Understanding How Spousal Maintenance Amounts Are Determined

Understanding How Spousal Maintenance Amounts Are Determined

spousal maintenanceOnce you and your spouse have decided to divorce, there are many decisions to be made. Even the most amicable divorces tend to get a little tense around the issue of spousal maintenance, also known as alimony. Every state has rules about determining ongoing financial support but that doesn’t mean there is a simple formula. In a traditional courtroom divorce, the judge assigned to your case will be the one that determines spousal maintenance but in mediation, there is more room for discussion.

First, it is important to determine if you qualify for spousal maintenance. In Arizona, a spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance payments if they meet any of these criteria:

  • Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs.
  • Lacks earning ability in the labor market that is adequate to be self-sufficient.
  • Is the parent of a child whose age or condition is such that the parent should not be required to seek employment outside the home.
  • Has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career or earning ability of the other spouse or has significantly reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
  • Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient.

But, simply meeting the criteria does not mean the discussion is over. There is typically disagreements about the amount which is why sufficient documentation must be supplied as well. Once sufficient documentation has been supplied, Arizona law says that the following factors will play a role in determining the final spousal maintenance amount and duration of payment:


  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age, employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance.
  • The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet that spouse’s needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.
  • The comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market.
  • The contribution of the spouse seeking maintenance to the earning ability of the other spouse.
  • The extent to which the spouse seeking maintenance has reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.
  • The ability of both parties after the dissolution to contribute to the future educational costs of their mutual children.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Excessive or abnormal expenditures, destruction, concealment or fraudulent disposition of community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.
  • 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.
  • All actual damages and judgments from conduct that resulted in criminal conviction of either spouse in which the other spouse or a child was the victim.

There is no exact formula to calculate spousal maintenance but when you consult with a divorce mediator, they will be able to take a closer look at your unique situation and give you an idea of what to expect. If you continue with divorce mediation, your mediator will help you navigate the sensitive topic and determine the exact amount and duration of spousal maintenance payments.


About Oliver Ross

Oliver Ross, JD*, PhD founded Out-of-Court Solutions Inc. in 1995 and since then has mediated over 3,000 divorce and family matters. He is a select member of the Maricopa Superior Court Family Mediation roster