Attributing Income for Spousal Support in Arizona
We want to talk to you about attributing income for spousal support in Arizona. A court may, in some cases, decide to attribute income in a spousal maintenance case if the court feels a person is unemployed or underemployed in an Arizona divorce.
In its published decision in Pullen v. Pullen, 223 Ariz. 293 (App. 2009), the Arizona Court of Appeals examined when to attribute income in a spousal maintenance case.
Husband and Wife were married in 1978. After 29 years of marriage, Wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage and requested spousal maintenance.
Prior to her petition, the Wife was unemployed. At the time of trial, Wife was making $9.02 per hour, or $12,191 annually, as a special education teaching assistant. Prior to trial, Husband was a driver for FedEx in Kingman making $64,988 annually. After Wife filed her petition, Husband voluntarily ended his employment at FedEx and moved to Washington. At the time of trial, Husband was employed as a driver in Washington making $15 per hour. Husband asserted that he chose Washington even though FedEx would not transfer him there and that due to the economy, he accepted a lower-paying job.
The trial court found that Husband was voluntarily underemployed, attributed him his income from FedEx, and determined that Wife was entitled to spousal maintenance of $1,000 per month for ten years. Husband appealed, arguing that the trial court applied the wrong standard for attributing him income and the evidence did not support the finding that he was voluntarily underemployed.
Balancing Test for Attributing Income in a Spousal Support Case
The Court of Appeals examined the Supreme Court’s prior decision in Little v. Little, 193 Ariz. 518, 975 P.2d 108 (1999) where it adopted an intermediate balancing test to determine whether to use actual income or earning capacity to calculate child support when a parent voluntarily reduces their income. The Court of Appeals found that the following five factors should be used when applying the balancing test to a spousal maintenance case:
- The reasons asserted by the party whose conduct is at issue;
- The impact upon the obligee of considering the actual earnings of the obligor;
- When the obligee’s conduct is at issue, the impact upon the obligor of considering the actual earnings of the oblige and thereby reducing the obligor’s financial contribution to the support order at issue;
- Whether the party complaining of a voluntary reduction in income acquiesced in the conduct of the other party; and
- The timing of the action in question in relation to the entering of a decree or the execution of a written agreement between the parties.
The Court found that although the trial court did not expressly consider the five factors, the record supported the trial court’s decision under the five-factor analysis.
Weighing the Evidence to Attribute Prior Income
Husband also argued that the evidence was insufficient to show that he was voluntarily underemployed. The Court of Appeals disagreed and found that if Husband wanted to move from Arizona, he could have transferred with FedEx to Nevada or California. The Court found that it was within the trial court’s discretion to find that Husband’s voluntary move to Washington was unreasonable, considering Wife’s pending maintenance needs.
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Chris Hildebrand wrote the information on this page about attributing income for spousal support in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about community property laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.