Arizona courts use several factors to determine whether a divorcing spouse qualifies for spousal support and to calculate the amount of the spousal support award. In order to award spousal support, Arizona statute ARS 25-319 requires a court to find that the spouse who seeks spousal maintenance needs it. Then the statute requires the court to determine the amount and duration of the award. The court can award either temporary or permanent alimony. The amount and length of alimony must be fair and just to both parties, without considering any marital misconduct. The court also considers the financial resources and earning potential of each spouse.
An Arizona family law court awards alimony as part of a legal separation or divorce. For a divorce, the court must find a irretrievable breakdown of the marriage that warrants a permanent dissolution. In Arizona, the court can order one of three types of spousal maintenance: rehabilitative, compensatory and permanent. Rehabilitative spousal support is temporary support, to allow the spouse time to retrain and to re-enter the workforce. Compensatory spousal support pays back the spouse for her contributions to the other spouse's education and career. Permanent spousal support refers to long-term support, without a defined end. In an uncontested divorce, the parties can submit a settlement agreement to the court that includes spousal support. In a contested divorce, the judge must determine if the spouse who seeks spousal maintenance qualifies for support, how much to award and for what duration.
Arizona courts take a two-step approach to determine an alimony award. The court first considers four factors that pertain to the spouse's request for spousal maintenance. The four factors include the requesting spouse's lack of personal property, inability to be self-sufficient, contributions to the other spouse's education, age of the spouse, and duration of the marriage. The age of the spouse and the duration of marriage are relevant if they affect the requesting spouse's ability gain employment. If the court finds the requesting spouse meets any of these factors, the court then determines the amount of an alimony award and the duration.
The Alimony Award
Arizona does not use a specific state formula to calculate the amount of alimony. The court considers many factors, including the standard of living maintained throughout the marriage and the duration of the marriage. It also considers the education, employment history and earning potential of the spouse who seeks spousal maintenance. For example, if a working spouse recently became a stay-at-home parent to care for a newborn, the court may award temporary spousal support until the child reaches school age and the spouse returns to work. On the other hand, the court may award permanent spousal support to a spouse who never worked throughout a 20-year marriage and supported the other spouse's career ambitions by managing the home. The court also considers the other spouse's ability to pay temporary or permanent alimony.
Alimony Termination and Modification
Depending on the age of the spouse who seeks spousal support, the court can award temporary alimony or the court may award permanent alimony. Courts award temporary alimony payments from a few months to several years, depending on the family's circumstances. For example, a spouse who seeks spousal support may be in the last year of college before she is able to enter the workforce. Courts potentially award permanent alimony to older spouses or those with disabilities, health issues or no earning potential. The courts terminate or modify alimony awards based on changed circumstances, such as new employment, remarriage or inheritance of the receiving spouse. Alimony awards can be modified, unless both spouses agree to a non-modified award. The court can approve an agreement between the couple not to modify the spousal support, if the court finds it fair.