Going through a divorce can wreak havoc on your finances as well as your emotions. For many women, therefore, divorce is not just heartbreaking, it’s also scary. “How will I support myself post-divorce?” is a question I hear frequently.
Spousal maintenance, or alimony, is one of the most important aspects of a divorce agreement. Some states have a formula for determining the appropriate amount of spousal maintenance, but Arizona has no such formula. As a result, it is crucial to have someone on your team who can build a case for you to receive the support you will need to be financially secure going forward.
At Bridge Divorce Strategies, we are here to help you navigate the complexities of spousal maintenance and help you achieve financial stability after your divorce. In this blog post, we will discuss the guidelines for spousal maintenance in Arizona and how we can assist you with obtaining the support you need..
The Basics of Alimony in Arizona
Alimony is the amount of money paid to a former spouse to help them maintain their lifestyle after a divorce. As a concept, alimony was designed to help a lower-earning spouse avoid becoming destitute after a divorce.
Most of the divorce cases we handle involve marriages where the husband is the higher-income earner and therefore the payor of alimony. Traditionally, the wife is the homemaker and stay-at-home mom who has supported her husband while building his career over a long-term marriage. In these situations, the family’s plan has been for the wife to forego a career. If there is a divorce, she is disadvantaged by not being able to earn income at the rate she would have been if she had been in the workforce during the marriage.
As such, alimony is designed to help cover a portion of the gap between her previous lifestyle and the amount she will reasonably be able to earn in the future if any.
How does the Court Determine Alimony?
Often, temporary orders are put in place at the time a couple separates to provide a temporary alimony amount during the divorce process. In my experience, this amount is often what ends up being the amount in the divorce decree. As such, it is important to obtain the highest amount possible for temporary orders. The amount you end up receiving post-divorce will not likely be higher than your temporary order amount.
In Arizona, the Court considers a number of factors when deciding whether or not to award spousal maintenance at all and to determine the amount and duration of the support. These factors include the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, each spouse’s earning capacity, and other financial resources.
Since there is no specific formula for determining alimony in Arizona, it can be difficult to estimate how much a Court might award. At Bridge Divorce Strategies, however, we can help you by building a case for the amount of alimony you will need to support your lifestyle based on your unique situation. We take into account the financial resources available to you and calculate your living expenses to determine an appropriate alimony amount.
How is Child Support Affected by Alimony?
Child support is formula-driven, based on the respective incomes of the two spouses. Spousal maintenance reduces the payor’s income and increases the payee’s income, so if you are awarded alimony, the amount of child support you will receive will be reduced. In other words, the alimony you receive is expected to be used to fund your pro rata share of the children’s expenses, so it needs to be enough to cover that as well as your own personal and housing expenses.
For example, if your husband earns $200,000/year and you earn nothing but are awarded $50,000/year in spousal maintenance, the $50,000 is considered your income. His income is treated as being $150,000/year after paying the alimony. Therefore, you are responsible for providing one-third ($50,000/$150,000) of the children’s financial support. He would still be ordered to pay you child support, but the amount would be less than if you did not receive the alimony. However, the increase in monthly income due to the alimony will be more than the reduction in child support, so you would still rather receive the spousal maintenance than not.
Bottom line? If you receive alimony, you may receive less in child support.
AZ Alimony Has No Formula
Unlike other states such as California, Arizona does not have a crystal-clear formula for determining alimony. That leaves a lot of room for negotiation between both parties involved. For this reason, it is important to make sure that you have someone on your team who is a divorce financial expert and can build a case for the spousal maintenance you will need to be financially secure.
In the next section, we will review the factors that are considered in determining an alimony award under Arizona law. At Bridge Divorce Strategies, we understand these factors and can build a strong case for the highest spousal maintenance award possible.
Although the Court ultimately has the power to order spousal maintenance and determine both the amount and the duration, it is important to note that over 95% of divorce cases in Arizona are settled outside the courtroom. Therefore, it is important to have a strong plan and the evidence to support you receiving the alimony you will need to move forward in your new life as a single person as part of your attorney’s negotiations.
Factors Considered in Determining Alimony
When determining alimony payments, the Court considers a variety of factors in order to determine the amount and duration of payments. These include:
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age, employment history, earning ability, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
- The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
- The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
- The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
- The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
- The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
- 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.
- 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.
- Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment, or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy, and other property held in common.
- 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.
- All actual damages and judgments from conduct that resulted in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or a child was the victim.
Types of Alimony in Arizona
In Arizona, the court can grant one of three types of alimony to a former spouse — rehabilitative, compensatory, or permanent.
- Rehabilitative alimony is designed to provide a former spouse with the resources and training needed to become self-supporting. In recent years, Arizona courts have trended toward awarding rehabilitative alimony.
- Compensatory alimony is a fairly uncommon type of alimony in which the court requires one party to pay the other for what was a de facto investment in their future. This might include paying for a degree or a certification.
- Permanent alimony provides ongoing support for a spouse who may not have the resources or capability to become self-supporting, as in the case of total disability.
Spousal maintenance, when part of a divorce case, is often the biggest item to negotiate and is the item that has the largest financial impact on the recipient’s future. You only get one chance to get it right, so make sure you have the right help–a solid attorney and a divorce financial expert.
Building a Financial Case for Alimony
As you can see from the list of factors, the decision to award alimony in Arizona is a complex one. The Court needs evidence to support a certain amount of support. However, it is possible to build a strong financial case for spousal maintenance with the help of a divorce financial advisor like Bridge Divorce Strategies.
Much depends on your ability to prove your standard of living during your marriage. To do that, you’ll need documentation establishing your pre-divorce lifestyle. This can include credit statements, bank statements, insurance benefit summaries, credit reports, tax returns, and other financial documents. Working together with Bridge Divorce Strategies, you can build a compelling case for alimony.
Ultimately, if negotiations fail and your divorce ends up being in the 5% of cases that are settled in court, the decision to award alimony rests with the Court. However, with Bridge Divorce Strategies’s help and other supporting evidence, you can ensure that your case is presented in the best possible light to help the judge order the alimony you need.
Modification and Termination of Alimony Orders
Alimony awards can be either modifiable or non-modifiable. There are pros and cons to each. If you have a non-modifiable award, the only reason it will terminate is due to your remarriage or the death of either you or your former spouse, per Arizona law. The benefit of non-modifiable alimony is that it will never be reduced due to increases in your own income. The downside is that it will also not be increased if your former spouse begins earning more money. In Arizona, it is difficult to modify spousal maintenance, so it is important to make sure you get the right amount and duration at the time of your divorce.
Modifications can be requested when the paying spouse’s income has been reduced or if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the initial order was issued. Termination of alimony is not as straightforward as modifications and typically requires a court hearing.
In Arizona, the Court may consider a modification or termination of spousal maintenance if the person can demonstrate there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances.
As with all areas of divorce law, it is important to be as informed as possible about your specific situation and the nuances of Arizona’s divorce laws. Bridge Divorce Strategies can help you with building the financial case your attorney will need to negotiate alimony agreements as well as modify or terminate existing alimony orders.
Enforcing an Alimony Order
An alimony order is a legally binding contract between the two parties, and the Court has the power to enforce the terms of the order. Depending on the individual case, there are a variety of ways to enforce an alimony order, such as wage garnishment, liens, or even criminal and/or civil penalties for non-payment. However, it is important to be aware of the specific laws in your state regarding the enforcement of alimony orders.
In Arizona, it is the responsibility of the payee (the party receiving alimony) to pursue enforcement action if the payor (the party paying alimony) has failed to make payments. The Court can issue an income withholding order for wages, as well as issue an order that requires the delinquent payor to appear before a judge and explain why payments have not been made.
If a payor still fails to comply with the order, then more extreme measures may be taken, such as seizing assets, placing liens on property, or suspending a driver’s license or passport
In conclusion, alimony is a simple concept designed to help former spouses maintain roughly equivalent standards of living after a divorce. Many women, however, leave alimony money on the table during the divorce negotiations. Often they’re tired, frustrated, or just don’t know they should get more.
If that’s you, give us a call. At Bridge Divorce Strategies, we can help you get every penny you and your family deserve.