Questions & Answers / Can you explain alimony and spousal maintenance? Does it apply in my situation?

Can you explain alimony and spousal maintenance? Does it apply in my situation?

The term “alimony” is no longer used in Arizona as it traditionally tended to designate sustenance owed by a former husband to his former wife. Arizona has recognized that sometimes these days women are the primary breadwinners and men have sacrificed their careers to follow the wife’s career, raise the children, maintain the household, etc. Therefore the term “spousal maintenance” has been substituted as a gender neutral term.   Awards of spousal maintenance are covered by A.R.S. 25-319. When a judge is deciding on spousal maintenance, it is required that they consider and rule on each of the factors contained in that statute, so it is a good idea to review the statute and present evidence on the factors in the statute when spousal maintenance is an issue in your divorce.    When you look at the factors, you will realize that spousal maintenance is awarded more frequently when the marriage was of long duration, when one spouse sacrificed their career in order to maintain the house, the family, help support the other spouse through extra schooling, or follow the other spouse’s career, when there is a discrepancy in the amount of income each spouse can get at the time of the divorce, and when one spouse would be left unable to support themselves because of the divorce.   

Some judges have used a formula to calculate spousal maintenance, but many judges pride themselves on not using the formula. After several years of disagreement between lawyers and judges on the issue of the formula, a supreme court case agreed that it is acceptable for judges to use the formula, only if the judge also considers the individual factors in the statute. (Cullum v. Cullum, 160 P.3d 231, 507 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 38). The case made it clear that using the formula is ok, but not using the formula is also ok, so the judges have generally not changed their opinions on the formula. Some still use it, some still don’t. It’s safest not to expect it to be used, and no matter what, it’s safest to prepare to address all of the factors in the statute when you’re going to court on an issue of spousal maintenance.


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