Chandler spousal maintenance lawyer
Providing legal guidance on spousal maintenance and alimony matters to people through the Phoenix Valley, including Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, and Ahwatukee
With the rise in two-income households, spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is not as common as it once was. But because it may be a factor in a divorce, it’s important to understand what spousal maintenance is and how it works in Arizona. If you don’t, you might end up paying too much or receiving too little. Be sure to consult with a Chandler spousal maintenance lawyer who can review your situation, guide you through the legal complexities, and help you get what you deserve.
The purpose of spousal maintenance or alimony
Spousal maintenance is perhaps the least understood aspect of divorce. If you listen to cocktail-party talk, you may hear that it is always awarded and that it is the bane of existence for the payor and a coveted prize for the payee. The reality is much less dramatic or black-and-white.
Spousal maintenance is a temporary equalizer to help ease the transition when one spouse has focused most, if not all, of his or her effort on making a living to provide for the family’s financial needs (usually, but not always, the husband) while the other spouse has maintained the household and taken care of any children (usually, but not always, the wife). The stay-at-home spouse doesn’t get a paycheck but supports the working spouse in the advancement of his or her career. This spouse fills the traditional homemaker role, which might include cooking, cleaning, maintaining the house and yard, driving the family taxi, shopping, running errands, paying the bills, and similar tasks.
The likelihood of receiving spousal maintenance
Many divorcing spouses expect to receive spousal maintenance. But it’s best not to expect anything. Judges are becoming increasingly hesitant to award any spousal maintenance because, in these modern times, men and women—at least in theory—are equally capable of supporting themselves.
This theory does not always match reality because studies show that the so-called glass ceiling, or disparity in earning power between men and women, still exists. Also, it’s hard for a spouse who stays home for years to resume his or her chosen career, at least at the wages or salary previously enjoyed, once the kids become adults. This is especially true when unemployment is high.
What the court reviews and considers in awarding spousal maintenance
Under Arizona law, a judge may award spousal maintenance in a divorce if one of the parties meets one or more of these criteria:
- The payee lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for his or her reasonable needs.
- The payee is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home.
- The payee contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.
- The payee had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.
If you think you may meet one or more of these criteria, it is best to consult with an Chandler spousal maintenance lawyer about requesting that spousal maintenance be provided for in the divorce decree.
How the court determines the amount and duration of spousal maintenance
The amount and duration of a spousal-maintenance award is hard to predict and may vary wildly from couple to couple. Arizona law says the court must review and consider “all relevant factors,” many of which are spelled out in a lengthy list.
Many of the issues discussed previously would be relevant in determining spousal maintenance. So would other issues that may or may not apply to your situation, such as:
- The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
- The length of the marriage.
- The prospective payee’s age, work history, earning power, and physical or emotional health.
- How easy it would be for the prospective recipient to get health insurance, or remain on or be added to the other spouse’s insurance.
- The time needed to acquire sufficient schooling or training to re-enter the job market.
- Whether and the degree to which either spouse fraudulently disposed of community assets.
- The payee’s projected monthly expenses as a single person.
- Whether the couple has minor children and what their ages are.
- Whether the couple has a handicapped child needing lifelong care.
The court grants whatever the couple agrees to, but only if the court deems it to be reasonable, fair, and just. A court is unlikely to award spousal maintenance for a term longer than half the number of years the couple was married.
Why ask for spousal maintenance
Look at spousal maintenance not as a huge windfall to be won but as a nice surprise if you can get it. Although it is rarely ample to cover every conceivable financial need of a former spouse, it can help a stay-at-home mother or father transition into becoming a more self-sufficient single custodial parent or get his or her pre-birthing career back on track. It also can ease the transition for an older stay-at-home wife into single retiree status.
Spousal maintenance may not truly be needed. Or a spouse may be eligible but willing to forego the award in exchange for something else even more important, such as custody of the minor children, health insurance, or remaining in the family home. So it’s all about balancing the needs and desires of both spouses to arrive at a reasonable compromise. If the parties cannot agree, then the court reviews the matter and decides what it considers best for all involved.