So you and your partner have faced all the key questions and still decided to divorce. What next? Well, first and foremost, you’ll need to sort out your finances. Separating couples must agree on the division of their property, assets, and debts before determining whether alimony is payable. If you’re unable to agree on a mutually acceptable solution, then the courts will decide.
Divorcing parents must also go through that same financial process, but they face additional considerations over child custody, visitation rights, and maintenance.
Alimony and child support typically form part of the settlement of divorcing parents, and the two payments have much in common. Both are focused on allowing all parties to maintain their standard of living. However, there are significant differences in how they’re calculated, the duration, how the payment can be utilized, and more.
If you’re wondering how your finances will work after a divorce in Arizona and whether child support increases when alimony ends, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for a clear description of all the key factors in spousal/child maintenance, how the courts make their decisions, and when you can apply to have the payments changed.
Once custody has been decided, the rules are fairly rigid around setting child support in Arizona. The official online calculator can give you an estimate of potential costs. However, with alimony, judges have far more discretion - and they may even decide that no spousal maintenance is payable.
Under federal law, both parents must support their children, but the real-life financial responsibilities vary from state to state. In Arizona, child support payments are based on the needs of both the children and custodial parent, the income of both parents, the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay, and the child’s standard of living pre-divorce. The courts don’t want to see one parent living in luxury while the other parent and child live in poverty.
When determining alimony, the courts consider a wide range of factors, such as the length of a marriage, whether one parent sacrificed a career to look after children, the respective incomes of each spouse, their ages, and so on. Agreements can be open-ended, but Arizona has a strong reputation for rehabilitative alimony - in other words, payments only last as long as it takes for the recipient to re-establish their independence and become self-sufficient. There are no stipulations on how alimony is spent, whereas all child support payments must go towards child welfare.
And what about when alimony stops? Does your child support automatically increase? The answer is: it depends. Although your ex will now have more disposable income to factor into child support calculations, other factors might also have changed, like your own disposable income. Accordingly, you’ll need to consult with a legal professional to decide whether you have a case.
As with alimony, many factors influence the amount and duration of child support. Changes in salary, your kids’ ages, and maintenance of the standard of living are three of the most important elements, so let’s consider each in a little more detail.
If one party has a significant change in salary, it’s possible to ask the courts to modify their order. This can work both ways - a reduction if the parent is no longer able to work because of an injury, or an increase because they have a better-paid job, or because the custodial parent faces significant additional expenditures related to the child.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances - say a child is disabled and requires permanent care - child support in Arizona typically ends when they reach 18 or 19 if they’re in high school.
Judges take a pragmatic approach to maintaining the living standards of parents and children. Pre-divorce, there may have been two incomes and one household. Post-divorce, the incomes may not change, but now there are two households to support.
The courts will try to ensure that there are no changes to the standard of living for everyone while recognizing that there may be some practical financial reasons why that can’t happen.
In some divorces, the gap between partners is so large that the only reasonable option available is a court case. However, there are definite advantages if you and your ex can settle without going that far. Avoiding court tends to be faster and less expensive; plus, it prevents the bitterness and lasting animosity that are sometimes part of litigation. Moreover, it means that you and your former partner - not the judge - retain control over the final agreement.
Before involving the courts, it’s a good idea to look at all the alternatives: you may find that something like a legal separation suits you better, for example.
Alimony, child support payments, and visitation rights are all part of your final settlement but are not interdependent. If one parent denies visitation rights because the other missed a payment, technically, both parties are in contempt of court. The best solution is to resolve your differences amicably.
Denying visitation over missed payments could backfire on you, so don’t be tempted!
By using a lawyer as a mediator, you may be able to avoid the time, expense, and emotional distress that are often associated with a court appearance. Also, you can call upon their expert knowledge and long experience to ensure that you reach the best possible settlement.
And if your case does go to court, your attorney can provide professional, effective, and supportive legal representation.
The laws around alimony and child support in Arizona are complex and challenging to understand. To make sure you - and your children - aren’t missing out on proper support, call the friendly and helpful team at Marble for a free consultation. You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain!