Who has to Pay for Attorney’s Fees and Costs in Arizona Family Law Cases?

Spousal Maintenance, also known as “alimony” is financial support given to a spouse in a dissolution of marriage or legal separation action.  Spousal maintenance is sometimes intended just to help a party get back on his/her feet (for example, support while a party returns to school to become more marketable) and is sometimes intended to support a party indefinitely.
One qualifies for spousal maintenance when that person is unable to support his/her reasonable needs through his/her property or through appropriate employment.  One can also qualify when there has been a marriage of long duration and the requesting party is of an age that precludes the possibility of obtaining employment that would that person to be self-sufficient.  Further, a party may qualify when he/she has a child of an age or condition that would preclude outside employment.  Finally, if one party contributed to the educational opportunities of the other, that party may qualify for maintenance.
If parties are determining spousal maintenance through the Court, the Court will determine the length and amount of spousal maintenance based on a number of factors, such as the other party’s ability to pay the maintenance, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage and the cost of medical insurance for the requesting party.  One party’s misconduct during the marriage is only relevant to the extent that the party engaged in financial misconduct, or to the extent of the actual cost of a domestic violence conviction.
The law setting forth the factors considered in a request for spousal maintenance is A.R.S. § 25-319, and it can be viewed at: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/25/00319.htm.
If the parties reach their own agreement, through mediation, for example, they do not have to follow the statute; they can make up their own agreement as to spousal maintenance.  The parties can also agree to make spousal maintenance non-modifiable, which means neither party can ask the Court to increase or decrease the amount or duration of spousal maintenance.  The Court cannot enter such an order without a stipulation.
Parties can use mediation to determine spousal maintenance (and all other issues) in a dissolution of marriage or legal separation action or for a modification action.  Mediation is the less expensive, quicker, more amicable and more flexible alternative to going to Court.
Alona M. Gottfried is a mediator and attorney in Arizona.  If you have questions about mediation or family law, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or alona@sglawaz.com.  This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice.  See a legal professional before making legal decisions.

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