Spousal Maintenance

the basics of spousal maintenance

What Is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance, commonly known as “alimony,” involves one spouse making support payments to the other spouse for a period of time.


Before deciding on a spousal maintenance amount, the court must first decide whether a spouse should even receive any spousal maintenance.

Amount and Duration

If a spouse is eligible, the court will use a spousal maintenance calculator to determine a presumptive amount and duration.


It is possible to modify a spousal maintenance order if you can provde there has been a substantial and continuing change in circumstances.

Spousal Maintenance Eligibility

The 5 Factors To Determine Eligibility

Before deciding on a spousal maintenance amount, the court must first decide whether a spouse should even receive any spousal maintenance. The court looks at 5 factors found in A.R.S. 25-319(A) to determine if a spousal maintenance award is appropriate.

    1. Does the spouse lack sufficient property to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs?
    2. If the spouse lacks earning ability in the labor market to be self-sufficient.
    3. If the spouse is the custodian of a child whose age or condition precludes employment.
    4. Whether the spouse significantly contributed to the educational opportunities or vocational training of the other spouse.
    5. Was it a long marriage and is the spouse of an age that precludes employment that would make the spouse self-sufficient?

Spousal Maintenance Calculator

The court now uses a calculator, similar to the child support calculator, to determine a presumptive amount and duration for spousal maintenance.

Spousal Maintenance Amount and Duration

Deviating From The Calculator

It is possible to deviate from the amount and duration indicated in the calculator if either the court finds it to be unjust or if the parties agree to deviate. In either situation, the deviation must be based on the factors found in A.R.S. 28-319(B) which include:

  1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
  2. The duration of the marriage.
  3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
  4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
  5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
  6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
  7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
  8. The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
  9. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently.
  10. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available.
  11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
  12. The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved.
  13. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you modify a spousal maintenance order?

Once a spousal maintenance order has been entered, it can generally be modified at a later date. In order to modify it, the party seeking a change must file a Petition with the court asking for modification. The petition must demonstrate that there is a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. A.R.S. 25-327(A).

In other words, something must be very different from what was going on at the time the original spousal maintenance order was entered. If that initial substantial and continuing change threshold is satisfied, then the test above is used to assess how the spousal maintenance should be changed.

Note that there is one exception to this ability to modify spousal maintenance. If the parties came to an agreement for the original spousal maintenance order and they wrote in the agreement that the order was “non-modifable,” then it cannot be changed at all. A.R.S. 25-319(D).

Spousal maintenance can have serious implications. If you have any questions about spousal maintenance issues in your case, you should contact an attorney that practices family law and get some guidance.

How is spousal maintenance treated for purposes of taxes?

Historically, taxation has been a major consideration in looking at spousal maintenance. If you have an order for spousal maintenance that was entered on or before December 31, 2018, then you will be able to deduct on your taxes spousal maintenance you paid. If you are the person receiving spousal maintenance, then you must account for it as income for tax purposes.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, effective January 1, 2019, this system went away. In other words, for maintenance orders entered after January 1, 2019, there will be no offset for either party for spousal maintenance.

Note that if you have an order that was entered on or before December 31, 2018, but modify it at any time after that date, you will still receive the tax benefit if you are the person paying or the tax liability if you are the recipient unless the new order modifying spousal maintenance expressly states that it’s following the new tax system.

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