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Debts and Income of a Spouse Not Considered In Arizona Child Support Modification

Posted on : December 3, 2016, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Debts and Income of a Spouse Not Considered in Arizona Child Support Modification

Debts and Income of a Spouse Not Considered In Arizona Child Support Modification

Once the court enters a final divorce decree, a parent wishing to modify it must show changed circumstances. The changes described must be material and be continuing. Does the fact that an unemployed parent finds a job qualify as a material change? What if the parents discussed this possibility when they negotiated a divorce settlement? The Arizona Court of Appeals considered these issues in Jorgensen v. Jorgensen, 640 P.2d 202 (1981).

Facts and Background

Mrs. Jorgensen and Mr. Jorgensen divorced in 1978. They entered into an agreement about their finances. Mr. Jorgensen agreed to pay $200 per month child support for each of the minor children. He also agreed to pay $200 in spousal support for Mrs. Jorgensen.

Under the agreement and court decree, child support for their son would end when he moved in with his father. The child support for their daughter would increase to $300 when she turned 12 years old. Spousal support for Mrs. Jorgensen would end at the end of December of 1980, or when she married or graduated from the university.

Debts and Income of a Spouse Not Considered in Arizona Child Support Modification.

Debts and Income of a Spouse Not Considered in Arizona Child Support Modification.

In October 1980, the son moved in with Mr. Jorgensen. By that point, Mrs. Jorgensen had graduated from college and remarried. Mr. Jorgensen filed a petition to modify the dissolution decree to terminate both spousal support and support for their daughter. The court granted the petition and Mrs. Jorgensen appealed from the changed support for their daughter.

Substantial and Continuing Change of Circumstances

A parent seeking to modify the terms of a divorce decree must show that something has changed. They must present evidence of a substantial and continuing change of circumstances. The Court of Appeals reviewed the evidence presented in this case. The Court found that father argued there were three changes of circumstances. They were: 1) his increased debts, 2) Mrs. Jorgensen’s husband’s financial resources, and 3) Mrs. Jorgensen’s new job.

The Court noted that neither of the first two justified a reduction of Mr. Jorgensen’s child support obligation. A parent cannot reduce child support because he voluntarily incurs debts. And the Court said that the income of Mrs. Jorgensen’s new husband was not relevant. However, it said that her new job could be considered a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.

Mrs. Jorgensen argued that the court should not have considered her new job. She claims that while she and Mr. Jorgensen negotiated the divorce agreement, they discussed the possibility of her finding work. She cited cases saying that changed circumstances cannot include matters the spouses considered before agreeing to a settlement. The Court of Appeals did not find the cases controlling here.

In those cases, the Court said, the parties had enough information to accurately estimate the financial impact of an expected change. In this case, the parties did not have enough information to accurately estimate Mrs. Jorgensen’s future income.

In fact, both parties were not even certain that Mrs. Jorgensen would graduate from college. They could not have been certain that she would find employment quickly after graduation. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in modifying support. It had good reason to rule that Mr. Jorgensen and Mrs. Jorgensen did not contemplate her current job when they signed their separation agreement.

 

Termination of Child Support for Daughter

Arizona Child Support Modification: Debts and Income of a Spouse Not Considered.

Arizona Child Support Modification: Debts and Income of a Spouse Not Considered.

The Court said that the fact that Mrs. Jorgensen makes a good salary does not end the inquiry. It is a substantial, continuing, and unforeseen change that justified modifying father’s child support obligation. But it does not necessarily follow that Mr. Jorgensen should pay no support for his daughter going forward.

A parent getting a new job does not necessarily mean the other can stop paying support. Here, Mrs. Jorgensen was not working when the couple divorced.Father, therefore, had to pay for 100% of the child support burden.

At the time of the modification hearing, the father was still completely supporting one of the children. He was also providing most of the support for the other child, although Mrs. Jorgensen had a job. Her new job makes it unnecessary for Mr. Jorgensen to continue carrying such a heavy share of the support burden.

The court modified the decree so that Mr. Jorgensen supports one child while Mrs. Jorgensen supports the other. This, the Court of Appeals said, was fair.

Disposition

The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of the lower court.

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.
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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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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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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.
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