Husband Files for Divorce Upon Graduation from Medical School: Wife’s Income Exceeds Husband’s, but Wife Is Awarded Spousal Maintenance Because She Contributed to Husband’s Educational Opportunities

We represented the wife, 40, in this action for dissolution of marriage. The parties had been married 12 years when the husband, 38, filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. The husband had recently graduated medical school, and was finishing his training to become a psychiatrist. The wife was employed as an occupational therapist. The parties did not have any children.

Family Law - DivorceThe parties were unable to agree on numerous issues, including whether or not the husband should pay spousal maintenance. The husband contended that the wife, who was self-sufficient and had always earned more than him, was not entitled to spousal maintenance. The wife, on the other hand, contended that she contributed to her husband’s education and, therefore, was entitled to an award of spousal maintenance. (In Arizona, a court can award spousal maintenance to one spouse if it finds that they have “contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse.”)

The parties stipulated to refer their case to binding arbitration. At the arbitration hearing, the wife produced evidence concerning the contributions that she had made to her husband’s educational opportunities. Although the wife’s income exceeded the husband’s income, the arbitrator still found that the wife qualified for an award of spousal maintenance because she contributed to her husband’s educational opportunities. Accordingly, the husband was ordered to pay spousal maintenance to the wife for a period of 72 months following the divorce.

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