

When does alimony stop?

In Arizona the terms of the divorce will specify the conditions that alimony will stop.  The obvious reasons for terminating alimony are the death or remarriage of the person receiving the payments.  Since many spousal maintenance awards are for a fixed number of years, the lapse of that period of time will cause the termination of the payments.

Other issues in Arizona:

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