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Change in Circumstances to Modify Alimony in Arizona | Voted “Best of the Valley”

Posted on : April 20, 2016, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Change in Circumstances to Modify Alimony in Arizona.

Change in Circumstances to Modify Alimony in Arizona

In the unpublished Arizona Court of Appeals case of Costa v. Costa, Nanci J. Costa, Wife appealed the trial court’s order granting Husband a modification of spousal maintenance. In Arizona, a modification of spousal maintenance may only be granted when a substantial and continuing change of circumstances is shown. On appeal, the Court of Appeals had to determine whether or not Husband met the burden of proof validating the trial court’s modification. The parties were married in 1983 and Wife petitioned for dissolution of the parties marriage in July 2013.

Wife requested spousal maintenance of $200 per month for life. Husband did not respond and the court entered a default decree of dissolution of marriage, including the requested spousal maintenance. That divorce decree was entered in October 2013. Husband filed for a modification in July 2014 stating that he had experienced a significant, substantial and continuing change of circumstance and that qualified him to terminate the spousal maintenance obligation. Husband stated that at the time the divorce decree was issued, he was employed part-time, but that he was now unable to maintain employment due to his health.

Jennifer, thank you for being my attorney. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome of my family court hearing. Everything you have done for me throughout this case reflects in the final ruling of the judge. You helped me keep my head together and taught me a lot about myself as a person. I learned so much about my life from observing and listening to you. I will take all the advice you gave me to continue taking responsibility for my choices, continue to put the kids' needs first, and always stay truthful. Your diligence, dedication, and persistence in my case made what seemed impossible, possible. You are a wonderful person and an amazing attorney and I am stronger and more confident because of you.
A Google User
A Google User
20:31 20 Sep 17
I just want to again thank the Firm for working with me all that it has. I could not have done anything without everyone's assistance. You, Chris and Stacey have been and continue to provide me with compassion and hard work towards my case. Also a very special thanks to Kip for taking my case in the beginning. Also continued support from him and his dedication to providing me with his expertise in this matter.
A Google User
A Google User
21:41 07 Nov 17
After interviewing several law firms, I came across Jennifer Shick, and her firm, who I hired to represent me for my Family Court case. Jennifer has extensive knowledge of the law and is determined to bring the truth to every issue involved within the case. Throughout my case, Jennifer was prepared meticulously as well as went above and beyond all of my expectations. Even when the other party tried to differ from the truth, lie to the Judge, and turn situations around, Jennifer remained attentive and provided substantial evidence to show the judge the facts as well as the proof to support what was the best interests of my children. Additionally, Jennifer helped me endure many difficult experiences, situations and inspired me to remain positive throughout the entirety of my case. Her kindness, compassion, and professionalism helped me through very difficult times and made the process feel a thousand times lighter on my shoulders. She truly has my children and my best interest at heart and I trust her perspective as well as her honesty on each and every aspect of my case. She lessened the burden on my shoulders and even when I felt like the case was not going to go in my favor, Jennifer was open-minded and reassured me that the Judge would, in fact, see the truth, which he did and the case went in my favor. After nine months of court, everything finally came together. I cannot declare how much Jennifer has been an outstanding attorney. She addressed each and every issue with diligence, she cares about her clients and their families. Jennifer genuinely cares about her clients and her dedication to the details of the case was remarkable. Overall, I am extremely pleased with Jennifer’s services and I am truly thankful that I was so blessed to have her represent my children and me. I highly recommend Jennifer as one of the best attorneys in Arizona and if the situation ever arises, I will definitely have her represent my children and me again.
Google User
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14:58 04 Oct 17
Dear Stacey and Kip, How can I ever thank you enough for helping me through the most difficult time in my life? I couldn't put into words my heartfelt gratefulness. You both were so compassionate and professional at every given moment throughout this process with me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You helped me to regain my freedom.
A Google User
A Google User
16:03 22 Nov 17
I was a client of Attorney Kevin Park for the dissolution of a divorce in 2016. And since I had never had the need to hire an attorney before for any purpose, I was somewhat apprehensive of the process. But the very calm and professional demeanor of Mr. Park eased my fears. He adeptly answered all my questions and I clearly knew the process and what to expect. And the skilled manner he communicated with opposing counsel was perfect. When it came down to negotiating with my spouse’s counsel, I knew I had selected the best attorney for my situation. What I noticed and appreciated was that he was using just the right amount of pressure with opposing counsel as was necessary. If you find yourself in this situation, you will want a seasoned professional like Mr. Park on your side. I'm very grateful that he was my attorney and not the opposition!
A Google User
A Google User
22:14 28 Jun 17
Chris is a smart and aggressive attorney for his clients. Chris always tries to reach a fair settlement of his cases. I’ve represented clients when Chris was the opposing counsel and while he is professional and amicable to work with, he does not back off on what he needs to do for his client
A Google User
A Google User
18:16 18 Sep 17
Kevin Park of Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys was just what I needed for my divorce. He was very approachable and personable. He was quick to recognize what I needed and provided it quickly and efficiently. I hope to never need a divorce lawyer again, but if I know anyone else who does, I will definitely recommend Kevin.
A Google User
A Google User
19:22 23 Aug 17
I feel that Tracey Van Wickler is certainly one of the best family lawyers around. She is logical, intelligent, and truly cares. Tracey always does what is in the clients best interest, does it well, timely and with integrity. She is good at keeping her clients informed as to what is going on and clear in her communication both written and verbally. I have recommended Tracey to other people and will continue to recommend her. I recommended Tracey to someone who was having issues with their ex-wife and his response was, “I know how good she is because I went up against her and she ate me for lunch”. This same person was so impressed with her, he even recommended her to someone else, WOW, that is impressive! I am exceptionally happy with her attention to detail, her ability to explain things in ways that are easy to understand, as well as her ability to keep everyone focused on the most important things. I would recommend Tracey to anyone who may be in need of her services.
A Google User
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17:44 23 Jun 16
I retained Hildebrand Law after interview a number of firms in the valley. Working with Michael C. was incredibly easy and informative. My case progressed in such a organized and thought out way to ensure that my needs were met. Michael was incredibly proactive and was able to see far ahead into my case to steer clear of some roadblocks. I would not hesitate to recommend Michael Clancy, and Hildebrand Law in general, to anyone.
Bassam Ziadeh
Bassam Ziadeh
21:20 02 Apr 18
I have worked with Hildebrand law for about 8 years. They are always ready to serve, provide guidance and give you a few options. When they provide you options they also take the time to walk you through the pros and cons of each and give you a recommendation of what is best, but will listen to you and support whatever course you choose after making and educated choice. I’d recommend them to my closest friends and feel Chris Hildebrand is now a friend to me.
Larry Flint
Larry Flint
21:53 27 Feb 18
Despite the unfortunate situation I found myself in, Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law helped me maneuver every step with professionalism, expertise, and even a sensitivity that was an added bonus.Chris and his staff helped me even when I didn't know I needed the help. In other words. . . they made sure we did not leave anything undone. And in the rare instance we needed the expertise of another professional, Chris knew exactly who to recommend.Chris also knew, because of his experience, what to anticipate down the road of litigation. That meant we were better prepared to meet the challenges head on, which lead to a more equitable and fair outcome. I appreciated that Chris did his best to meet my every need in a timely fashion, even if I had a simple question that required only a phone call or e-mail or if we needed to talk face-to-face.I highly recommend Chris Hildebrand @ Hildebrand Law, PC.
Sam Franchimone
Sam Franchimone
22:09 12 Sep 13

He claimed he only had Social Security Disability Benefits as his only source of income. Husband testified at the evidentiary hearing that in the past eighteen month period he worked part-time at a retail store, but quit due to health problems. Specifically, he claimed his emphysema prevented him from completing required tasks at work. When the decree was entered, Husband was earning $750 per month from his part-time employment in addition to the $1,550 per month he received in Social Security Disability Benefits. Husband did acknowledge that his health condition had not changed since the time the divorce decree was entered but argued his financial situation changed significantly.

Wife testified that the spousal maintenance enables her to meet her monthly expenses. Wife’s income was $1,489 per month. She testified she was not aware of Husband’s employment at the time of the original decree and that evidence of such was not presented. The trial court found that the situation did represent a substantial and continuing change in circumstances and that it was appropriate to decrease Husband’s monthly spousal maintenance obligation to $42.85 per month.

Hildebrand Law, PC | Voted Best of Our Valley in Arizona Foothills Magazine.

Hildebrand Law, PC | Voted Best of Our Valley in Arizona Foothills Magazine.

Modification of Alimony Based On Loss of Employment

Wife argued on appeal that the trial court erred when it found Husband’s voluntary termination of employment justified a reduction of the spousal maintenance obligation in accordance with A.R.S. Section 25-327(A). Changed circumstances alleged as the basis for a modification of support obligation must be proved in comparison to the circumstances that existed at the time of the original order. Wife argued on appeal that the trial court should have compared Husband’s current financial circumstances to the circumstances that were considered by the court at the time the decree was entered.

The doctrine of res judicata prevents a party who failed to participate in divorce proceedings and did not appeal the award of spousal maintenance in a default decree from being granted a modification based on facts that could have been raised at the hearing. Yet the doctrine of res judicata does not prevent a party from introducing evidence of circumstances that existed at the time of the dissolution in order to show that a change in circumstances has occurred since the divorce.

Husband did establish through the presentation of evidence that he was employed at the time of the original divorce decree, but he did not establish that the court was aware of his employment at that time or that awareness of his part-time employment would have impacted the award of spousal maintenance. There is no reasonable argument that can be made that the court would have decreased the amount of the spousal maintenance award had the court been aware of the additional income.

Judging from the record, the court approved the spousal maintenance award based solely on Husband’s disability income, which would mean his loss of part-time work that the court was unaware he had in the first place, does not constitute a change at all. The Arizona Court of Appeals of Arizona, therefore, reversed the trial court’s order to modify spousal maintenance. The appeals court also denied both parties requests for attorneys’ fees on appeal.

Call us at (480)305-8300 to schedule your personalized consultation with one of our experienced Phoenix and Scottsdale Arizona spousal maintenance attorneys.



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