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Court Discretion to Add Recurring Gifts as Income for Child Support in Arizona

Posted on : March 1, 2016, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Regular and Recurring Gifts as Income for Child Support in Arizona

Court Discretion to Add Recurring Gifts as Income for Child Support in Arizona

Court Discretion to Add Recurring Gifts as Income for Child Support in Arizona.

Court Discretion to Add Recurring Gifts as Income for Child Support in Arizona.

The Arizona Court of Appeals in the unpublished decision of Hatch v. Hilaire considered Jesse Hilaire’s (Father) appeal from the trial court’s rulings regarding spousal maintenance, child support, and the trial court’s equitable distribution of their marital assets. One of the key issues decided in that case concerned the courts discretion to add recurring gifts as income for child support in Arizona The father and Jami Germaine Hatch (Mother) were married in 2009 and had two minor children. Throughout the marriage, Father was employed and Mother was a stay at home parent taking care of the parties’ children. The couple separated in September of 2012 and the mother filed for dissolution of the parties’ marriage in September 2013 requesting child support, spousal maintenance, and attorney’s fees. Temporary orders were issued requiring the father to pay family support of $1,000 per month commencing January 1, 2014. Father failed to fully comply with that family support order.  It was found by the trial court that the father paid a total of $1,500.00 in support between January and May 2014 with no evidence of additional payments made between May 2014 and the date set for the final trial of the case.

The dissolution decree was issued on December 17, 2014 in which the trial court ordered the father to pay the mother $271.87 per month in child support, $400.00 per month for eighteen months for spousal maintenance, and family support arrearages for the time period between October 1, 2013 and December 31, 2014 totaling $12,495.25. During the trial, the father requested the mother reimburse him for the marital vehicle claiming that his name was wrongfully removed from the title after the mother moved out. The Court found that these claims were unsubstantiated and not supported by the evidence presented at trial.  The court concluded the items of personal property acquired during the parties’ marriage had previously been divided between the parties. The trial court granted the mother’s request for attorney fees and costs based upon the trial court finding there to be a substantial disparity in financial resources between the two parties. The father appealed those rulings.

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
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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
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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.
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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
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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!
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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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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

On appeal, the father argued the trial court erred when it failed to order an equitable distribution of the family vehicle as a marital asset.  The father did not present any evidence establishing the marital vehicle was still in the mother’s possession or that the vehicle’s title was in either the mother’s or the father’s names. Since the evidence presented during the trial was insufficient to establish ownership of the vehicle by either party, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled the Court did not abuse its discretion in failing to divide that alleged community asset. The father also argued the Court erred in how it calculated the mother’s gross income when calculating child support.

Recurring Gifts Impact on Income for Child Support Calculation

The trial court attributed minimum wage income to the mother while the father claims the trial court should have included monetary “gifts”, free housing, use of vehicles, plastic surgery, and other gifts from the mother’s family as income to her. He argued the gifts were recurring and substantial and resulted in a significant decrease in the mother’s expenses. While the Arizona Child Support Guidelines’ definition of “gross income” allows for a trial court to include such regular and recurring gifts as income, a trial court is not required to do so and the court may exercise its discretion to include, or not include, such gifts in the income of a parent when calculating child support.

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

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

In this case, the trial court used its discretion to find that the mother was capable of earning minimum wage and that making ends meet necessitated assistance from her family. While the mother admitted that she had done “housework” and chores for her parents for cash, it was temporary and she was no longer working for them at the time of the trial of the case. The father had no additional information to submit as evidence that the mother could earn more than minimum wage.  Her last date of employment outside the home was when she was 19 years old. The trial court concluded her income was unknown, but that she had the potential to earn minimum wage.

Income Calculations for Family Support in Arizona

Income Calculations for Family Support in Arizona.

Income Calculations for Family Support in Arizona.

The trial court has the discretion to grant spousal maintenance when any one of four factors are present: 1) the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs, 2) is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or has a child of an age or condition that would necessitate not seeking employment outside the home or lacks earning ability, 3) contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse, or 4) was in a long marriage and is of an age that could minimize abilities to obtain employment that would allow him or her to be self-sufficient. The trial court found the mother to meet two of the four factors; specifically, she lacked sufficient property and inability to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment.

The Arizona Court of Appeals of Arizona concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in this case because A.R.S. Section 25-319(A) supported the trial court’s findings. In response to the father’s specific argument that the trial court made an error in its calculation of the income of the parents, the Arizona Court of Appeals concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion. The father did not present any additional findings or evidence regarding the mother’s income to refute the court’s attribution of income to the mother.

The inclusion of the father’s medical benefits, overtime and other benefits from employment, as well as allowing the letter from the father’s employer (Mother’s uncle) to be included as evidence of earnings, was consistent with state law and the Arizona Court of Appeals found no abuse of the trial judge’s exercise of his discretion. The father claims he paid $1,200 between October 2013 and January 2014, $4,000 between January 2014 and the date of the trial and $1,000 from the joint tax return. Yet no evidence provided supported these claims.  The father only provided evidence of payments totaling $740.00 between October and December 2013 and $1,500.00 between January and May 2014.  No evidence of additional payments to the mother was provided.

The Arizona Court of Appeals found no error in the trial court’s calculation of arrearages as the father did not provide any evidence of the additional payments he claims he made.  The Arizona Court of Appeals, therefore, affirmed the findings and orders of the trial court.

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