A Rational Approach to Spousal Maintenance, Part One: Yes or No?

The first step, albeit a sometimes inconclusive one, in analyzing whether a party meets the requirements for an award of spousal maintenance is to review Arizona Revised Statute 25-319.  This review will find that the standards in Arizona for paying/receiving spousal maintenance are broad and non-specific with respect to each individual case.  A summary of the statute discloses that if spousal maintenance is to be paid, the receiving spouse must either: a) lack sufficient property for use in supporting themselves in a reasonable way b) be unable to support themselves through appropriate employment or is caring for a child so that there is not the opportunity to do so c) have contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse (impliedly resulting in their own employment detriment) or d) had a marriage of long duration or be of an age where seeking employment is not reasonable.

Whether these criteria fit the factual circumstances of any particular case is a judgment call left to the parties, the attorneys or the court. Sometimes the call is clear and sometimes it is not. One of the circumstances where it is not so clear is where both parties are employed outside the home, neither is caring any more or less for the children, if there are any, but there is a discrepancy between the incomes of the parties. In this case, whether spousal maintenance is awarded again becomes a judgment call hinging on the degree of income discrepancy between the parties. In making such a decision, one way to approach such a judgment is to ascertain whether the lower income earning spouse has sufficient income to meet their reasonable needs taking into consideration the general lifestyle standard experienced during the marriage.

Peter Axelrod