“Does alimony differ from spousal maintenance in Arizona” is the question we’re answering in this divorce blog series. We’ve taken you from ancient alimony rooted in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, to the potentially devastating financial consequences of common law, fault-based alimony for men and, more so, for women.
Today, we’ll take a closer look at the impact of marital misconduct in alimony awards up until the mid-20th Century.
When the only options for a wife were to either remain in an unhappy and perhaps abusive marriage or get a divorce and risk disgrace and poverty, there was strong incentive for her to maintain the status quo no matter what.
Both spouses sometimes took to making life more tolerable by engaging in activities that undermined the marriage covenant (adultery, drunkenness, gambling, and so on). Because of the permanence of marriage, a divorce was only granted upon evidence of guilt, or marital misconduct.
In this guilt-based system, any act of marital misconduct by the wife was reason for the court to withhold an award of alimony to her. If she had marginal job skills, the divorced woman was likely to arrive at the county poor house. Something had to be done.
UMDA Introduces Modern Concepts of Spousal Support.
By the mid-1950s, times had really changed for families in the U.S.A. More women than ever before were working outside the home as career wage-earners supporting their families alongside their husbands.
Attitudes about marriage and divorce had evolved as well. The idea that a court could not dissolve a marriage without proof of marital guilt was quickly losing favor. The biggest legislative change came in 1970 with the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA) which Arizona adopted.
Fault and Sex Gone From the Equation.
With the UMDA, Arizona became a “no fault” divorce state where the court would dissolve a marriage without considering spousal guilt. Most importantly to our discussion, marital misconduct was removed from the support equation along with the seeking party’s sex.
To avoid confusion, the term “alimony” was replaced with “spousal maintenance” which was, and still is, equally available to either spouse without consideration of marital fault. Therefore, the UMDA really leveled the playing field with regard to supporting a former spouse in divorce or legal separation.
When you meet with your Phoenix attorney about a divorce, you’ll be discussing the availability of spousal maintenance under Arizona law. But alimony awards in divorce? That’s for courts in other jurisdictions like North Carolina to decide.