The Court's Treatment of Spousal Maintenance in Maricopa County Courts

September 2017

By Kris Leonhardt, Esq.

As a family law practitioner, there are no more difficult questions to answer for a potential client than those relating to spousal maintenance.

In Arizona, an award of spousal maintenance is extremely subjective. Not only is alimony a fact intensive issue that depends on your individual and family circumstances, but the judge has wide latitude in what to order.

As a result, spousal maintenance is one of the most highly litigated issues in a divorce in Maricopa County Superior Court. Because it is frequently contested, often times the judge will have to decide if the requesting party is going to receive spousal maintenance. And, if the answer is yes, the judge must then decide how much will he or she receive per month and for how long.

This means that an award of spousal maintenance is influenced by the judge's own opinion, experience on the bench, and his/her own perspective on what expenses are "reasonable."

Recent trends in Maricopa County show that judges are typically interpreting these terms conservatively. This means that it is likely that expenses will be reduced to an amount the judge believes is reasonable - with some adjustments for the standard of living established during your marriage.

This also means that the qualifying spouse will likely be attributed some income, even if it is only minimum wage, regardless of whether he or she is currently working so long as that person is physically capable of working.

As a result of these trends, it is very important to speak to an attorney early in your divorce process so you know how to best position yourself, and so that you have realistic expectations of likely spousal maintenance outcomes in your case.

For more information on spousal maintenance including qualifying for spousal maintenance, determining the amount of the award, the duration (how long it will last), and modification of an existing award, please look for my upcoming blog series on these topics

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