There are several factors the judge is required to consider before ordering one spouse to pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse.
The first question a judge has to answer is whether the requesting party even qualifies for an award of spousal maintenance. To answer that question the judge must consider the factors set out in A.R.S. §25-319(A).
In Arizona, in order to qualify for spousal maintenance, you have to fit in one of the following general categories:
- you are unable to meet your reasonable needs with your property, including property you will be awarded as part of the divorce;
- you are unable to support yourself with appropriate employment;
- you contributed to the education of your spouse; or
- you have had a long marriage and you are of an age that may preclude you from obtaining appropriate employment to support yourself.
Terms like “reasonable needs” and “appropriate employment” muddy the waters and account for the subjective nature of spousal maintenance awards in Arizona. Recent trends of spousal maintenance in Maricopa County have shown judges taking a “conservative” approach to both determining eligibility and deciding the final amount and duration of spousal maintenance awards. This means that if the potential receiving spouse is capable of working and fully supporting themselves (meeting their own “reasonable needs”), that spouse likely will not qualify for spousal maintenance regardless of how much money the other spouse makes. In other words, the issue of disparity of income does not determine whether the lower paid spouse is entitled to receive spousal maintenance.
For these reasons, it is important that you consult with an attorney early in the divorce process. It is imperative that you are aware of the likely outcomes to best position yourself in your case. If you would like to work with one of our experienced Attorneys, please call OWENS & PERKINS at480.994.8824 to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.