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5 Things Judges Consider When Awarding Spousal Maintenance


You might not have heard the term “spousal maintenance” before, but you probably know it by its other name: alimony. Alimony is money that one spouse pays to the other after they divorce. They might pay them more or less depending on several factors.

Usually, one spouse doesn’t pay the other spousal maintenance money forever. How much they pay and for how long might change if the spouse remarries, if they get a high-paying job, or for other reasons.

Let’s take some time to go over a few factors a judge might consider when deciding how much alimony is reasonable. This is a critical decision since it’s going to determine much about both spouses’ lifestyles going forward.

Employment Impediments

Potential employment impediments are one thing that an Arizona divorce lawyer will always tell a judge. This might come into play if one spouse has a permanent disability, for example, and they’re accustomed to the other spouse paying for their medical care, food, housing, clothes, etc.

The spouse in question might also have to take care of a special needs child. If the two had one when they were together, the spouse who gets custody should get more money since they probably can’t get a job if they need to care for the child most of the time.

Future Earning Potential

A judge will look at future earning potential as well, pertaining to not one but both spouses. Maybe one spouse is a doctor, while the other is only a high school graduate. A neurosurgeon can easily make six figures per year, while the other spouse is probably not going to make anything close to that.

Unless the two individuals signed a prenuptial agreement, the less educated spouse can expect the higher paid one to continue supporting them as they did when they were together. The wealthier spouse might not do so for the rest of both their lives, but they can expect to pay at least something for the next five or ten years, if not longer.

Marriage Length

Marriage length will enter into the equation. Again, you might have one spouse who makes more than the other. However, maybe these two got together on a whim, and they are splitting up after only a couple of months.

A fast marriage and a quickie divorce make it less likely that a judge will grant the spouse who earns less a great deal of alimony. It’s going to be the opposite if the two married each other thirty years ago.

In this second scenario, the spouse who makes less money has accustomed themselves to a particular lifestyle as much as it is possible to be. The judge is going to take that into account and probably award a healthy alimony amount each month.

Spousal Age

Sometimes, you might have a significant age difference between the spouses. Let’s say the husband is thirty years older than the wife.

If so, the judge will probably award the wife less unless there is some particular reason why she cannot support herself. The judge will consider that the husband, being much older, will probably need the money to take care of his declining health. If the husband is inordinately wealthy, though, the judge might have no qualms about awarding the younger wife a generous monthly stipend.

Emotional and Physical Conditions

How each spouse treated the other during the marriage is going to matter. A couple’s intimate details will be under the microscope as the judge determines how to distribute the money and other assets.

If one spouse treated the other very poorly, such as if they cheated on them repeatedly, they physically assaulted them, or they came up with other ways to torment them, the judge is going to take a hard look at all of that. Most judges will want to distribute the money in a compensatory way.

In other words, if they feel like one spouse mistreated the other, hurting the abusive spouse in return is almost like a way of balancing the cosmic scales. That might not be enough to make up for what one spouse endured, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

It’s not easy for a judge to wade through some of these situations, and often, either one or both of the spouses might come away dissatisfied. Divorce is never easy, though, and this is just one example of what you might have to go through if you decide it’s the most sensible option.

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