Striking out on your own, especially after a long marriage, can be intimidating. In some cases, it may even be nearly impossible to go straight to complete financial independence. Spousal support, or maintenance, as it is often called, is designed to provide low-earning spouses the financial support they need to become financially independent following a divorce. Maintenance is not automatically ordered however, you must negotiate for it in mediation, or request it in court. Here are a few qualifications that may help you make your case for spousal support.
- You are unable to provide for your own needs. A major point in favor of you needing spousal support is if you’re currently unable to provide for your own needs, and therefore the divorce is going to make you unable to support yourself. In that case, you can request maintenance to help support you while you work toward financial independence. If your need is an immediate one, you can seek “pendente lite,” which is temporary support orders that will ensure your needs are met until the divorce is finalized and the new orders go into effect.
- You are home-bound due to a dependent child. If you aren’t able to work outside of the home, maintenance may not be provided with the expectation that you’ll work toward becoming financially self-sufficient. For example, if you are prevented from seeking a job outside the home due to the care of a very young child or a disabled child, you’ll likely get maintenance to help support you while you care for the child.
- You’ve sacrificed your earning power to the benefit of your spouse. Arizona family law used to say that you might be entitled to maintenance if you’ve contributed financially or otherwise to your spouse’s earning power. The clause was a little vague though, so recently the law was updated to specify that you may be entitled to maintenance if you’ve reduced your own earning power in some fashion. For instance, if you’ve given up your career to stay home, raise your kids, and keep house, then you should be able to get maintenance in order to balance out your reduced earning power.
- You were married a long time. If you qualify, you may receive spousal support for a period of 30 to 50 percent of the duration of your marriage, although that’s a loose guideline and not necessarily a hard-and-fast rule. Support is usually a temporary situation to help bridge the gap between the lifestyle you’re accustomed to and complete financial self-sufficiency, but the longer you were married, the longer it may take to get to that point. For example, you could even be awarded permanent, ongoing support if you were married for an exceptionally long time, and due to advanced age or an extended time with no career, are unlikely to be able to achieve financial independence.
Proving you qualify for spousal support is a complicated matter, made even more so by the fact that there aren’t definite guidelines for maintenance. Unless you arrive at a figure and duration during mediation, determining entitlement and an amount is left up to the judge’s best judgment. Therefore it’s important to have a good divorce attorney to help guide you through negotiation, mediation, and if necessary, court. To discuss your unique case and whether you can expect spousal support, contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today.