Spousal Support / Alimony FAQs
The terms alimony, spousal support, and spousal maintenance are often used interchangeably in Arizona. It is an award paid by one spouse to another after a divorce to financially support that spouse to a reasonable and necessary extent.
There are a few factors that will be considered when determining spousal support in Arizona. The first is that the spouse requesting support doesn’t have the property or income to support their financial needs. Secondly, the court will consider the spouse’s potential for self-sufficiency through employment. If one spouse supported the other during an educational period, or stayed home to raise the kids and take care of the home, this will factor into the ruling. If it was a long marriage and it wouldn’t be reasonable for the spouse to begin working at an old age, support may be awarded.
Once it is determined that a spouse will be awarded support, the court will look at subsequent factors to determine how much support to award. These include the duration of the marriage, earning capacity of the spouses, the standard of living during the marriage, the contributions of one spouse to the earning potential of the other spouse, excessive expenditures by one spouse, the ability of each spouse to provide for the future of their children, if one spouse maintains health insurance, and damages from criminal convictions in which one spouse was the victim.
Hiring an attorney isn’t required, but being represented by an attorney is the best way to ensure you achieve the closest possible outcome to your ideal. If your spouse is represented by an attorney, you should be too or risk low or no support at all. Your spouse may even be ordered to pay for your attorney’s fees in the divorce. Some attorneys offer free consultations, so you should at the very least schedule one of these to see what their advice is to you.
Alimony may be modified if there is a “substantial and continuing change in circumstances” to support a modification. For example, the spouse receiving support may remarry or move in with a new partner. They may also find a new job or get a raise where awarding support would no longer be necessary or appropriate.
Alimony will automatically be terminated when either spouse passes away, or if the spouse receiving support remarries. The spousal support award may stipulate that support will be terminated at a certain date. If circumstances change enough to warrant termination of support as opposed to modification, the court retains jurisdiction to do so. The spouse paying support will have to request a modification from the court and prove the change of circumstances through evidence.
If your former spouse isn’t paying their court-ordered support, you should inform the court so they can use a variety of methods so you can receive payment. Some of this include wage garnishments, suspending a driver’s or professional license, placing liens on the spouse’s property, intercepting payments like lottery winnings, unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation, etc., negative credit reporting, and seizing other assets like a bank account or stock investments.
What is Spousal Support and Alimony?
Can You Modify Spousal Support and Alimony?
Spousal Support can be modified for a few reasons. First of all, if the spouse who is receiving alimony payments remarries, the paying spouse can file for a modification to terminate the support. Some divorcing couples choose to include a provision for support to automatically increase (or decrease) each year with the cost of living. These Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) will be based on an agreed-upon economic indicator.
It is possible for neither of these circumstances to arise for a spouse paying alimony after a divorce. A divorcee who is paying spousal support may also request a modification if they have experienced a substantial and continuing change in circumstances.
It should be noted that spousal support can’t be modified retroactively. Once the payment is due, it is due. If your request for a modification is successful, the payments will only be changed moving forward. There are serious consequences for failing to make your support payments, including seizure of your tax returns and any winnings, wage garnishments, liens on your property, and suspension of your driver’s license. If you know you are going to fall behind on your payments, you need to request a modification as soon as possible to avoid these negative effects on your life.
Should You Modify Spousal Support?
There are a few things you should consider before petitioning the court to modify your spousal support. In Arizona, you may only request a modification for change in circumstances once per year. If you request a modification after a relatively small change, you will be out of luck if you have a more dramatic change in circumstances like being terminated from your job.
How Do You Go About Modifying Spousal Support and Alimony?
You will first need to check your spousal support order to check that the order has a non-modification clause, meaning the payments can’t be changed. This protects your spouse from ever receiving lower payments, but you are protected from having to pay more if your income increases.
You can try to informally work out an agreement with your spouse before going to the court. If your spouse doesn’t agree to a modification, your next step will be to file a request for a modification out of which the support was originally ordered. You will need to include documents that prove your change in income along with that request. Each of you will conduct discovery to learn more about each other’s financial situations, and present their arguments in a hearing in front of the judge. Many people choose to hire an attorney to represent them at a modification hearing.
What is a Substantial Change in Circumstances?
The paying spouse is terminated from their job
The paying spouse has another child
Permanent injury or disability
The receiving spouse moves in with a romantic partner
Can You Reinstate Spousal Support and Alimony?