Alimony, known as spousal maintenance in Arizona, often becomes a disputed legal issue when a couple ends a marriage. Spousal support can affect both spouses' finances after divorce. One spouse may worry about not receiving enough alimony, while the other spouse might fear the court will require too much alimony. In Arizona, state law establishes a list of factors to determine whether a spouse qualifies to receive spousal maintenance.
Alimony Factors in Arizona Law
Arizona has established a list of alimony factors in the Arizona Revised Statutes. The list of factors allows a state court to grant spousal maintenance if required by at least one factor on the list — however, no single factor automatically disqualifies a spouse from receiving alimony. Each spouse's alimony rights depend on a state court's review of the alimony factors included in state law. As the factors relevant to each couple may vary, each spouse might benefit from legal advice given by an attorney with expertise in Arizona divorces.
Duration of Marriage
The duration of the couple's marriage may affect whether a spouse qualifies for alimony. Arizona divorce laws specifically include the duration of the marriage as one of the factors considered by the state courts when deciding whether to award spousal maintenance. However, state law does not identify a minimum duration that would qualify a spouse to receive alimony.
Each Spouse's Finances and Personal Circumstances
Arizona's alimony factors take into account each spouse's personal circumstances, financial situation and employment. State law specifically considers whether the spouse requesting alimony lacks sufficient property or ability to become self-sufficient through employment. Although a significant amount of property or a high income through employment might affect the court's determination of alimony, the court may consider all factors established by Arizona law when issuing a court order for spousal maintenance.
Fault in Ending the Marriage
A spouse might wonder if fault in ending the marriage can disqualify someone from receiving alimony. For example, a husband or wife might want to limit alimony for an unfaithful spouse. In the dissolution of a regular marriage that is not a covenant marriage in Arizona, the only ground considered is whether the spouses have an irretrievably broken marriage. Although Arizona divorce laws allow for a discussion of each spouse's conduct during the dissolution of a covenant marriage, the state's alimony factors do not specifically include a factor for marital misconduct and other fault grounds. Accordingly, a spouse's marital misconduct does not automatically lead to disqualification from alimony.
A couple can choose to limit or eliminate alimony through a premarital agreement, which is an optional contract signed by the parties before marriage. In the event of a divorce, an Arizona court may uphold the couple's agreement and disqualify a spouse from receiving alimony. Arizona divorce laws include an exception, however, if a spouse would otherwise become eligible for public assistance or welfare benefits without alimony — in this situation, a state court may decline to uphold the premarital agreement barring spousal maintenance.