Alimony and Overtime in Arizona
Alimony and Overtime in Arizona | Is Overtime Included in Alimony Calculation?
The Arizona Court of Appeals in the Terri Lynn Woodside v. Larry James Woodside case had to address the issues of whether a person working full time who also chooses to work an additional job should have just his full time earnings considered when a trial court enters a ruling on alimony in Arizona or whether a judge has the discretion to include income from both jobs when determining how much alimony to award.
Larry argued the trial court erred by taking into account earnings from his second, part time job in calculating the amount of alimony. Evidence at trial established he earned $2,400.00 per month at his full time position as building inspector and, since 1994, he also has earned an extra $1,500.00 to $1,600.00 per month working part time as a teacher at a community college.
Larry relied on another case, McNutt v. McNutt, for the proposition a party should be able to choose to work additional hours without increasing a support obligation. That case, however, did not address alimony, but rather interpreted a section of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, which states a parent is generally not expected to earn income greater than what would be earned from full time employment, but no such provision exists for alimony in Arizona.
Larry also cited two out of state cases, both suggested they were limited to their facts, and were both distinguishable from this case. In the first, In re Marriage of Smith, the California Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s order modifying a alimony award, finding that the marital standard of living should have been based on what the husband would have earned had he worked at a “reasonable human pace”, rather than working “excessive hours”.
Larry conceded, however, that the court clarified in a footnote that its reasoning was case specific, stating that income from overtime or a second job must be considered by the trial court, but how it is to be considered in a particular case is within the discretion of the court.
In Stuczynski v. Stuczynski, the husband was employed full time when he left the home, but then acquired a second job at an additional thirty hours per week after the parties separated to support the home and allow the wife to obtain employment. The Nebraska Supreme Court held the trial court abused its discretion by including the second job in the income calculation.
Larry did not testify regarding how many extra hours he had worked in his teaching job, and there was no evidence he worked a total of sixty or more hours per week, as the husbands did in Smith and Stuczynski.
Furthermore, Larry held his part time job for eighteen years before the divorce, as opposed to the husband in Stuczynski, who only took the second job to support his family after the parties’ separation. Therefore, the court decided that these two cases did not support his argument.
The justices continued by stating both cases held a trial court may consider additional employment depending on the number of hours, the circumstances leading to it, and how long the spouse has worked more than full time during the marriage.
They justices agreed with the previous rulings holding it is within the discretion of the trial court to decide how these factors will be considered in each particular case. The court found nothing in the Arizona Statutes provides or suggests a the trial court cannot consider income earned form a second job may not be included in the court’s calculation of alimony.
Rather, the justices asserted income from a second job was relevant to several of the enumerated factors, particularly determining the standard of living during the marriage and the comparative financial resources and earning abilities of the parties. The court concluded the trial court had not abused its discretion by considering Larry’s income from his second job.
A trial court determines the amount and duration of alimony with reference to several factors found in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-318. However, they are only required to rule on the factors relevant to the particular case at hand.
Some important factors that might alter the ruling for alimony include the receiving party obtaining employment and how the property is divided between the parties, but it is within the discretion of the court how heavily these factors will affect the amount or duration of alimony in Arizona.
It is within the sound discretion of the trial court to decide whether income from overtime work or an additional job will be factored into the paying party’s income calculation. It is important for an appealing party to take into consideration the latitude the court has in deciding what factors it will examine and how the circumstances of each alimony case will vary from case to case.