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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Alimony Factors in Arizona

Alimony is the former name for what’s now called spousal maintenance. Alimony is financial assistance that the court orders one spouse to provide another spouse when a marriage ends. One spouse must request spousal support for the court to issue an order compelling the payments. There are several factors that a court takes into account when determining alimony. The court first examines certain qualifying factors to determine if one spouse even can procure alimony and then and only then decides how much and for how long.   There are no juries in Arizona family court, only a sitting judge.  So whether you like it or not, one person, in a black robe, will someday make a big decision on how much and how long your ex-spouse may or may not be paid upon divorce.

The Need for Spousal Maintenance

The court first decides whether one spouse actually qualifies for spousal maintenance and whether the other has the means to pay, before ordering maintenance be paid. A spouse may request alimony if he or she does not have enough property after marital distribution to provide for oneself, or is somehow unable to find proper employment. If one spouse has significantly contributed financially to the other spouse’s education, then alimony can be requested by the spouse who contributed. The court will look at the other’s spouse’s financial situation as well. A divorce lawyer in Scottsdale can help you file an alimony petition.

Duration of Marriage Affects Alimony

The longer the separating couple has been married, the higher the chance for alimony for one spouse may be. Generally speaking, if married less than 5 years, procuring maintenance from the wealthier spouse can be a challenge, or impossible. Once one hits ten years or more, the ability to obtain maintenance for some period of time appears to jump significantly.  If you have been married 30 years or more you can almost guarantee that someone is going to be paying spousal maintenance to the other.

The law of Arizona specifically states to take the duration of marriage into consideration when setting alimony. However, the law does not specify the ideal duration or a minimum duration. So even a spouse that was married for just a week can technically request alimony.  As noted, however, marriages of short duration rarely qualify for a payout.

Can Alimony Be Granted to Unfaithful Spouses?

The short answer is yes.  This is a common question for some divorcees. Understandably, a spouse may not want to pay alimony to another who has been unfaithful throughout the marriage. So, some spouses may prefer to have such spousal misconduct be a factor in determining alimony. However, in Arizona, divorce is not granted based on spousal misconduct. Arizona is a no fault jurisdiction.  Thus, couples can file for divorce in Arizona without providing a reason. If one spouse contests the divorce, the other spouse only has to show to the court that the marriage is broken beyond repair. Marital misconduct is not legally relevant to the divorce proceedings, and therefore will not play a role in any alimony fight. Unfaithfulness on one side does not lead to automatically denying alimony for that spouse, nor does the court demand the cheating spouse to pay the other. The same applies for dissolution of covenant marriages.  Long story short, while he or she may have cheated—he or she may still get paid by the Court depending on your income and length of marriage.

Prenup Roles in Alimony

A prenuptial agreement is an optional private contractual agreement that spouses enter into before marriage. When a couple divorces, a prenup is upheld for the most part if all provisions are in accordance with the law. If one spouse has agreed not to seek alimony in a prenup, the court will often uphold this in divorce proceedings. However, the court may rule otherwise if the spouse that needs alimony could end up in a welfare state without spousal maintenance. Arizona law allows courts to decline the validity of prenups if one spouse could end up in dire financial need following divorce.

Determining alimony is affected by many factors. Consult with a competent divorce lawyer to secure alimony as you desire, or to defend vigorously against paying it.

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Written by Canterbury Law Group

Determining the Value of your Marital Estate

The divorce lawyers at Canterbury Law Group often see a spouse beginning a divorce without any clue of knowing the true value of their marital estate. Many spouses do not even have account access or numbers to the earning spouse.Fear not. Even if you are completely unaware of your family finances, when you file for divorce the time to finally and accurately determine all marriage assets will have arrived. Your Canterbury lawyers will make sure this happens. It’s the law. It’s not up to him or her.

Because Arizona is a community property jurisdiction, generally speaking, spouses own equally almost all property and debt acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on it. Also, half of each partner’s income earned during the marriage is owned by the other partner, as well as debts incurred during the marriage are debts of the couple together. Do not let your spouse bully you—or suggest “they will leave you with nothing” if you challenge them in the divorce. They are not just bullying, they are plain wrong—under the law.

The “discovery” phase of your divorce case is used to determine information, including assets and values from the other side. In Arizona, court rules require mandatory disclosure by each side of any information that may impact their case. Therefore, your spouse must voluntarily provide you all such information, even without a specific request. However, relying on your spouse’s good will in adhering to this rule is not enough in many divorce cases. If informal requests for financial details go unanswered, or you do not feel confident you are receiving accurate information, you do have alternatives in gathering this information. Your Canterbury lawyers will be critical in unpeeling the complex layers of your family estate—and locating assets, by any means lawfully allowed—to maximize your recovery at trial.

1. Tax Returns. Personal, corporate and partnership tax returns can help in identifying property, accounts and assets sold during a given tax period. If your spouse is not forthcoming with copies of returns, or you believe the returns given to you are not the actual returns filed, you can request copies from the Internal Revenue Service.

2. Court Issued Subpoenas. A subpoena can be issued to a person or entity not a part of your lawsuit, including financial institutions and employers. The recipient of the subpoena legally has up to thirty days to physically produce the information requested. When issuing a subpoena to a financial institution, your spouse’s name and social security number is all that is needed in most cases to obtain information on accounts on which that social security number or name appears. Subpoenas to employers may work to obtain details including as history of pay, bonus information, employment terms and benefit information, such as retirement, pension, employee savings and stock option accounts. Bank statements and paystubs do not lie—your spouse can. By getting the documents up front, we can catch them in their lies.

3. Additional Legal Discovery Tools. If additional information is needed to determine the value of your marriage, there are other discovery tools that require responses given under oath:

  • Interrogatories – written questions to your spouse
  • Skip Trace investigations onto the “financial grid” to locate any assets linked to his or her social security number and date of birth. Assets at home, and abroad, can be located.
  • Requests for Production of Documents – written requests to obtain certain documents
  • Requests for Admissions – written questions to your spouse asking that he or she to admit certain facts as true
  • Depositions – oral question and answer sessions at which your attorney asks questions of your spouse while under oath, or an expert witness, or sometimes a third party in the presence of a court reporter, from whom a written transcript of the questions and answers can be obtained and the testimony is preserved for trial.

4. Outside Experts. In the unfortunate cases where a spouse is hiding assets or has engaged in pre-divorce planning, the hiring of third party specialists might be necessary in order to obtain the necessary information. Experts such as private investigators, asset location specialists and computer forensic professionals may be able to help you and your Canterbury team find the truth and get you paid.

When your family and livelihood are at stake in your divorce, it is critical to be prepared with a highly skilled team of litigation attorneys on your side. Canterbury Law Group was founded to provide no-nonsense legal counsel for Phoenix divorce cases at the highest level possible. We are an energetic and unified team of lawyers and paralegals deeply committed to your needs. Call now for an initial consultation. 480-240-0040.