Many important decisions need to be made in a divorce, such as child custody and division of assets. But one of the more contentious areas often concerns the payment of alimony (or spousal support).
You may be under the impression that you’ll automatically receive spousal support because your spouse cheated on you or because your spouse works and you don’t. Yet, the reality is somewhat different.
If you’re going through a divorce in Arizona, read on to learn more about spousal support. Regardless of whether you’re expecting to pay or receive alimony, we’ll tell you what you need to know, including who qualifies, the proof required, and how the courts decide on the amount and duration of payments. We’ll also explain why it’s generally better to try and reach a settlement outside of the courts.
To gain consideration for spousal support, you must prove that it’s needed and that your spouse can pay it. You may be eligible for alimony in cases where:
It’s important to remember that every divorce case is unique, so what happened in previous rulings may not apply to your situation.
There are a few additional points of interest. First, Arizona is a no-fault divorce state, so courts give no weight to whether one of the partners has committed adultery or is to blame for the split. Next, alimony ends upon the death of either party, if the recipient remarries, or if the recipient moves in with a new partner.
Finally, it may be possible to modify alimony payments to reflect a significant change in circumstances, such as when your child support payment ends. That said, if you agreed to no modifications in your original settlement, it might prove difficult to impossible to adjust it.
It’s usually in the interests of both parties to reach an agreement on spousal support without the need to go to court. Going to court is often a drawn-out, laborious, and expensive process, and there are no guarantees: both parties should be aware that the judge may well rule that alimony isn’t payable. Settling out of court can also avoid some of the lingering bitterness that’s sometimes associated with a confrontational court case.
If your situation is such that you can’t avoid court, the presiding judge will consider a wide range of factors before reaching any verdict on alimony. So let’s now consider three key areas which can and do influence the judge's decision:
It’s often the case that when children arrive, one parent puts their career on hold while the other continues to work. The courts recognize this sacrifice, and they also consider it if you made a financial contribution to the other partner’s vocational training or education.
After a divorce, one ex may be obliged to return to the job market. Still, that can take time, plus they may need additional training and education. That’s where rehabilitative alimony comes in. This form of maintenance is payable for as long as it takes the recipient to learn new skills which enable them to become financially self-sufficient again.
The respective incomes of both spouses are always taken into account. Judges don’t want to see one partner living in the lap of luxury while the other struggles to make ends meet. This is especially true where children are involved. As much as possible, judges aim to maintain the living standards of both partners.
In exceptional cases, courts may award permanent alimony, but limited-time, rehabilitative support is more common. There’s a long list of factors that a judge must consider when deciding on the amount and duration of any settlement.
These include the length of the marriage, the age and health of the spouses, their respective financial circumstances, the standard of living pre-divorce, the support/contribution by one partner to furthering the career of the other, and the paying spouse’s ability to pay.
It’s rare enough for alimony settlements to be open-ended. Typically judges in Arizona will limit the duration to as long as it takes for the recipient to re-establish their financial independence.
You may have a vision of a savvy divorce lawyer brilliantly arguing your case in court and securing a massive victory for you. That may well be true, but the best divorce attorney can also support you in many other ways. These include helping you prepare for separation and acting as a skilled and trusted mediator in settlement negotiations.
Of course, if your case ends up before a judge, your divorce lawyer can still represent you effectively in court and help to secure the best possible outcome.
One final point. Both sides in a divorce case sometimes forget that different judges have contrasting interpretations of the law. That makes it even more critical to work with a top family law attorney because they have the knowledge, expertise, and experience of how the system and judges work.
What happens in a divorce has a profound impact on all aspects of your life, so it’s critical you get everything right. We can make all the difference, so call us now for a free consultation with a divorce attorney.