A Rational Approach to Spousal Maintenance, Part Two: How Much is Paid?

As with the determination whether spousal maintenance is to be actually paid, if the answer is yes, clear guidance on how much the payment should be finds little aid in the Arizona spousal maintenance statute. Generally, the statute states that the criteria to be taken into consideration in determining how much spousal maintenance is paid are: a) the standard of living experienced by the parties during the marriage; b) the income difference between the parties; c) the ability of the paying spouse to make spousal maintenance payments; d) the financial resources of the party receiving spousal maintenance, including the assets received in the divorce action. As one can see, little specific direction is provided in the Arizona statute to determine the actual amount paid.

Thus, attorneys and parties are left to find a rational approach to determine the dollar amount of spousal maintenance paid. One such approach might be the following:

1) The parties ascertain their reasonable living expenses. The operative word here is “reasonable”, and it is important that this standard be adhered to in the process; the reason being that there may be a tendency to inflate expenses with the hope of gaining an advantage in hiking up or limiting the amount paid.

2) Once expenses are ascertained, one would then look at the resources the receiving spouse may have (apart from the paying spouse) to meet their living expenses. These resources could be interest and dividend income from assets, rental property income or employment income. Whatever it is, the receiving spouse’s own resources are the first place to look to meet that person’s expenses.

3) When the first two steps are completed, if there is a shortfall in the receiving spouse’s ability to meet expenses, one would look at the paying spouse’s income in order to determine whether that person has sufficient income to not only meet their own expenses but also to cover the income shortfall of the receiving spouse in paying their expenses.

The above process, while simple in structure, is at its’ heart a significant negotiation that must be satisfactorily resolved by the parties and their attorneys.

Peter Axelrod