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Figuring Out Alimony and the Factors Courts Consider

If you're getting a divorce, or even just considering it, you've probably also thought about alimony. How much will it be, and what factors will the court consider in its decision?

We can't help much with the first question, as alimony calculations depend almost entirely on your personal situation. But we can help with the second.

While the outcome differs depending on finances, the questions courts ask are generally the same all over Arizona. Here are some of the more common factors:

  • Standard of living. Courts want to know how you live now and how long you've lived that way. If you're comfortably middle class before the divorce, the court's goal is to make sure both people can stay that way after the divorce.

  • Earning capacity. If one person has a significantly lower earning capacity, courts want to know. That could make it difficult for the parties to divide their "assets" equally and may warrant alimony.

  • Earning potential. If, however, the party with a lower earning capacity can quickly improve that situation, the need for alimony is lowered. In that case, the court may significantly limit the amount of time alimony is available, or get rid of it altogether.

  • Intangible contributions. If income inequality is due to one spouse providing child care, then courts are much more likely to order alimony for a while so that other spouse can catch up career-wise. The same is true if that spouse supported the other while gaining education or job training for a career. After all, those are services that went uncompensated during the marriage.

  • Child-rearing responsibilities. If one spouse will be the primary caregiver of young children, that will mean lowering earning potential in the future as well. Child support helps cover children's expenses, but alimony can help make up for the lost income for a parent who stays at home or works part time.

But alimony isn't a given in every divorce. A party has to request it from the court for it to be considered.

If it's come up in your divorce, talk to your lawyer about your concerns and what steps to take. Even if it's bad news for you, at least alimony doesn't last forever.

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