Most people have heard about divorces of extremely wealthy couples where the lesser-earning spouse seeks a significant amount of alimony to maintain the “standard of living” they’ve gotten used to during the marriage. While the amount of monthly alimony being sought (and awarded) in some high-profile cases may be more than some Americans earn in a year, that doesn’t necessarily make it unreasonable given the circumstances.
Even if that standard of living resulted from the work and success of one spouse, does the other spouse have a right to continue the standard of living their soon-to-be-ex was able to provide? That depends on multiple factors.
Arizona law regarding maintenance
Under Arizona law, the amount of “maintenance” granted can depend in part on the “standard of living established during the marriage.” It also depends on things like how long a couple was married, whether the spouse seeking maintenance gave up their career to help their spouse or care for the children and that spouse’s age and earning ability.
If a couple can’t agree on spousal maintenance themselves, a judge will consider those factors and others. It will also consider whether the standard of living the two have been enjoying was real or “artificial.” For example, they might have two mortgages on a multimillion-dollar home. They might have designer clothes, furniture and more but be mired in credit card debt. A judge isn’t going to award alimony based on a standard of living that’s built on a mountain of debt.
On the other hand, if a couple chose to sacrifice a higher standard of living to put away money for a home, their children’s education and retirement, a judge may possibly order what’s sometimes known as “reimbursement alimony” to the lesser-earning spouse. This can also be awarded if that spouse worked to put their husband or wife through law school or medical school or to support the family while their spouse developed a tech company that went on to be worth millions.
If you believe that your spouse will be in a financial position after the divorce to pay you maintenance that will allow you to keep the standard of living you’ve enjoyed over the years, you have every right to seek it. That’s particularly true if that standard of living was possible because of your own sacrifices and work. Having experienced legal guidance can help you present a strong case.