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Division of Family Property and Alimony in Arizona

Posted on : December 17, 2016, By:  Christopher Hildebrand
Division of Family Property and Alimony in Arizona

Division of Family Property and Alimony in Arizona

In the case Woodside v. Woodside, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled whether the amount awarded for alimony may be affected by an unequal division of property, whether the court must attribute income to the spouse who is not working but is requesting alimony, and whether the court should attribute earnings from both full-time employment and second job to the spouse paying the alimony.

The parties were married in 1985 and Mrs. Woodside filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in 2012. Pursuant to Mrs. Woodside’s request for temporary alimony, the trial court awarded her $975.00 of alimony per month.

Instead of proceeding to trial, the parties agreed to submit the case to the court through memorandum and affidavits. Their memorandum stated they agreed to a division of property and the only remaining issues were a number of alimony and attorney’s fees.

Each party submitted a list of their real and personal property, as well as the parties’ agreed-upon division of those items. After a disagreement over counseling records attached to Mrs. Woodside’s memorandum, the court set a bench trial.

On the first day of the trial, the parties agreed how they would divide their property, but could not agree on the values of the items. Both testified about the value of each item as well as their marriage, employment, and earning capacity.

After hearing the evidence presented at the trial, the court concluded the parties were bound by the property lists they presented and accepted Mr. Woodside’s opinion of the values, distributing the property as requested by the parties. Specifically, the trial court found Mrs. Woodside was receiving $149,000.00 in property and husband was receiving $74,000.00 in personal property. The court also awarded wife $800.00 per month in permanent alimony.

Division of Family Property and Alimony in Arizona.

Division of Family Property and Alimony in Arizona.

 

Division of Family Property and Alimony in Arizona | The Ruling

Mr. Woodside filed an appeal with the Arizona Court of Appeals, contending he was entitled to additional facts and findings of law in regards to the alimony decision. He argued the trial court erred in denying the motion for findings of fact and conclusions of law supporting the award of alimony he filed as, according to Mr. Woodside, was required by Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-318(R), which the trial court concluded did not apply to this case.

Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-318 provides:

If any part of the court’s division of joint, common, or community property is in the nature of child support or spousal maintenance, the court shall make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in its decree.

The appellate court believed that application of the statute is necessarily determined by whether the division of property is in the nature of alimony. The justice added that alimony is intended to support a spouse who has insufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs or lacks the earning ability due to age or other factors. Because the language was clear, the court was able to determine whether the property division had the characteristics of alimony without resorting to additional statutory interpretation.

Husband argued the property distribution was in the nature of alimony because the parties intended it to be and because the trial court concluded in an unsigned ruling that wife was entitled to alimony in a reduced amount from the amount awarded temporarily.

However, he did not provide further support for his argument as it relates to the applicability of the statute. The court ruled that Mr. Woodside’s brief references to the party’s intent and the trial court’s ruling did not support a conclusion that the property disparity had the characteristics of alimony.

Regarding the intent of the parties, the court stated that Mr. Woodside was clear at trial he agreed to the property distribution to reduce alimony. Mrs. Woodside, however, testified she was only willing to accommodate his desire to reduce the amount or duration of alimony but she felt she could not be expected to become self-sufficient by selling the property awarded to her.

Additionally, wife testified at trial there was no disparity in the property division and when asked to show the existence of an agreement regarding the offset, neither party was able to produce any such agreements.

In view of these competing statements and the record before them, the Arizona Court of Appeals could not say the parties’ intent was clear and without dispute. Furthermore, the trial court’s reference to the fact that the amount of alimony it was awarding Mrs. Woodside was less than what it had awarded to her as temporary maintenance does not show that the disparity in the division of the parties’ property was necessarily included in the court’s consideration of alimony.

Mr. Woodside contended any reduction in the alimony awarded at temporary orders as opposed to the final alimony award must have been due to the property division. The court ruled that it was unclear if the trial court reduced the amount of alimony because of the unequal property division or other evidence presented at trial and consequently, the record did not support husband’s claim that findings were required by ARS 25-318(r).

Finally, the appellate court decided that the trial court made its intent clear when it denied Mr. Woodside’s request for findings of fact and conclusions of law stating that the property division was not in the nature of alimony. With these facts before them, the appellate court concluded Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-318(r) did not apply in this case and the trial court did not err in denying the request for additional findings of fact and conclusions of law on that basis.

Mr. Woodside further argued the court abused its discretion by failing to consider the property value disparity in calculating the alimony obligation and that this failure resulted in Mrs. Woodside receiving more than she was otherwise entitled.

The trial court determined the amount and duration of alimony by referencing the factors set forth in Arizona Revised Statute Section 25-318(b). The statute requires a court to consider all relevant factors and lists thirteen criteria, including the parties’ standard of living during the marriage, duration of the marriage, age, employment history, and earning ability of the spouse seeking alimony, comparative financial resources of the parties, and apportionment of marital property.

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
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.
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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.
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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
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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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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.
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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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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

The court’s determination is made on a case by case basis that recognizes that some factors will not apply and the statute does not require them to make a specific finding on every factor. The trial court concluded wife was entitled to maintenance pursuant to the statute because she lacked sufficient property to provide for her reasonable needs, she was unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment, she lacked earning ability in the labor market, the duration of the marriage was long, and she was of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment to be self-sufficient. They also noted the comparative financial resources of the parties and the ability of the husband to meet his own needs while also providing for wife’s needs in the trial court’s decision.

Splitting Up of Family Property and Alimony in Arizona.

Splitting Up of Family Property and Alimony in Arizona.

Also, Mr. Woodside contended that the alimony award was too high to account for the unequal property division in addition to Mrs. Woodside holding a minimum wage job. Although the trial court had found in its ruling that she would be unable to find employment, he argued the court actually apportioned to her a minimum wage job, based on a statement it made during a subsequent hearing.

Two months after the trial had concluded, the trial court had held a hearing on Mrs. Woodside’s objections to husband’s proposed dissolution decree. During the hearing, the court responded to her complaint that they had not “taken care of her” and stated that it had attributed minimum wage to her and therefore it was time for her to obtain employment.

The court did not state that it was augmenting or altering its earlier findings, nor did it specify how many hours of work it accredited to her. Based on the assumption that the court had augmented its earlier findings with the previous statement, husband contested his mathematical calculation showed that the court could not have accounted for both the property division and a minimum wage job.

Wife had requested $1500.00 per month to meet her reasonable needs, and using that as a starting point, he argued that a minimum wage job would have brought alimony down to $184.00 per month based on full-time wages. Mr. Woodside then contends that amount should be further reduced because of the unequal property division.
He did not explain how the property division would have been factored in, but it appeared to the court he was arguing it would result in a dollar for dollar reduction of his alimony obligation. He cited no case law or other authority to support the proposition that the trial court must make a dollar for dollar reduction of maintenance due to the unequal property division and the court did not make any findings stating or suggesting that Mrs. Woodside was expected to sell or rent items of property to meet her reasonable needs.

Additionally, the appellate court found husband did not specify where in the record the court stated how many hours wife would likely work, or if commuting costs to the nearest city would be deducted. The justices continued by stating the record shows the trial court concluded Mrs. Woodside would have difficulty finding work and the work she may find would not be enough to sustain her.

Given the court’s written factual findings regarding Mrs. Woodside’s possible difficulties in finding employment at her age, as well as undisputed evidence of her employment for only three months of a twenty-eight year marriage, and its acknowledgment of husband’s earning capacity, the appellate court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding Mrs. Woodside permanent alimony in the amount of $800.00 per month.



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