Will Alimony Apply In Your Case?
For many spouses, spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony, is the most litigated issue in a divorce besides custody. The question of whether an award is justified, and how much spousal maintenance to award, will have a great impact on the lives of both parties now and in the future. Whether you are seeking spousal maintenance or objecting to paying spousal support, I can help you seek the best possible result in this matter.
Will Alimony Apply in Your Case?
Under Arizona Revised Statute 25-319, you must first qualify to receive an award before there is any calculation of the amount and duration of the award. You may qualify to receive maintenance if you meet one of the following factors:
- You will have insufficient property after the divorce to provide for your reasonable needs. The court will be looking to see whether the amount can sustain you for a moderate period of time and not used up quickly to pay your bills
- You will not be able to secure employment to provide for your reasonable needs. This typically occurs when you have been out of the work force for some time and require some time to retool your skills or start a career.
- You have a child whose age or whose condition is such that you shouldn’t have to seek employment. If you have a child that has not yet started school full time (first grade and higher) or of you have a special needs child that you care for primarily, seeking employment becomes difficult to impossible because the daycare or special costs to care for the child may exceed the amount you could earn.
- You shouldn’t have to seek work. If you have been married for a long period of time, and have little to no skills because you have raised children or taken care of the other party, the courts won’t force you to seek employment.
- You contributed to your spouse’s education during the marriage.
- You had a long term marriage and are at an age that securing employment becomes difficult to impossible unless you were employed during the marriage. After a 20-30+ year marriage, courts don’t expect you to run out and/or be able to find employment. It is not realistic nor equitable.
The Amount and Duration
Once you make a showing that you qualify for maintenance, the courts must analyze all of the following factors in determining the monthly amount and the duration:
- The standard of living established during the marriage – The courts will not look to maintain the standard of living enjoyed by the payee; but rather, to strike a balance between the payor’s income and maintaining a reasonable standard.
- The duration of the marriage – Marriages 5 years or less do not typically warrant maintenance. Marriages of 20-25 years are considered long term, and are given a lot of deference.
- The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance – The Courts generally look to the history and the realistic ability of the spouse seeking maintenance to obtain “appropriate employment”, which is subjective and would depend on lifestyle established during the marriage. The duration of spousal maintenance often is influenced by the projected employability
and income of the spouse seeking support.
- The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance – This is a crucial factor to examine because if the potential payor doesn’t make much, even in a long term marriage, there may be little to pay out to the spouse seeking maintenance. The courts will not make the payor get another job or work overtime just to pay maintenance.
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market – The courts look closely at this factor especially when the spouse seeking maintenance has a job that can meet their reasonable (not expected) needs. Even in cases where a potential payor earns $100,000 per year and the spouse seeking maintenance earns $25,000 per year, it is not unheard of for the spouse seeking maintenance to receive nothing.
- The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse – The courts examine whether the spouse seeking maintenance stayed home to raise children or forewent an education to allow the other spouse to seek theirs.
- The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse – There is little difference between this factor and #6.
- The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children – This factor is rarely analyzed unless the parties have substantial incomes. The other factors are typically more determinative.
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently – Although closely resembling other factors, the focus here is on the property that the spouse seeking maintenance is leaving the marriage with; and whether that property can generate income without having to be liquidated. This factor also concerns whether the property received by the spouse seeking maintenance is owned free and clear such as a vehicle with no payment, or if there is no debt allocated to the spouse seeking maintenance.
- The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available – Questions the court asks include Is the employment sought or suggested appropriate for this spouse? Is this spouse likely to be employed in this type of employment? Is this spouse capable of completing the education or training necessary for this type of employment? Is the necessary education or training readily available? Is there any history of training or schooling for this spouse toward this employment?
- Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common – If your spouse gets angry and sells your Porsche for $10.00, or has a gambling addiction, this will effect a spousal maintenance award. Although Arizona is a no fault state, fault based arguments typically arise here and will be considered.
- The cost of health insurance – The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought can be significant. Older spouses may find it difficult to obtain insurance; and if you are facing a spousal maintenance claim in such circumstances, you must explore free benefits offered by the government. Free benefits are often overlooked in spousal maintenance claims.
Contact Me to Assess Your Claim
I am attorney Matthew Schultz. I represent clients both seeking spousal maintenance and defending against it. In every case, my primary concern is protecting my client’s rights. Every case requires a thorough and complete analysis, a task that many attorneys do not engage in. Don’t gamble on inexperienced or lazy attorney. Don’t let anyone convince you to just take or pay a certain amount. I have met with a high level of success in arguing spousal maintenance claims; and every one is unique.
My financial background allows me to see ways to fashion win-win awards. As a lawyer, I have negotiated hundreds of spousal maintenance cases without going to court through creative means. At the same time, I have successfully litigated this issue in as many cases.
Contact my Tempe office today to discuss how we can win your case.