How is Spousal Maintenance Determined?

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Nothing is more difficult than predicting what a judge will decide is the appropriate spousal maintenance award on any given set of facts. This uncertainty can be traced to the statutory factors that a judge is compelled to consider to decide if a person is entitled to receive spousal maintenance and if so, the amount and duration of the award. The factors, as set forth in A.R.S. §25-319(B) and its subparts, are very subjective and allow the judge significant latitude. They include such things as the standard of living during the marriage, the emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance, the contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse, any reduction of income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse, the ability to contribute to future educational costs of their mutual children and whether there have been excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of property during the marriage. Over the years, the general dissatisfaction with this uncertainty has prompted the promulgation of "guidelines" to assist litigants and judges seeking to fashion or agree upon appropriate awards of spousal maintenance. However, the guidelines that have been in place from time to time were all ultimately thought to be flawed in one respect or another and presently there are no spousal maintenance guidelines at all in the State of Arizona. Reliance on the recently disavowed "spousal maintenance guidelines" is therefore misplaced and anyone relying on those guidelines to argue for any given amount or duration of spousal maintenance is misguided.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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