In this article, you will discover:
- How to qualify for spousal maintenance in Arizona.
- Why equitable division of community property does not always mean an equal division of property.
- When debt you accrue during a marriage is your debt alone.
Does Arizona Recognize Alimony Or Spousal Support In A Divorce Case?
In Arizona, we recognize spousal maintenance as part of divorce. Usually, the biggest factor in determining who will pay and how much depends on who makes the most money at the time of the divorce. Spousal maintenance is actually one of the most hotly litigated issues in any divorce case because it’s so subjective when we go through the determining factors. Ask ten judges what spousal maintenance should be in a case and you’ll get ten different answers.
How Is The Amount Of Spousal Support Or Alimony Determined In Arizona?
In Arizona, unlike child support that has clear guidelines, we don’t have a calculator for spousal maintenance. We have two sets of factors to consider. One set of factors determines if a person qualifies for maintenance. There are five different sets of factors to qualify, such as, did one person contribute to the other’s career and education? Now they are educated and making money they want to leave. Or is the person of an age where they can’t find employment? They had been planning to retire based on one person’s income, and now that person wants to leave.
Once you qualify for support, we look at another set of factors to determine how much and for how long. Generally, we think of spousal maintenance here in Arizona as rehabilitative. It’s meant to get someone back on their feet to start earning income that puts them in a position like where they would be if they remained married. Can they support themselves, have a good life, and enjoy things without being forced into poverty because of the divorce?
However, things can be very different in certain counties. Some courts have very different ideas on how spousal maintenance is calculated. Having an attorney who knows how different it can be in each county can be crucial at times.
What Factors Impact The Division Of Property And Assets In An Arizona Divorce Case?
In Arizona, we are a community property state. Generally, that means when you get married, you each own half of the marital community, and when you divorce, we divide that between the two of you. The property that came about before the marriage or that you receive in some other way, like an inheritance, will not be a part of the marital community unless you did something special to it during your marriage. Instead, it stays with the person who would own that separate property. Sorting that issue out is a big deal.
The longer the marriage lasts, the more time there is to accumulate community property. When we divide the community property, we have to divide it equitably—meaning fairly. Equitable may often be equal, but not always. It doesn’t mean that we will divide every single bank account in half, or that we go through the house and cut the couch in half. It’s a fair division that is usually close to being equal.
Regarding fairness, fault (the person who caused the marriage to fall apart) doesn’t play a huge role. In Arizona, we have marital waste where someone does something that harms that marital community. Maybe one spouse is addicted to substances and blowing all the marital money on that. Maybe a spouse is having an affair and spending a bunch of money on that. If you are doing something that harms the community, the community can get reimbursed for that. It isn’t about proving one person did bad things and that they’re a bad person as a result; it is about economics, pure and simple. One person did this behavior and cost the community this much money doing it, so you should get a part of that back.
How Do Arizona Courts Handle The Division Of Debt In A Divorce?
In Arizona, marital debt is divided similarly to how we divide property. You get married, the marital community is created, and you collectively incur debts throughout the length of your marriage. When you get divorced, we divide that debt between you.
As with the distribution of property, the division of debt has to be equitable—it has to be fair. Marital waste can play a role here too. If someone incurs a bunch of debt, spending all the community money racking up gambling debts, that debt will probably be assigned mainly to that person. Separate debts, similar to separate property, come into play. If you have a debt from before the marriage, it’s probably going to be assigned to you as your sole and separate debt.
There are other considerations you have to handle relating to debt, like debt secured by property. If you have a car you’re making payments for, someone is going to get that car at the end of the case and, more likely than not, they will also get stuck with that car loan. Sometimes there are debts no one can afford on their own. Maybe you could afford to pay the mortgage on your house with two income sources, but after getting divorced, and going back to one income source, neither of you can afford it on your own. Instead of assigning that debt to one person, maybe we need to pay it off by selling the house, then dividing the proceeds after the mortgage is paid from the sale proceeds.
There can be other complications like tax and student loan debt. I have even seen situations where people getting divorced are filing for bankruptcy; it’s sometimes the only way people can deal with their debts when their income and property are suddenly cut in half. Figuring out the division of debt can be a big deal in some cases.