If divorce is in your future this year, particularly if you’ve been married for many years, you may plan to seek alimony (known as “spousal maintenance” in Arizona). If you’ve looked at the law, you’ve likely seen that judges consider a number of factors when determining how much maintenance, if any, to order one spouse to pay the other in litigated divorce cases.
These factors include the length of the marriage, the age of both spouses, their financial resources and earning capacity and more. Although the list may be in no particular order, at the top is the “standard of living established during the marriage.” This refers to the quality of life or the lifestyle that a spouse who’s seeking support has grown used to during the marriage.
This standard comes into play in some cases more than others. One example where this could be a crucial consideration is when a couple has been married for decades and one spouse left the workforce long ago to raise the children, take care of the home, manage social obligations and maybe provide unpaid help to their spouse in their business.
Practical applications of this standard
Say that a non-dependent spouse is now earning a significant amount of money while a spouse seeking maintenance can’t possibly expect to earn anywhere close to that. Even if their marital property is divided roughly evenly, it can still be reasonable for the lesser- or non-earning spouse to seek enough maintenance from a spouse who far out-earns them to provide them with a standard of living comparable to what they’ve been living. Living as a single person is more costly than cohabiting as a couple.
Of course, if you are divorcing and your spouse has greater earning capacity and resists that idea, it will be necessary to make a strong case for why you should receive enough maintenance to continue to support your marital standard of living. If your age, health or other circumstances prevent you from acquiring the necessary education, skills or contacts to get a high-paying job, for example, that would be an important argument to present. If you contributed to your spouse’s success — for example, by working to put them through medical school — that’s an important factor as well.
It’s generally preferable if divorcing couples can arrive at a spousal maintenance agreement on their own, with the guidance of their legal teams. However, it’s crucial to be able to make a solid case for the spousal maintenance you’re seeking – if you are, indeed, seeking alimony – regardless of how the decision is made.