Should Spousal Maintenance be paid?
It may or may not be the case that you or your spouse meets Arizona’s legal requirements for spousal maintenance. When the requirements for spousal maintenance are met, one spouse may be required to assist the other spouse in achieving reasonable economic independence. This may occur through the payment of spousal maintenance for some period of time. In Arizona, there is no formula to determine whether spousal maintenance should be paid. There are general legal guidelines, but at best they only point the way in answering this question without providing specific answers. Because of this, an attorney must thoroughly evaluate your circumstances before making a spousal maintenance recommendation.
The general legal guidelines that are used to decide whether spousal maintenance should be paid are:
- Does the receiving spouse have sufficient separate assets for economic independence?
- Is the receiving spouse able to be economically independent through appropriate employment?
- Is the receiving spouse taking care of the parties’ small children?
- Has the receiving spouse contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse?
- Has there been a marriage of long duration?
- Is the receiving spouse of an age that precludes the possibility of economic independence?
How Much Spousal Maintenance Should be Paid?
Since there is no formula in Arizona for determining the amount of spousal maintenance to be paid, answering the following questions may help you make that determination:
- What is the couple’s standard of living?
- What are the receiving spouse’s reasonable expenses?
- What portion of these expenses can the potential receiving spouse pay through his or her own employment or other income, including interest income earned from investments?
- What is the “shortfall” between the receiving spouse’s expenses and what that spouse can independently contribute to meet these expenses?
- What is the paying spouse’s income?
- What are the paying spouse’s reasonable expenses?
- Can the paying spouse reasonably afford to pay the “shortfall” amount needed by the receiving spouse to meet his/her expenses and still have sufficient income remaining to meet his/her own reasonable expenses?
- What other options are available to help the receiving spouse meet the “shortfall” between income and expenses.
Your attorney should fully explore these questions to help you arrive at a reasonable spousal maintenance solution.
How Long Will Spousal Maintenance Be Paid?
In determining how long spousal maintenance will be paid, consider the following:
- What educational or employment plan will result in the receiving spouse either becoming employed and/or earning an income sufficient to support a standard of living reasonably similar to the one enjoyed during the marriage? You may need assistance from your attorney to help with this often-complex determination.
- How long will it take the receiving spouse to complete the plan?
- Is the plan reasonable given both parties’ circumstances?
- Are the paying spouse’s circumstances such that spousal maintenance can be paid for the time period requested?
Consult Your Attorney about Spousal Maintenance
Like parenting orders for children, spousal maintenance is an area of domestic relations law that requires an attorney’s experience and skill in fashioning an order that is fair and workable. This means that a spousal maintenance obligation must be sufficient for the receiving spouse, and it must not be overly burdensome for the paying spouse.