Denial of Spousal Support as a Sanction in an Arizona Divorce
An issue may arise in some divorce cases concerning whether a judge may order a denial of spousal support as a sanction in an Arizona divorce.
A judge may order a spouse to pay spousal support, called spousal maintenance, in an Arizona divorce case.
A judge may also order sanctions against a spouse for, among other things, failing to disclose financial or other information in a divorce case.
A question arose in the case of Bjotvedt vs. Bjotvedt whether the court may refuse to award spousal maintenance to a spouse as a sanction for failing to disclose financial information in a divorce case in Arizona.
The Arizona Court of Appeals in a memorandum decision, in that case, answered that question.
In that case, the husband filed for divorce.
The mother had been a stay at home mother caring for their children for the past 15 years prior to the divorce filing.
The wife requested an award of spousal maintenance in the divorce.
The wife also filed an Affidavit of Financial Information in which she listed her monthly living expenses.
Before trial, both parties were ordered to complete discovery at least 15 days prior to the trial, ordered the parties to submit a Joint Pretrial Statement, and ordered both parties to exchange update Affidavits of Financial Information.
Sanctions and Denials of Awards of Spousal Support in Arizona
Prior to trial, the husband filed a motion to compel seeking sanctions against the wife for not disclosing certain information he requested.
That motion was denied by the court.
During the trial, the wife testified about her income, expenses, and her attempts to find a job.
Neither party used the wife’s initial Affidavit of Financial Information as evidence in the trial.
After trial, the court divided the community property and debt and, although finding the wife was entitled to spousal maintenance, entered a denial of spousal support as a sanction in an Arizona divorce.
The denied to wife any spousal support as a sanction was for her failure to disclose all of her financial documentation.
Ruling on Sanctions and Spousal Support Issues
The Court of Appeals found that a person is entitled to an award of spousal maintenance if they meet any of the requirements for spousal maintenance set forth in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-319(A).
The Court of Appeals also ruled that a trial court must then consider all of the factors set forth in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-319(B) to determine the amount and duration of an award if the court finds a spouse is entitled to an award of alimony.
The Court of Appeals ruled that a court issues a sanction for failing to disclose information in a divorce case that sanction must “bear some relationship to the violation.”
In this case, the Arizona Court of Appeals found the trial court made an error when it first found the wife was entitled to spousal support and then, without considering the mandatory part of the statute to determine the amount and duration of that award, simply denied the wife’s spousal maintenance claim as a sanction for not disclosing information before trial.
The Court of Appeals found the information the wife did disclose had remained unchanged and, therefore, her failure to disclose updated financial information did not prejudice the husband’s ability to present evidence on the issue of spousal maintenance.
As a result, the Arizona Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court with instructions for the trial court to analyze the factors in the statute to determine how much alimony the wife was to receive and for how long she would receive it.
If you have questions about denial of spousal support as a sanction in Arizona, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona spousal maintenance and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in spousal maintenance and family law cases.
Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.
Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your spousal maintenance or family law case around today.
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