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Terminating Spousal Support in Arizona Family Law Cases

I. Premarital Agreements & Spousal Maintenance

Arizona law recognizes and allows for the enforcement of premarital agreements concerning spousal maintenance. See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-202. However, there are limits on what a premarital agreement can accomplish. For example, “[i]f a provision of a premarital agreement modifies or eliminates spousal support and that modification or elimination causes one party to the agreement to be eligible for support under a program of public assistance at the time of separation or marital dissolution, a court, notwithstanding the terms of the agreement, may require the other party to provide support to the extent necessary to avoid that eligibility.” § 25-202(D).

II. Termination of a Spousal Maintenance Award

Under Arizona statute, “[u]nless otherwise agreed in writing or expressly provided in the decree, the obligation to pay future maintenance is terminated on the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance.” ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-327(B). It is worthwhile to note that “a spousal maintenance obligation can survive the recipient’s death or remarriage if the parties have executed a written agreement so providing or if the decree expressly so provides…” Diefenbach v. Holmberg, 26 P.3d 1186, 1187 (Ariz. App. 2001). “The language providing for the continuation of the obligation, however, must be ‘direct or unmistakable’ . . . .” Id. at 1187-88.

Occasionally, a party receiving spousal maintenance will establish a romantic relationship and cohabitate with a partner who contributes to that individual’s household finances. When this happens, the relationship does not automatically cause the termination of spousal maintenance. See Van Dyke v. Steinle, 902 P.2d 1371 (Ariz. App. 1995). “[I]t is established in Arizona that the existence of a cohabitation arrangement or ‘de facto marriage’ between a spouse receiving maintenance and a cohabitant is not a sufficient basis, in itself, for termination or reduction of spousal maintenance.” Id. at 1378. However, “evidence relating to the economic nature of cohabitation would be relevant” to show that the cohabitating party’s support needs have changed since the award of spousal maintenance. See id.

III. Modification of a Spousal Maintenance Award

“If both parties agree, the maintenance order and a decree of dissolution of marriage or of legal separation may state that its maintenance terms shall not be modified.” ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-319(C). Otherwise, “the provisions of any decree respecting maintenance or support may be modified or terminated only on a showing of changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing except as to any amount that may have accrued as an arrearage before the date of notice of the motion or order to show cause to modify or terminate.” ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 25-327(A).

“This change of circumstances must occur after the entry of the original decree in order to be material.” Chaney v. Chaney, 699 P.2d 398 (Ariz. App. 1985). Furthermore, when the spousal maintenance award is entered based on an agreement of the parties, a “court will look with disfavor upon a party who attempts to evade contractually agreed upon spousal maintenance responsibilities by asserting a change of circumstances when the parties originally made their agreement with such changes in mind.” Id. (interpreting the holding of Linton v. Linton, 499 P.2d 174 (Ariz. App. 1972)).

Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC has experience helping clients with their spousal maintenance needs. If you are thinking about seeking, enforcing, modifying, or terminating a spousal maintenance award in the State of Arizona, contact Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC to schedule a consultation and discuss your options.

Disclaimer: This publication is for educational and informational purposes only, and represents Huffman-Shayeb Law, PLLC’s understanding of the present state of Arizona law. This publication does not constitute legal advice or counsel, and should not be construed as a comment on the merits of any particular case. It should be noted that the laws and requirements of the State of Arizona may change at any time and that this information may not be complete or correct.