Effect of Sharing Living Expenses on Alimony in Arizona
Posted on : October 10, 2016, By: Christopher Hildebrand
Effect of Sharing Living Expenses on Alimony in Arizona
The Arizona Court of Appeals issued a decision regarding living together and spousal maintenance in Van Dyke v. Steinle regarding whether a former spouse’s cohabitation with another person provides a basis to modify or terminate an Arizona spousal maintenance award. The facts of the case were very straightforward. Wife obtained a divorce from her husband. Wife subsequently met a love interest with whom she was cohabiting.
Husband filed a petition to modify the spousal maintenance he was paying Wife; primarily based upon his former Wife’s cohabitation with her new love interest. Wife actually had plans to marry her love interest, but admittedly canceled the wedding when she discovered her marriage would terminate her Arizona spousal maintenance award as a matter of law.
The Arizona trial court found Wife’s cohabitation was a basis to terminate her spousal maintenance award. The Arizona Court of Appeals found that the record did not support terminating Wife’s spousal maintenance, but did remand the case back to the trial court to determine whether the evidence supported decreasing the amount of spousal maintenance Wife should receive from her former husband.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The former husband argued his former Wife’s spousal maintenance should be terminated under the legal theory of a “marriage by estoppel”; arguing he justifiably relied upon his former Wife’s intention to remarry to his financial detriment.
Spousal Maintenance While Living Together.
The Arizona trial court terminated Wife’s spousal maintenance for several reasons. Specifically, the trial court determined that the court found that Wife lived with her love interest in the home that had been awarded to her in the parties’ divorce and found that their relationship was sufficiently similar to a marriage.
The trial court found that the original divorce decree anticipated the home being sold and found Wife had not resold the home. The trial court also found that if the home had been sold, Wife would have received a significantly greater amount of equity from the home that existed at the time the divorce decree was entered.
The trial court also found that Wife’s cohabitation with her love interest, as well as his contribution to her living expenses, created a new “family” that justified terminating her spousal maintenance.
Living Together As A Basis to Modify or Termination Alimony in Arizona
The Arizona court of appeals ruled that a modification of spousal maintenance may be granted whenever it is shown a substantial and continuing change in circumstances has occurred since the entry of the initial award of spousal maintenance.
Wife argued that her cohabitation with her love interest did not constitute a substantial and continuing change in financial circumstances justifying a modification of her spousal maintenance. Her former Husband argued her cohabitation and her love interests contribution to her living expenses did not justify either a termination or reduction in her spousal maintenance.
The Arizona Court of Appeals recognized Arizona does not have a statute dealing with the repercussions of cohabitation on spousal maintenance, despite other states with statutes specifically addressing the issue.
To the contrary, the Arizona Supreme Court previously ruled in Smith v. Mangum that cohabitation did not create a “de facto marriage”, but concluded such a relationship could create a change in circumstances justifying a modification of spousal maintenance if the situation decreased a former spouse’s living expenses. The Smith court concluded it was Husband’s burden of proving a decrease in a former wife’s living expenses as a direct result of her cohabitation.
The Arizona Court of Appeals concluded that the record did not establish Husband met his burden of proving Wife’s cohabitation supported a termination of her spousal maintenance, but did conclude the trial court could consider whether Wife’s cohabitation provided a basis for the trial court to decrease her spousal maintenance.
The court specifically denounced the existence of a “marriage by estoppel” legal theory in Arizona. The Arizona Court of Appeals pointed to the Arizona Supreme Court’ s ruling in Schroeder v. Schroeder, which held the purpose of spousal maintenance is to help both former spouses achieve financial independence by providing support from one spouse to the other spouse in such amount and as for as such time as reasonably needed to enable the other spouse to obtain the education, training, and experience to support themselves.
Living Together Spousal Maintenance Arizona.
The Arizona Court of Appeals addressed Husband’s argument that the court should consider what Wife’s new cohabitant “should” be contributing to Wife’s household expenses, as opposed to how much Wife’s new love interest was actually contributing to the household expenses (because he was contributing very little to those household expenses).
The Arizona Court of Appeals expressly rejected this argument and held that Husband had the burden of proving the extent to which Wife’s living expenses were being reduced, not what Husband believes her new love interest “should” be contributing to the household expenses.
The appellate court, however, did point out the holding in the Schroeder case providing that a former spouse receiving spousal maintenance cannot avoid a decrease or termination of spousal maintenance by accepting purported “gifts” from a person with whom he or she resides in lieu of receiving contributions towards household expenses.
In the end, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s ruling terminating Wife’s spousal maintenance but found the trial court did not consider Husbands’ alternative request to modify Wife’s spousal maintenance. The Arizona Court of Appeals, therefore, remanded the case back to the Arizona trial court to address whether Wife’s spousal maintenance should be reduced.
Interestingly, it appears the Arizona Court of Appeals was sympathetic with Husbands’ position by declaring it realized its decision may result in inequities in some situations when a spouse receiving spousal maintenance obtains an unfair advantage by living with someone and putting off marriage until the term of spousal maintenance is reached.
The appellate court, however, indicated that any such change in the law affecting this situation must be passed by the Arizona legislature, which could be argued as a call to action for the Arizona legislature to remedy this situation. The Arizona Court of Appeals went so far as to point out that the legislatures of California, Illinois, and New York have passed laws pertaining to the effect of cohabitation on a spousal maintenance award.