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CHANGES TO SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE IN ARIZONA

An attorney in Scottsdale working on a spousal support matterOn April 5, 2018, the Arizona Legislature changed the spousal maintenance statute to make it easier for some spouses to qualify for spousal maintenance when divorcing.

The Factors to Qualify for Spousal Maintenance

A.R.S. § 25-319 is the statute in Arizona that addresses when a spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance and, if so, the amount and duration of the support to be awarded. Currently, and for the last twenty (20) years, a spouse must prove at least one of the four “threshold” factors below to qualify for spousal maintenance.

  1. The spouse lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to reasonably provide for the other spouse's needs.
  2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient.
  3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.
  4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.

Arizona’s new law modified and expanded the third factor and added a new fifth factor (in bold below). The new qualifying factors are as follows:

  1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse's reasonable needs.
  2. Is unable to be self‑sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self‑sufficient.
  3. Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability of the other spouse.
  4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self‑sufficient.
  5. Has significantly reduced that spouse's income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.

This expansion of the qualifying threshold factors by the state legislature is especially interesting given that the recent trend in Arizona courts has been to narrow the eligibility for spousal maintenance awards and to make these awards, when given, smaller in both amount and duration.

By expanding the threshold factors so that potentially more spouses may be eligible to qualify for spousal maintenance, the state legislature appears to be giving the courts a clear message that they want to see this recent trend against spousal maintenance awards reversed.

Will the courts actually reverse course? Only time will tell. For now, you should note once this statute goes into effect (possibly as early as the first week of July), more people than ever will be qualified for and eligible to receive an award of spousal maintenance in Arizona.

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