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How do judges make spousal support determinations in AZ?

Spousal maintenance, also called alimony or spousal support, can be an important resource for a disadvantaged spouse after divorce. It can also be a significant burden to the paying spouse. When considering the issue of spousal support in Arizona, judges have broad discretion to award or not.

Generally, judges will first consider whether one spouse is entitled to spousal support. Arizona law spells out several reasons a court might find such entitlement. If one party does not have property to meet their reasonable needs, that can be a reason for support. Another reason might be that one spouse is not financially self-sufficient through employment or that, because of the need to care for a young or disabled child, a spouse is unable to seek employment or cannot find work that would bring in sufficient money.

Other factors include that a spouse contributed to the other spouse's educational opportunities or that the marriage was long enough and the party is old enough that finding adequate employment is not possible, at least not right away.

If entitlement to support is found, a determination needs to be made regarding the amount to be paid and the length of time it is to be paid. These determinations, under state law, are not to be made with respect to any marital misconduct. Factors the court takes into consideration include: the length of the marriage; the standard of living during the marriage; the financial resources of the spouse seeking support; and any contributions the spouse seeking support made to the other spouse's earning ability.

In our next post, we'll talk a bit more about the types of alimony that can be awarded, and how couples can take more control over spousal support determinations before they are even married.

Source: Arizona Center For Divorce Education, "Spousal Maintenance," Accessed Nov. 5, 2014.

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