How do I get spousal maintenance or alimony in Arizona
A recent Time magazine article highlights the issue of permanent, or long-term, alimony facing many families. The issue is in the national media because of the veto by Florida Gov. Rick Scott of a bill passed by the Florida legislature to end permanent alimony. Gov. Scott raised concerns about the bill applying retroactively to spouses who were previously awarded permanent alimony.
Permanent vs.Temporary vs. Rehabilitative Alimony
Permanent Alimony isawarded to a non-working spouse and continues until one or the other spouse dies. In some cases a spouse may have a disability and is unable to work and permanent alimony might even continue after remarriage in those cases. Permanent alimony is meant to ensure that a spouse who stayed at home and took on the bulk of child rearing responsibilities is able to continue to maintain the lifestyle that was in place during the marriage.
Temporary alimony lasts a specific period of time. Rehabilitative alimony is meant to help a spouse who has not worked go back to college or get job training so that he or she may reenter the job market with the goal of becoming financially independent.
Arizona Spousal or Domestic Support Payments
In Arizona, alimony is referred to spousal maintenance by the courts. Spousal maintenance is designed to be a “safety net” for a spouse who cannot provide for his or her needs or who meets other requirements. If a spouse is seeking maintenance the courts looks at whether or not that spouse:
1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs.
2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.
4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
The court will look at the following relevant factors in determining a fair amount and time frame for spousal maintenance.
1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
2. The duration of the marriage.
3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
8. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
12. 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 if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
13. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.
Spousal maintenance is based on the philosophy that whatever was accomplished in the marriage including pay increases, a rise in the standard of living, and the potential to earn higher income (for example when one spouse is supported by the other to go to school) are the accomplishments of both spouses. The earning of a paycheck by one spouse under this philosophy is believed to be earned by both spouses.Not every divorce case involves spousal maintenance. If there are children in the marriage, child support is paid separately from spousal maintenance.
Women Become Larger Percentage of Breadwinners
Nearly 40% of women are now the primary or sole source of income in their families. This number has quadrupled since 1960, according to the Pew Research Center. The stereotype (and reality) of divorce and alimony in the past was that the father worked out of the house and supported the family financially, while the mother stayed home and took care of the children. With the rise of women as a primary source of income, this changes the equation.
Over the past several decades, just as our society has experiences cultural shifts with women and mothers in the workforce, the courts have responded bychanging how spousal maintenance and child custody are awarded. In essence, alimony and divorce no longer follow rules based on gender, but are based on the specific situation within that particular family.
First Wives vs. Second Wives
Another phenomenon in the debate over permanent alimony has been cast as “first wives vs. second wives.” In some ways this debate reflects the changes in the workforce and the cultural realities of our times. In the past when permanent alimony was awarded it was to the first wife who had stayed at home and did not pursue her own career in order to support her husband’s career.
As can be seen in the numbers reported by the Pew Research Center, this was the reality for the majority of families through the 60’s and 70’s, even 80’s. When these couples divorced, it was expected that the husband would pay alimony and continue to support the ex-wife who often had custody of the children.
As divorce and second marriages became more common and more women entered the workforce and focused on careers, the reality of permanent or long-term alimony hit home for couples in second marriages.
As the husband pays permanent alimony to their first wives, the second wife’s income may be taken into account in adjusting alimony payment. That leaves the second wife, in essence, supplementing alimony payments to the first wife. In several states, the “second wives” have been a force behind the debate to eliminate permanent alimony. Although the majority of states, such as Arizona, do not have permanent alimony laws, it is still available in a number of states.
As divorce laws meet the changing cultural norms in the United States these will continue to be issues that courts and legislatures must wrestle with, as well as families. Legislators, governors, and the courts will be in the position to balance the needs and rights of all parties in this debate understanding that there will not always be easy answers.