HOW DOES THE COURT DETERMINE SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE?

Spousal Maintenance, known in many other states as “Alimony,” is one of the most ambiguous and difficult areas in Arizona Family Law.  Determining whether to award spousal support during a divorce is a matter of judicial discretion. The award of spousal maintenance will be modifiable in the future (upon a showing of substantial and continuing change of circumstances) unless the parties agree that it shall be non-modifiable and such a provision is included in the final order

In making her/his decision, the judge will first consider the factors listed in Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-319(A). Those factors include the length of the marriage; the age of the spouse seeking spousal support; whether that spouse is able to be self-sufficient through employment; whether she/he has sufficient property to provide for her/his reasonable needs; and whether she/he is caring for a child whose age or condition makes it difficult or impossible to work.  If the judge determines that one or more of the above factors applies, then spousal maintenance may be awarded.

As for how much should be paid in spousal maintenance, and how long it should be paid, the judge will look to section B of the statute.  Arizona has no specific guidelines (as it does with child support) to make this determination, and there is nothing in the statute that specifically instructs the Court as to the amount, or the duration, of a spousal maintenance award. Instead, there is a second set of factors, which include the following: “

(1) The standard of living established during the marriage;

(2) The duration of the marriage;

(3) The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;

(4) The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouses’ needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;

(5) The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market;

(6) The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse;

(7) The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;

(8) The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children;

(9) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently;

(10) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education  or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available;

(11) Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common;

(12) The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved; and

(13) All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.”

Since there is no set of guidelines for the determination and calculation of spousal maintenance, the final result will depend on how each judge applies the statutory factors to the facts of the case. This can result in wide variations in spousal maintenance awards — and it makes it important for a person seeking spousal maintenance to present a solid case using a “needs-based” analysis.  Thorough preparation, good organization, and a convincing courtroom presentation will give you the best chance for success.  A strong, experienced attorney can greatly increase your chances of receiving a spousal maintenance award.

 

This response is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or representation.  To understand your rights and obligations under the particular circumstances of your case, you should seek legal counsel.

The Law Firm of Gary Frank P.C. is an Arizona Family Law firm that has been a fixture in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Our attorneys, Gary Frank and Hanna Juncaj, are strong litigators, highly-skilled mediators, and compassionate counselors. We handle divorce and spousal maintenance cases, as well as legal decision-making, parenting time, child support, relocation/move-away, Paternity, Grandparents’ rights and Non-Parents’ rights cases, modification actions, enforcement actions, and all other matters related to Family Law.  If you are in need of a consultation, attorneys Gary and Hanna would love to talk to you.  Please call us today.  You can reach our office at 602-383-3610, or you can contact us by email at through our website.  To learn more about our firm, take a look at our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be happy to help you.

 

SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE IN ARIZONA – A MAZE OF FACTORS, BUT NO SPECIFIC FORMULA

A number of people have asked me if Arizona has a set of Spousal Maintenance Guidelines that the courts use in calculating spousal support.  The answer is, “No.”  

Spousal Maintenance is handled differently than Child Support.  In determining Child Support, our courts utilize a formula contained in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines.  But (unlike some other states) Arizona does not have spousal maintenance guidelines.  And our courts do not use a formula for calculating spousal maintenance. 

 
At one time, Arizona did use a statutory formula for calculating support, but it was repealed about the time I began practicing law, over thirty years ago.  Years later, Arizona adopted a new set of Spousal Maintenance Guidelines using a different formula.  However, in practice, the Maricopa County Superior Court judges uniformly rejected those Guidelines and refused to utilize them as a basis for awarding spousal support.  Eventually, the Spousal Maintenance Guidelines were dropped altogether.
 
Another effort was made to enact Spousal Maintenance Guidelines was made fairly recently, and a committee was even formed to look into the subject and make recommendations.  But the idea has gone nowhere, and no new formula has been accepted.
 

Spousal Maintenance in Arizona continues to be determined on a “needs-based” analysis, using the factors listed in Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-319.  The statute contains a two-pronged approach.  The judge will apply the factors contained in Section “A” of the statute to determine whether the applicant is entitled to an award of spousal maintenance.  If spousal maintenance is deemed appropriate, the judge will then go to Section “B” of the statute to determine the amount and duration of the spousal support award.  

The factors in A.R.S., 25-319 are non-inclusive.  The Family Court is instructed to consider not only the factors listed in the statute, but “all relevant factors,” in determining spousal maintenance.  Nothing in the statute specifies how much spousal support should be paid, or how long the payments should continue.  This gives the judge much latitude in making his or her decision; and, as a result, awards of spousal support tend to vary widely from court to court, and from judge to judge.

 
Thus, the best way to argue a case for spousal maintenance is to:  
 
(1)  Use the statutory factors to show why you are in need of, and entitled to, spousal support;  
 

(2)   Provide proof of how much your monthly expenses exceed your income; 

(3)   Demonstrate how much monthly support you will need to make ends meet; and    

(4)   Explain what you will need to do, and how long it will take, to increase your income to the point where you can approximate the standard of living you had during the marriage (for example, you may need to finish school, take a trade course, grow your own business, move up the ladder at your current employment, etc.).   

This will give the judge a basis for determining the amount and duration of the spousal maintenance award. 

 
Judges are allowed a great deal of discretion in deciding spousal maintenance disputes; and every judge will make that determination using not only the law, but also his or her own world view.  Unlike child support (where we do have Guidelines), there is very little uniformity in determining spousal maintenance in Arizona.  For this reason, it is critically important to put together a well-organized presentation and make and convincing argument at trial.
 
For a look at the factors the Court uses to determine spousal maintenance, see A.R.S., Section 25-319.

http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/25/00319.htm&Title=25&DocType=ARS

Our attorneys, Gary J. Frank and Hanna Juncaj, are strong litigators, highly-skilled mediators, and compassionate counselors with a wealth of experience in dealing in divorcecustody/legal decision-making and parenting-time issues. In addition to representing Family Law clients in litigation, we are also willing to help people by working with them on a Limited-Scope or Consultation-Only basis.  Our office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  We can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or you can contact us by email through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today.  We’d be happy to help.

TEN TIPS FOR SURVIVING YOUR DIVORCE — AND THRIVING

This year is coming to a close.   If you are in the middle of a divorce – or if you are getting ready to go through one – the next twelve months could be tough.  So, here are some simple guidelines to make the journey less difficult.

1.   Keep your children out of the middle of your dispute

Research shows that children of divorce can grow up to be happy, well-adjusted adults.  However, the research also shows that children of high-conflict divorces can develop emotional problems that last a lifetime.  It can be devastating for a child to be caught in the middle of a dispute between parents.  You love your children.  That’s a given.  But loving your children is not enough.  You need to protect them from the emotional turmoil that you, as parents, may be going through.  This is an enormous challenge.  The key is to keep the children out of the middle of your dispute.  Don’t use them as messengers.  Don’t make them witness angry arguments between the parents.  Let them know the divorce is not their fault, and that both parents will continue to love them and take care of them, even after the divorce.

2.            Allow your child to love the other parent

When a marriage comes apart and emotions are at a boiling point, it is easy for a parent to make the mistake of voicing his or her displeasure with the other parent to the children.  Sometimes this leads to a war of words, with each parent feeling the need to “defend” himself / herself by badmouthing the other.  But here’s a warning:  Clinical research shows that this type of behavior can cause serious emotional problems for children.  They need to be able to love both of their parents.  So give them your permission.  You would probably place your life on the line to protect your children from a stranger who tried to hurt them.  Then why wouldn’t you make every effort to protect your children from your own anger and toxic feelings toward their other parent?    

3.            Don’t give your child too much information 


Of course, it is important to be honest with your children – but giving them information that is not age-appropriate, or talking to them about details of your divorce that they are incapable of emotionally processing, can be harmful and destructive.   Don’t talk to your children about the legal issues of your divorce.  Don’t show them your court paperwork.  Don’t share adult information with young children.  If you need to vent or get your feelings off your chest, turn to a trusted friend, a family member, or a therapist.  Keep your children out of the loop.  Let them be children.    

4.            Try to be flexible 

Parenting-time disputes can be the cause of much stress, especially during the holidays.  You can save yourself a lot of grief by trying to be flexible.  Being flexible is not a sign of weakness.  It sends a message that you are willing to compromise.  Extending an olive branch often leads to the other parenting being willing to compromise, too.  Parents who refuse to be flexible can find themselves locked in a never-ending battle; and instead of being able to solve their own problems they tend to return to court over-and-over again, putting their fate in the hands of lawyers and judges. 

 

5.            Don’t rely on “legal advice” from your friends 

Don’t believe everything your hear, especially when it comes from a friend or family member who is trying to give you advice about legal matters.  Everyone knows a friend whose own divorce was a nightmare and promises that your outcome will be terrible, too; or one who insists that your judge will give you everything you want because your custody case is a “slam-dunk.”  Receiving legal advice from a friend or family member can be a huge mistake, since tends to give you false expectations.  If you want good, solid legal advice about your divorce or custody case, talk to a lawyer who specializes in Family Law.

 
6.            Choose a lawyer wisely 


One of the most important decisions you will ever make is finding the right attorney.   Many people who are embroiled in a family law dispute say, “I’m going to hire the meanest, most aggressive, attorney I can find.”   That usually works – for the lawyer.  If the lawyer is only mean, or only aggressive, then the result will probably be a long, contentious, and expensive litigation.  That means more money for the lawyer.  Your money!  What you really want is a highly qualified attorney, one who is looking out for your interests.  The best attorney is someone who is skilled and experienced; someone who will fight for your rights — but who is also looking for ways to resolve the matter peacefully, if at all possible.  Most importantly, you should select an attorney who is a good match for you, and who makes you feel comfortable and confident.

 

7.            Be willing to compromise


Court litigation is, by nature, an adversarial process.  It can take a long time and cost a lot of money – and in the end, the final decision will be made by a judge who is a stranger to both parties.   Therefore, in any divorce or custody litigation, your goal should be to negotiate a solution that meets your needs and the needs of the children.  You can save yourself a great deal of time and money, and avoid much stress, by being willing to make reasonable compromises.  People who are able to negotiate a fair resolution of their dispute tend to be much happier with the arrangement in the long run.


8.            Talk to someone you can trust


A person going through the turmoil of divorce or custody case can benefit from a strong support system.  If you are struggling with a divorce, or if you are caught in a highly contested custody case, find someone to talk to. Whether it is with a family member, a friend, someone from your church, or a therapist, talking about your feelings is a healthy outlet.   There are also many divorce and single-parent support groups in your community that will welcome you and help you understand that you are not alone.  

9.            Take care of yourself

You can’t take proper care of your family if you don’t take care of yourself.  So take time to exercise.  Join a yoga class.  Meet a friend for dinner.  Or just spend some “down-time” relaxing at home. — Good nutrition, vigorous exercise, plenty of sleep and relaxation, lots of love and laughter — these are the keys to surviving a divorce and thriving.  Taking care of yourself will help you get through this tough time in your life.  It’s a wise investment.

 

10.         Know that there is life after divorce


It may not seem like it now, but rest assured that there is, indeed, life after divorce – and it can be great.  It will certainly be an adjustment, and it will take a commitment on your part, but getting out of an unhappy marriage, making new friends, and taking control of your physical and mental health, can give you a new perspective and lead to a happier life.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!

 

The law firm of Gary J. Frank P.C. offers strong advocacy for clients involved in all areas of Family Law, including disputes involving divorce, custody (legal decision-making), parenting time, interstate custody or visitation, grandparent and non-parent custody and visitation, division of property and businesses, spousal and child support, modification of existing orders, enforcement of orders, relocation / move-away cases, paternity, guardianships, and other matters involving children and families.  Gary Frank is also an experienced Family Law Mediator who can help you resolve your dispute without the need for fighting in court.  With more than thirty years of experience as a courtroom litigator, as well as a mediator and a former Judge Pro Tem, Mr. Frank brings skill, compassion, and a depth of understanding to each matter he handles, and each client that he represents.  Our office is located in the Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona, and we have satellite office in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley to more conveniently serve our clients.  You can reach us by telephone at 602-383-3610 or by email at [email protected].  You can also check us out on our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.

ALIMONY REMAINS A GREY AREA OF FAMILY LAW

Spousal Maintenance, known in many other states as “Alimony,” is the greyest of grey areas in Arizona Family Law.

Determining whether to award spousal maintenance is a matter of judicial discretion.  This means that it is up to the judge to decide whether an award of alimony would be appropriate, based on an examination of the facts of your particular case.  An award of spousal maintenance may be granted in favor of either spouse, depending on whether it is the Husband or the Wife who is in need of support.

In making her/his decision, the judge will consider the factors listed in Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-319(A).  Factors in that section include the length of the marriage; the age of the spouse seeking spousal support; whether that spouse is able to be self-sufficient through employment; whether she/he has sufficient property to provide for her/his reasonable needs; and whether she/he is caring for a child whose age or condition makes it difficult or impossible to work.  If the judge determines that one or more of the above factors applies, then spousal maintenance may be awarded.

But there is another important part of the equation — How much should be paid in spousal maintenance? . . . And for how long?

For the answer to these questions, the judge turns to section B of the statute.  The problem is that there is nothing in Section B that specifically tells the Court the amount, or the duration, of a spousal maintenance award.  Instead, there is a second list of factors for the judge to consider in making his or her decision.  Here are the factors:

1.      The standard of living established during the marriage;

2.      The duration of the marriage;

3.      The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;

4.      The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouses’ needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;

5.      The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market;

6.      The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse; 

7.      The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;

8.      The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children;

9.      The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and that spouse’s ability to meet that spouse’s own needs independently;

10.    The time necessary to acquire sufficient education  or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether such education or training is readily available;

11.    Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common;

12.    The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved;

13.    All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or child was the victim.

As you can see, there is absolutely nothing in the statute that tells the judge how much the spousal maintenance payment should be — or for how long it should be paid.  For child support decisions, the Court has a set of guidelines that can be used to determine the monthly support amount.  But while there is a move afoot in some states to design a set of guidelines, Arizona has none.   Therefore, the final result will depend on how each judge views the facts, and how he or she applies the statutory factors.  This leaves the door open for wide variations in spousal maintenance awards.

The bottom line is this:  It is important for a person seeking spousal maintenance to present a solid case using a “needs-based” analysis.  Thorough preparation, good organization, and a persuasive presentation will give you the best chance for success.  This is one area of law where a strong, experienced attorney can make an enormous difference.

Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law Attorney who has been a fixture in the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix, Arizona for over thirty years.  Our office handles divorce and spousal maintenance cases, as well as custody, child support, relocation/move-away, Paternity, Grandparents’ and Non-Parents’ rights cases, modification actions, enforcement actions, and all other matters related to Family Law.  If you are in need of a consultation, we’d love to talk to you.  Please call us today.  You can reach us at 602-383-3610, or contact us by email at [email protected]  To learn more about our firm, take a look at our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We’d be happy to help you.

EMBRACING CHANGE

“Change is constant.  For some people, especially those who come from bigger companies, the constant change can be somewhat unsettling at first.  We must all learn not only to not fear change, but to embrace it enthusiastically and, perhaps even more important, to encourage and drive it.  We must always plan for and be prepared for constant change . . . Never accept or be too comfortable with the status quo, because the companies that get into trouble are historically the ones that aren’t able to adapt to change and respond quickly enough.”


Tony Hsieh
CEO of Zappos.com
from the book, “Delivering Happiness”


The need to embrace change applies to all of us, in both our personal lives and at work.   Over the years, the practice of law has seen enormous changes.  The  most successful lawyers are the ones who not only accept, but embrace, change.  Our attorney, Gary Frank, remains on the “cutting-edge” of Family Law by staying up to date with the latest statutes passed by the Arizona Legislature, and by studying the new decisions handed down by the Supreme Court and Appellate Courts.  He improves his knowledge of the law by attending continuing legal education courses on a regular basis throughout the year.  And he hones his courtroom skills by using the very best litigation practices and strategies.

Many law firms are locked into a particular office location that is often difficult or inconvenient for clients to visit.  But modern advances in technology, such as networked computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, and the internet, have allowed lawyers to become “road warriors” and provide top-notch representation while being more accessible to their clients.  Therefore, the Law Offices of Gary J. Frank are conveniently located throughout the Valley — in Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Tempe, and the prestigious Biltmore area of Phoenix — in order to better serve our clients.      

Yes, change is, indeed, constant; and our ability to embrace change has enabled us to be successful.  But, just as importantly,  our attorney, Gary Frank, is also known for embodying qualities that are timeless and enduring:  Experience; Excellence; Integrity; Strong Advocacy; Common Sense; and and a Commitment to always putting his clients first.  We are a modern law firm with old fashioned values.  That’s what sets us apart.

Our attorney, Gary Frank, has been a courtroom litigator in the Family Law arena for over thirty years, and is a strong and committed advocate for his clients.  In addition to being a litigation attorney, Mr. Frank has acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tem in the Maricopa County Superior Court.  This has given him an understanding of the inner-workings of the court, and a unique perspective  that most attorneys lack.  He has also acted, for many years, as a professional mediator of Family Law disputes.   We handle a full range of Family Law matters, including divorce, custody, spousal and child support, division of property and assets, modification and enforcement actions, as well paternity/maternity cases, grandparent or non-parent custody and visitation actions, and relocation/move-away cases.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to give our office a call today at 602-383-3610; or feel free to contact us through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com; or by email at [email protected]   We look forward to hearing from you.

THE TYPICAL ARIZONA FAMILY LAW TRIAL LASTS LESS THAN ONE DAY

Here’s something I’ll bet you don’t know:  While a trial in a criminal or a personal injury case, or even a contract dispute, may lasts days or weeks, or even months, litigants in a typical Arizona Family Law Trial are rarely allowed more than one day to present their entire case.  Family Law trials are often high-conflict matters involving multiple complicated issues such as divorce, contested custody, parenting time, child support, spousal support, and division of property and debts.  Sometimes they involve domestic violence issues.  Other times they entail dividing stock options, determining the value of a business, or selling real estate – all of which may require appraisals and expert testimony.  Sometimes they involve hidden assets and forensic accounting.  These are not easy cases.  Judges have the authority to allow a multiple-day trial, and sometimes they will do so; however,  litigants in Arizona Family Law courts will typically be given one day or less for trial; and each party is allotted one-half of that time in which to present his or her side of the case.

What does this mean for you?  It means that in order to properly present your case, you will benefit from the help of an experienced attorney; someone who is organized and focused; who knows the rules of the game.  Someone who can take your family history and get right to the very essence of the problem.  Someone who can spot the most pertinent issues; then take the facts and distill them into a concise and persuasive argument.  You need someone who has excellent writing and research skills, since cases are often won by rock-solid arguments made in written motions which are submitted to the court before the trial.  You need someone who knows how to cut directly to the heart of the matter in the courtroom, using a strong cross-examination, or a powerful oral argument.   What you need is a skillful and experienced advocate who is capable of presenting the strongest possible case in the shortest of time frames.

Our attorney, Gary Frank, has been a courtroom litigator in the Family Law arena for over thirty years, and is a strong and committed advocate for his clients.  In addition to being a litigation attorney, Mr. Frank has acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tem in the Maricopa County Superior Court.  This has given him an understanding of the inner-workings of the court, and a unique perspective  that most attorneys lack.  He has also acted, for many years, as a professional mediator of Family Law disputes.   If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to give our office a call today at 602-383-3610; or feel free to contact us through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com; or by email at [email protected]   We look forward to hearing from you.

OUR MISSION STATEMENT FOR 2012

Here is our mission statement for the new year: 
Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney who cares about his clients.  Whether they are going through a divorce, or dealing with contested custody or other family law issues, we understand that our clients are in the midst of a difficult period in their lives.  By accepting their case, we have made a commitment to be there for our clients; to help them, to support them, and to fight for them.  We will apply the legal knowledge, litigation skills, and powers of persuasion, gained over thirty years of Family Law experience, to tenaciously protect our clients’ interests.  Mr. Frank will work with each client to creatively explore options for settling the dispute in a healthy, amicable, and inexpensive manner if possible.  These options could include the use of mediation, settlement conferences, collaborative divorce, or other dispute resolution measures.  However, if a fair settlement cannot be achieved,  then Mr. Frank can always be counted on to aggressively assert his clients’ rights, utilizing the skills he has honed over his many years as a courtroom litigator.  Our goal is to protect our clients; to preserve their relationship with their children; to assure that they receive a fair division of assets; and, when necessary, to obtain the financial support they need to provide for a secure future.   Gary Frank will continue to be a caring, compassionate attorney, and a fierce advocate for the best interests of his clients.

Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience in the areas of domestic relations, divorce, custody, division of property, support, modification actions, enforcement actions, Grandparents and non-parents rights, and all other matters pertaining to families and children.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate to call our office at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email at [email protected], or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

A ONE-TIME CONSULTATION WITH AN ATTORNEY CAN REALLY HELP

Filing for divorce on your own can be overwhelming.  Wading through the court-approved forms may be confusing and is often an exercise in futility.  What are my legal rights? What should I ask for? How does the court process work?  How do I know I’m doing this correctly?  There is so much at stake:  Division of property and debts, custody, parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance.  Handling any one of these issues improperly could mean the difference between a future of relative comfort or years of suffering.  When the divorce is done, it’s done.  You have one chance to get it right.  Undoing a mistake is difficult and, sometimes, impossible. 

Document preparers can help you fill out paperwork but they’re not trained in the law.  They’re prohibited from providing legal advice.  Lawyers, on the other hand, have the benefit of many years of legal training and continuing education.  They are well-versed in the law; they understand the divorce process and can help you understand what is best for you.


But what if your divorce is simple, or you just can’t afford ongoing legal representation?  Even if you’ve decided to represent yourself, you can still benefit from an attorney’s advice — and chances are that the expense is less than you imagined.  You can use an attorney as a counselor, an adviser, a guide to help you through the legal process.

A one-time consultation with an attorney is relatively inexpensive, and it can help tremendously.  In a single meeting, the lawyer can assist you in filling out the paperwork.  He or she can help you understand your legal rights, and explain what you need to do to request a hearing, obtain financial information, or get a trial date.  The lawyer can formulate a game plan, answer your questions, and help you navigate through the sticky and sometimes complicated issues involved in a Family Law case.  Don’t just assume that you can’t afford legal advice.  Call for a one-time consultation.  You may be surprised at how affordable it is — and how much it helps.




Gary Frank is an Arizona Family Law Attorney with more than 30 years of experience in handling cases involving divorce, custody, parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, division of property, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all other matters relating to family law.  If you would like a consultation, feel free to contact us at 602-383-3610 or by email at [email protected]  To find out more about our firm, take a look at our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.

It’s easier than you may think, and less expensive, too.  

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO DETERMINE SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Spousal Maintenance is the greyest of grey areas in Family Law.  If you ask an attorney “How much alimony will I get in my divorce?” and he gives you a definitive answer – get up and run out of his office – and don’t look back! 

The fact is that Arizona law does not provide any definitive answers or formulas that the courts can use to determine spousal support.  Rather than a formula, Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-319 contains a list of factors that a judge can consider in deciding the amount and duration of spousal maintenance – or whether it should be paid at all.  But not one of those factors tells you “how much” or “how long.”

For child support, the courts use a standard set of guidelines which makes calculation a relatively simple matter.  Plug in the numbers, and the child support calculator will pop out a child support amount.  However, there are no generally accepted guidelines for spousal maintenance.  When such guidelines did exist most judges refused to use them (and for good reason – they just didn’t seem to make sense).  Ultimately they were thrown out altogether.  Now, in determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance the Court looks to the factors contained in the statute.  As a result, decisions can vary widely depending upon the numbers, the facts and circumstances, and even the jurist who is deciding the issue.

The prevailing view in Arizona is that spousal maintenance is intended to promote transition to financial independence.  This is called “Rehabilitative” spousal maintenance.  In most cases in which spousal maintenance is awarded, support will be ordered for a specific period of time so that the receiving-spouse can obtain the education, training, or experience necessary to increase her/his income to a level which will enable that person to be self-sufficient. 

Under certain circumstances, the Court may award spousal maintenance for an indefinite period of time, instead of a fixed term.  Some people refer to this as “lifetime” spousal maintenance.  But these cases are the exception rather than the rule.  They are generally limited to situations involving long-term marriages in which the spouse seeking support lacks a work history and/or is of an age where she/he can never be expected to become self-sufficient.  An indefinite award of spousal maintenance may also be justified if a spouse is disabled and incapable of working after the divorce. 

Where one spouse has sacrificed by working to help support the other while he/she obtained a professional degree (such as in law or medicine), and the marriage ends before the economic benefit is realized, it is not uncommon for spousal maintenance to become an issue.  The Arizona courts have held that an education is not community property subject to division in a divorce.  However, the supporting-spouse’s sacrifice, the other spouse’s educational degree attained during the marriage, and the potential for greater earning capacity can all be considered as factors, along with the others in the statute, in determining spousal maintenance.

With no guideline for calculating spousal maintenance, a judge is left to base her/his decision on the factors contained in the Arizona statute.  In determining how much support is appropriate, the courts often employ a “needs-based analysis” by looking at the requesting-spouse’s budget and examining the extent to which the monthly expenses exceed income.   A determination of how long the payments should be made will depend on the length of time the parties were married, their standard of living, how long it will take the spouse receiving maintenance to become self-sufficient, and the other factors listed in the statute.

There is no hard-and-fast rule for determining the amount or duration of spousal maintenance.  The Court makes that decision on a case-by-case basis using the list of factors contained in Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 25-319.  Because this is one of the greyest areas in Family Law, a proper presentation of evidence in the courtroom is essential — in fact, it can be the difference between years of financial security . . . or no support at all.

Gary J. Frank, is an Arizona Family Law Attorney and former Judge Pro Tem with over thirty years of experience in dealing with spousal support and property division issues in divorce cases.  He also has many years of experience as a Family Law Mediator.  If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate to contact us by telephone (602-383-3610) or by email through our website.  We look forward to hearing from you.


ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES, SECTION 25-319:

A.    In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or a legal separation, or a proceeding for maintenance following dissolution of the marriage by a court that lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, the court may grant a maintenance order for the following reasons if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:

1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for his or her reasonable needs;
2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self sufficient;
3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse; or
4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.

B.    The maintenance order shall be in an amount and for a period of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and after considering all relevant factors, including:

1. The standard of living established during the marriage;
2. The duration of the marriage;
3. The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
4. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her own needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;
5. The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market;
6. The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse;
7. The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced his or her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;
8. The ability of both parties after the divorce to contribute to the future educational opportunities of their mutual children;
9. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to that spouse, and his or her ability to meet his/her own needs independently;
10. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment, and whether such education or training is readily available.
11. Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
12. The cost for the spouse who is seeking maintenance to obtain health insurance and the reduction in the cost of health insurance for the spouse from whom maintenance is sought if the spouse from whom maintenance is sought is able to convert family health insurance to employee health insurance after the marriage is dissolved; and
13. All actual damages and judgments from conduct that results in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or a child was the victim.

C.    If both parties agree, the maintenance order and a decree of dissolution of marriage or of a legal separation may state that its maintenance terms shall not be modified.

D.    Except as provided in subsection C of this section or § 25-317, subsection G, the court shall maintain continuing jurisdiction over the issue of maintenance for the period of time maintenance is awarded.

ALIMONY IS A TWO-EDGED SWORD — IT CUTS BOTH WAYS

Not long ago, the notion of a wife being ordered to pay spousal maintenance (alimony) to her husband in a divorce case would have been laughed at.   Men paid alimony, not women.  But that was then, and this is now.  Things are changing fast.
Throughout most of our country’s history, opportunities for women were limited.  No matter how bright, talented, or motivated they might be, women were allowed only one socially acceptable career path – motherhood.  Society was rife with prejudice against women, and barriers were firmly established everywhere — in education, in the business world, and in the social structure – to keep them in their place.  With these massive societal obstacles, it took almost a superhuman effort for any woman to obtain an education and forge a successful career.  Most women in the 1950’s and 60’s were stay-at-home mothers, and not always by choice.  If a woman wanted to work, she was likely to be offered a low-paying job, at best.  Not many careers were open to women.  They could become a nurse, a teacher, or a secretary – but a career as a doctor, a school principal, or a business executive was almost unattainable, regardless of the woman’s intelligence, experience, or qualifications.  A “glass ceiling” was erected and any individual woman who tried to break through it did so at her own peril – she was likely to get sliced to pieces in the effort.
The concept of alimony grew out of a society in which men had the freedom to work and women were bereft of opportunities.  When a divorce occurred, it was common that the wife found herself with little education, training, or work experience, and no means of providing for herself financially.  Without spousal support, a divorced woman could fall from a high standard of living to a life of abject poverty – and many did.  Laws providing for spousal support (referred to as alimony or spousal maintenance) were enacted to help soften the blow. The purpose of the law was to give a spouse sufficient time in which to obtain the education, training, or work experience necessary to be able to adequately support herself.  In rare instances, a spouse was awarded “lifetime” support, but this was usually limited to cases in which there was a long-term marriage, an unusually high standard of living, and/or a disability.  
 
Until fairly recently, the concept of a man being awarded spousal maintenance was almost unheard of — but society is changing, and so are our laws.
 
Arizona’s spousal maintenance statute can be found at A.R.S., Section 25-319.  It is purposefully worded in a manner which is gender-neutral, stating:
 
“In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation . . . the court may grant a maintenance order for either spouse . . . “
 
While the “glass ceiling” hasn’t been completely shattered, it is coming down quickly.  Women have made great strides in business, education, politics, sports, and in the social structure at large.  In fact, in 2010 more than 57% percent of college students in the U.S. were women.  This means that the economic and political clout of women is growing and will continue to grow.  Equality for women in every facet of our American society is now a foregone conclusion.  (If you are the parent of a daughter — or a son — you should welcome this change.)
 
In 2011 it is not uncommon for a wife to be earning as much, or more than, her husband.  It is not strange anymore to see a “stay-at-home father” taking care of the children while his wife goes off to work to support the family.  And, as a result, it is no longer unheard of for the Court to order a wife to pay alimony to her husband following a divorce.
 
A.R.S. 25-319 provides a list of factors that the Court is required to consider in determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. Some of those factors are:
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The family’s standard of living during the marriage;
  • The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their earning abilities in the labor market;
  • The contribution of the spouse seeking support to the earning ability of the other spouse;
  • The extent to which the spouse seeking support has reduced his or her income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse;
  • The age of the spouse seeking support;
  • The physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking support;
  • Whether a spouse lacks sufficient resources to provide for his/her reasonable needs;
  • Whether the spouse seeking support is able to be self-sufficient or lacks the earning ability to be self-sufficient;
  • The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking support to find appropriate employment, and whether such education or training is readily available.
There was a time in which one could expect the “spouse seeking support” to almost always be the wife. That era is coming to a close. Society is becoming more fair, balanced, and equal.  That’s a good thing. 
 
In the future, when two parties divorce and the spouse in need of support happens to be a man, then spousal maintenance will be awarded to him.  And that’s a good thing, too.
 
 
Gary Frank has handled Spousal Maintenance issues, for both women and men, in Family Law cases for over thirty years.  He is well acquainted with complex issues in divorce cases, having dealt with them as a litigation attorney, a mediator, and a judge pro tem in the Maricopa County Superior Court.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding the issue of spousal maintenance, or any other Family Law matter, please give us a call at 602-383-3610, or contact at us through our website.  We would be happy to talk to you.