In April 2018 Governor Ducey signed a bill that makes an ostensibly minor change to one of the factors a judge must look at to determine whether a person should be awarded spousal maintenance in a divorce case and adds another factor to the list. The factor that has been changed is the one that pertains to educational contributions by the spouse seeking financial support.
Previously, this part of the spousal maintenance law – the list of factors that justify an award of spousal maintenance — stated that a judge could award spousal maintenance if the party seeking spousal maintenance “contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.”
The new wording, which will probably take effect later this year, states that a judge may award spousal maintenance if the spouse seeking spousal support “has made a significant financial or other contribution to the education, training, vocational skills, career, or earning ability of the other spouse.” This change, of course, is going to mostly hurt men, because it is usually the man who ends up having to shell out big bucks to an ex-spouse. Although at first glance, it seems like this law is positive for men because the support-seeker must show a “substantial” contribution rather than just mere contribution, the fact of the matter is that the categories of things that justify an award of spousal maintenance has been enlarged to non-educational things such as training, vocational skills, your career, and even your promotions/career advancement.
Even worse, another factor was added that, by itself, could also be the basis for an award of spousal maintenance: if the spouse seeking support (usually, the wife) “has significantly reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.” So, whereas your wife previously had to show that she affirmatively contributed to your educational opportunities, now she merely needs to show that she did not pursue her own income or career opportunities.
Wow! All she needs to do is nothing. Just sit back, watch some YouTube videos and text her friends while you toil away like a slave at your stressful job. Later, she can say that she chose not to get her graduate degree or continue her career in some high-paying job because she needed to fix your breakfast and dinner (which probably don’t taste all that great, anyway). Not a bad deal, huh? Of course, I’m exaggerating a little here to get your attention and make the point. But this nightmare scenario is what is coming down the pike for too many men.
It is more important than ever to get a prenuptial agreement if you are not yet married. If you are married and don’t have a prenuptial agreement, you should strongly consider getting a postnuptial agreement. If you are facing a divorce, you need to get yourself into my office so that we can do some serious damage control.