Whatever the reason for your divorce, it often feels like one spouse is much more at fault than the other. They may have cheated, abandoned you or simply refused to put in the work to make the marriage succeed. It can be tempting to try to punish your ex for their marital misconduct.
In general, you can’t punish your spouse financially for marital misconduct. That is because, in Arizona, we have a no-fault divorce system.
When you file for divorce, you state that your marriage is irretrievably broken. In a typical divorce, that’s all you need to show, and agreement by both parties is enough to show it. (This is sometimes different if you want a divorce from a covenant marriage, but it still doesn’t affect your marriage settlement.)
Once you file for divorce, you will have to resolve these major issues:
- Parenting – legal decision-making authority and parenting time
- Support – child support and, in some cases, spousal maintenance (alimony)
- Division or property and debt
The division of property and debt, along with spousal maintenance, are generally what people mean when they talk about what they “get” in the divorce.
Dividing your property and debt
In general, dividing your property and debt is to be done fairly. Arizona is a community property state, which means that virtually all property and debt you obtained during the marriage is part of the marital estate. Once the marital estate has been defined, the property and debt are to be divided “equitably” and without regard to marital misconduct.
That is not to say that no misconduct can be considered during the division of property and debt. If your ex tried to conceal or destroy some assets, ran up a bunch of bills right before the divorce, or committed fraud, this can be taken into account when dividing your property and debt. Likewise, a criminal conviction in which you or your children were the victim can be considered.
Determining spousal maintenance (alimony)
Likewise, spousal maintenance is to be ordered without regard to marital misconduct but considering a list of statutory factors. These factors include things like the length of the marriage, the standard of living established, each spouse’s financial resources and earning capacity, and issues such as whether one spouse had to limit their education or career opportunities in order to support the other spouse.
The main purpose of spousal maintenance is to provide resources for a spouse who was dependent on the other during the marriage. Often, it won’t be permanent, but will provide an opportunity for the dependent spouse to improve their prospects with education or job training.
Again, issues like excessive or abnormal expenditures, concealment or destruction of assets, fraud, or certain types of criminal convictions can be considered by the court when spousal maintenance is awarded.
If you feel that your divorcing spouse is primarily responsible for the breakdown in the marriage, it can be hard to let go. The law generally doesn’t allow you to use your divorce as a way to punish your ex for marital misconduct. Instead, it is geared toward resolving your divorce issues reasonably and fairly so that you can move on in a positive way.