Spousal Maintenance

Skilled Phoenix divorce lawyer discusses spousal support and what the courts consider when deciding whether or not to order spousal maintenance. 

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In the initial discussion with the clients regarding dissolutions of marriages, one of the questions that often come up early on is about spousal maintenance.  Spousal maintenance is not to be used for division of property, broadly, as it relates to division of property of community property.  Two separate concepts.

What’s more important is to understand, is the concept of spousal maintenance.  During the course of this marriage, whether it was two years or 20 years, these parties have become accustomed to a certain standard of life, a certain standard of livelihood.  One of the concepts of spousal maintenance is to address that.

Also if there was a party that was the non-dominant party in the relationship, or not the bread-winning party.  If the person was a stay-at-home mom or stay-at-home dad while the other party worked, or went to school and got a doctorate degree.  The court looks at all of these things to determine, what does it take to get this party, the non-dominant party, if you will, up to the standard of living that they had become accustomed to for this particular period of time, or to get the, to where they can care for themselves.

What the court’s interest is, is not leaving one party out in the wind while the other party runs away with the bag and runs off.  That’s the concept of spousal maintenance.  What is the maintenance that is needed to ensure that this spouse gets to the place where they can care and provide for themselves?  Sometimes as it relates to spousal maintenance, the parties agree on spousal maintenance for a certain amount of money for a certain term of years.  That could be agreed to in a pre-nuptial agreement, a post-nuptial agreement or in a divorce settlement decreed pursuant to some type of mediation or procedure.  They could come to some agreement as to what the spousal maintenance should be.

If the matter has to come before the court and the court hears it and determines what the spousal maintenance would be, the court will look at several factors again, similar to those and others that I just mentioned to you.  How long the term of the marriages was; the financial disparity of the parties; who’s the dominant party; who’s the less dominant party; what it will take – some time there’s a vocation or rehabilitation assessment that is given to determine what the spousal maintenance needs to be.

Oftentimes, you see spousal maintenance being awarded half the term of the marriage.  If you were married for nine years, by the time you see it for four and a half years or half the term of the marriage, or what’s reasonable.  In some cases that’s not reasonable and so you see a myriad of things.

What’s important to the client, you have to sit down with the lawyer, discuss that, what your interests are, depending if you’re the dominant or non-dominant party in the relationship, financially that is.  What your interests are, what it is that you would like to do, what your resources are, what the division of assets are and then go from there.  That lawyer will craft a framework to forward the arguments that you would want to make, as relates to your need for spousal maintenance or the other party’s request for spousal maintenance being unreasonable and being too much.  Your lawyer will help you craft those arguments, if the parties aren’t able to agree to them.

That’s certainly territory that you should not walk through on your own.  You would certainly need help of a lawyer because there are so many factors and elements in the statute that you would need to look at and look to, to make those type of determinations.