Are you entitled to spousal maintenance?

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Are you entitled to spousal maintenance?

Daniel J. Siegel, P.C., spousal maintenance, married couple divorcing with moneyI am often asked,

“If my spouse files for divorce, will I get spousal maintenance?”

“How much spousal maintenance will I get and how long will I get it?”

These questions are understandable for anyone facing a divorce. However, the first question to ask is: Does that spouse qualify for an award of spousal maintenance?

Arizona Statutes

The law governing spousal maintenance is set forth in A.R.S. §25-319(A). That part of the statute states as follows:

A. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation, or a proceeding for maintenance following dissolution of the marriage by a court that lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, the court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse for any of the following reasons if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:

1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs.
2. 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 or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.
4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.

The typical spousal maintenance recipient usually qualifies pursuant to A.R.S. §25-319(A)(4), meaning the couple has been married for a long time and one spouse was out of the work force for most of the marriage and will not be able to find employment to be adequately self-sufficient. In that situation, unless the parties’ marital community has amassed significant assets that will provide for that spouse’s “reasonable needs” that spouse will typically be entitled to spousal maintenance.

What’s Next?

Once it is determined that a spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance pursuant to A.R.S. 25-319(A), then the court must determine the amount of maintenance and for how long.

A.R.S. 25-319(B) sets forth some of the factors that the court will consider in determining how much spousal maintenance to order and for how long.

A.R.S. 25-319(B) states as follows:

B. The maintenance order shall be in an amount and for a period of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and after considering all relevant factors, including:

1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
2. The duration of the marriage.
3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
8. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
9. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently.
10. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.
11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
12. The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
13. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.

In Arizona, it is clear the award of spousal maintenance is a discretionary decision that is left up to the sound discretion of the assigned trial court judge.

In the Arizona Court of Appeals decision of Hardin v. Hardin 163 Ariz. 501, 788 P.2d 1252 (Ariz.App. 1990), the Arizona Court of Appeals explained as follows:

“The trial court’s grant of spousal maintenance is governed under A.R.S. § 25-319. An award of spousal maintenance is within the sound discretion of the trial court. Our review is limited to determining whether the trial court abused its discretion in awarding spousal maintenance.”

When it comes to the issue of spousal maintenance, there is no easy equation or formula to determine how much or for how long.  Anyone facing a spousal maintenance claim should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.

Daniel J. Siegel is a Certified Specialist in Family Law by the State Bar of Arizona. For help with spousal maintenance issues or any other legal matter, call Daniel J. Siegel, P.C. at 602-274-1099.

This article is for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice, nor is it intended to be. Readers should not act upon the information contained herein without first seeking the advice of a qualified attorney. Please contact Daniel J. Siegel, P.C. with any questions, 602-274-1099.

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