Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support, is often a contentious issue in divorce, even when it is obvious that one spouse was financially dependent on the other spouse during the marriage. Arizona is a community property state, which means that each spouse is entitled to 50% of the marital property in a divorce. All assets and income acquired by either spouse during the marriage are considered marital property, as are debts that either spouse incurred during the marriage; the only exceptions are inherited property, personal injury awards, and assets and debts deemed non-marital in a prenuptial agreement.
When one spouse has a much higher income than the other, then receiving half of the marital property may not be enough to make the financially disadvantaged spouse financially independent of the wealthier spouse, and the court might order the wealthier spouse to pay spousal maintenance. Cases in which one spouse has to make monthly alimony payments indefinitely are rare, but it is easy to feel that your ex is asking for too much alimony or refusing to pay a reasonable amount. An Arizonaspousal support lawyer can help you resolve disputes related to alimony.
Not All Divorces Involve Alimony
Because of Arizona’s community property laws, the courts do not have to decide on a case-by-case basis what constitutes each spouse’s fair share of marital property. Therefore, it is usually easy for the parties to be financially independent of each other as soon as the divorce is finalized. If the couple has minor children, the court determines child support independently of alimony; almost all divorce cases in which there are minor children resolve with one former spouse paying child support to the other. This is due not only to the disparity in the parties’ income but also because of how many days per year each parent is with the children.
The courts only award alimony if the less wealthy spouse would be destitute without it or if the less wealthy spouse, but not the wealthier spouse, would be left with a much lower standard of living than what the parties enjoyed during the marriage. Likewise, if the less wealthy spouse is unable to earn income, he or she is more likely to receive alimony.
Types of Alimony in Arizona
Some states differentiate among many different categories of alimony, but Arizona recognizes only three types, namely pendente lite alimony, temporary periodic alimony, and permanent periodic alimony. The most common type of alimony is pendente lite alimony; the Latin phrase pendente lite means “while the lawsuit is ongoing.” It is a court order requiring the wealthier spouse to continue to deposit money in the marital bank account or pay household bills while the divorce is in progress. Pendente lite always ends when the divorce becomes final; in some cases, it is replaced by a different alimony award after the divorce is complete, but in others, the parties simply go their separate ways financially.
Temporary periodic alimony is paid in monthly or biweekly installments for a fixed period of time. The duration of temporary periodic alimony can be as long as the duration of the marriage, but it is usually much shorter. In many cases, the recipient of temporary periodic alimony has been out of the workforce during the marriage and returns to work after the divorce, so he or she will become financially independent of the wealthier spouse within a few years.
Permanent periodic alimony is an option only when the couple was married for a long time. This usually means that the parties have reached retirement age, or that they will soon be eligible to retire. Even if the parties are below the age of 60, the court might order permanent periodic alimony if the less wealthy spouse is unable to work due to a disability or because he or she is a primary caregiver for a family member with a disability.
In some cases, the court might order one spouse to pay a lump sum to the other or divide marital assets unequally in order to avoid the need for alimony. For example, a stay-at-home mother might not need alimony if the court awards her the marital home and if she returns to the workforce by the time the divorce is final. This situation is preferable to alimony because it enables the parties to make a clean break from each other financially.
Contact Singular Law Group About Alimony Disputes
A family law attorney can help you be financially secure after divorce if you depended on your spouse financially during your marriage.Contact Singular Law Group PLLC in Tempe, Arizona to set up a consultation.