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How spousal maintenance works in Arizona

Spousal maintenance, which you may know by its more common name of alimony, can present some difficult issues for divorcing couples in Arizona. Understanding some basics can help you decide on your own goals as you discuss these matters with your attorney.

Either spouse can request maintenance. If you want to do this, you need to include it in your divorce petition or response. Once the court issues the divorce decree, you will not be able to ask for a modification to request maintenance; under some circumstances, you may be able to ask for a change to the amount you pay or receive.

Temporary maintenance

Divorce proceedings can take some time to complete. Courts may award temporary maintenance to tide over the requesting spouse and enable him or her to meet living expenses.

Determining if you can get maintenance at all

Arizona law requires a requesting spouse to meet certain requirements to qualify for maintenance. Courts begin by considering whether your current property, including that which you get in the divorce, and income allow you to meet reasonable expenses. This means looking at whether the property you own or receive from the divorce can generate enough income; you will not have to sell everything you own to qualify for maintenance.

If you are currently not working, a judge may consider how likely it is you can quickly get a job that will pay for reasonable expenses. This can depend on the job market in your area, your current qualifications and experience, your state of health, your age, and your childcare responsibilities.

Another important consideration is whether you contributed to your spouse's earning potential or whether the marriage lasted a substantial amount of time and your age now makes it unlikely you will find adequate employment. In the last scenario, courts are more likely to award indefinite maintenance. In other situations, maintenance will last for a set amount of time.

Figuring out amounts

Once you qualify for maintenance, courts will determine amounts and duration based on several factors, including whether you can expect to begin making enough money eventually, the other spouse's ability to pay while sustaining a reasonable lifestyle and the lifestyle established during the marriage.

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