Spousal maintenance is one of the most subjective decision-making areas in divorce. The issue of whether or not to actually award spousal maintenance is often relatively clear. However, unlike child support, the issues of how much to award and for how long to award spousal maintenance have only the most general statutory guidelines in Arizona to help determine the specifics of these payments. As most divorce attorneys will attest, the specifics of a spousal maintenance award are often the most contentious because so few guidelines are in place.
Since a specific spousal maintenance calculations for how much and how long are not available in Arizona divorces, a rational approach in this area is desirable. The approach I like to take in discussing spousal maintenance with clients takes each of the two considerations as a separate analysis. In looking at how much monthly spousal maintenance to award, it is helpful to first look at what are the reasonable monthly expenses of the parties. This can be a complex consideration because such expenses can be subjective and change over time. However, it is important to arrive at the most reasonable schedule of monthly expenses as possible, however imprecise. This at least allows clients to know what might be necessary, even if sometimes not possible, by way of income flow.
The next consideration is how much the payee/spouse can contribute from their own income toward their monthly expenses. Then, what can the payor/spouse supplement to help the other afford their monthly expenses. Sometimes there is enough and sometimes there is not. Often the issue needs to be balanced such that each party has something, even though it might not be enough. In this case the expenses often need to be pared down.
How long spousal maintenance is paid depends on several factors. Some of these are the payee/spouse’s earning ability, employment capabilities and possibilities and the length of the marriage. These kinds of factors must be put together n each individual case to arrive at a balanced result that will work for each party.