Alimony vs. Spousal Support: Understanding the Difference

In Arizona, the terms "alimony" and "spousal support" are frequently used interchangeably to refer to spousal maintenance. These three terms all refer to the financial assistance that one spouse provides the other during and/or after a divorce. While there may be a distinction between these terms in some states, Arizona law does not differentiate between them.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the basic parameters of spousal maintenance awards in context with Arizona divorce laws and provide insight into the circumstances under which the courts may order alimony.

The Purpose of Spousal Maintenance

The fundamental purpose of alimony or spousal maintenance is to ensure economic fairness during a divorce settlement. This form of financial support aims to assist the spouse who earns less in maintaining a lifestyle that more closely aligns with the standard of living experienced during the marriage. The rationale is to avoid drastic economic disparities post-divorce, thereby offering a safety net for the lesser-earning spouse while they get back on their feet.

As such, it can also provide essential support for the receiver to acquire the necessary skills, education, or training to become self-sufficient in the long run. This aspect is particularly relevant in cases where one spouse may have foregone career opportunities or further education to prioritize familial responsibilities during the marriage. Therefore, the support given post-divorce allows for a smoother transition into financial independence.

In Arizona, the court may award different types of spousal maintenance, depending on the specific circumstances of each case. These may include:

  • Temporary spousal maintenance: This is awarded during the divorce process to maintain financial stability until the court finalizes the divorce case.
  • Rehabilitative spousal maintenance: This type of spousal support is designed to provide financial assistance to the spouse who needs to acquire further education or training to become financially independent.
  • Permanent spousal maintenance: This may be granted in cases where the receiving spouse is unable to become financially independent due to age, health conditions, or long-term absence from the job market.
  • Compensatory spousal maintenance: This is awarded to compensate for the contributions that one spouse made towards the education, training, career, or license of the other spouse during the marriage.

Under Arizona's spousal maintenance guidelines, the court may award spousal maintenance "only for a period of time and in an amount necessary to enable the receiving spouse to become self-sufficient." Because every couple is unique, how this is determined will differ for every spousal maintenance case.

Spousal Maintenance: Not a Universal Right

It's crucial to understand that while common, spousal maintenance is not a guaranteed component of every divorce settlement. The court considers various factors during divorce proceedings, such as the spouses' financial resources, the standard of living during the marriage, and the duration of the marriage, among other things. Thus, not all divorce cases will result in an award of spousal maintenance.

Given the complexities involved in such matters, consulting with an attorney if you are going through a divorce is highly recommended, especially if you have questions or concerns regarding spousal maintenance. Experienced legal professionals, like the team at McNorton Fox, can provide insights tailored to your specific circumstances, helping you be more well-informed and equipped to navigate the divorce process.

Remember, the decisions made during these proceedings can significantly impact your life post-divorce, so obtaining sound legal advice is paramount. Contact our firm today to schedule a consultation.

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