As an Arizona State Bar Certified Specialist in family law matters in Arizona, I will be watching closely over the next year or two to see how the new Spousal Support Guidelines unfold, and how Judges implement this new tool. Here is what you need to know.
Arizona has long resisted spousal support guidelines, as there are so many variables and factors that a Judge must consider, and no two cases are alike. Arizona has had child support guidelines for years. This resulted in parties knowing within a fairly close range what they would pay (or receive) in child support but having a much wider range of possible results for spousal support.
The new Spousal Support Guidelines are effective July 10, 2023, and include any case filed on or after September 24, 2022 (retroactively).
Once the Court determines that spousal support is applicable (there is no automatic spousal support in any case, but certain criteria must first be demonstrated) the Court must next consider the guidelines. Even within the guidelines, the Judge still has discretion to deviate from the guidelines as to amount. However, the guidelines do not allow a judge to deviate from the range of duration (though the Court may fix the duration anywhere within the available ranges). However, even the longest marriages require spousal maintenance for a minimum of only 12 months, so this limitation is much more a limitation against long duration spousal support awards and seems to be more of a cap on those judges who historically have been very generous with their spousal support awards and durations.
Because the spousal support guidelines are new, it may take a year or two (or longer) for judges and lawyers to fully develop the system, and to test the various aspects of the guidelines. Over time, patterns and practices will emerge. Some test cases may be heard and decided at the court of appeals and Arizona Supreme Court that may provide additional guidance and support to the guidelines.
In other words, while we now have “guidelines” there still remains some uncertainty on how this will all unfold and be implemented.
As such, if you are involved in a divorce, legal separation, or annulment case or other family law case, in which you or your spouse are seeking spousal support, you will want to seek out experienced legal representation. For assistance with your case and a free telephone consultation please call 480 733-6800 and ask to speak with Douglas C. Gardner, or visit our website at: