fb Effect of Stock Options on Child Support in Arizona | Hildebrand Law
Call Now(480)305-8300

Effect of Stock Options on Child Support in Arizona | Hildebrand Law

Posted on : January 13, 2016, By:  Chris Hildebrand
Stock Options and Child Support in Arizona

Effect of Stock Options on Child Support in Arizona

U.S. News and World Report Best Law Firms Arizona 2020U.S. News and World Reports Votes Hildebrand law, PC Best Law Firm for 2021U.S. News and World Report Votes Hildebrand Law, PC Best Law Firms for 2022Let’s talk about the effect of stock options on child support in Arizona. Under Arizona law, a parent can ask the court to modify child support obligations upon a showing of changed circumstances.  The case of Engel v. Landman, 212 P.3d 842 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2009) presented a host of legal issues, both big and small, related to such a motion. One such issue was the effect of stock options on child support in Arizona.

Devon Engel and Julie Landman divorced in 2004, and Devon – with gross income assessed at $20,000 per month — was ordered to pay $2,000 a month in child support. In 2008, Devon moved to modify child support. He cited as changed circumstances to modify child support the fact that Julie had received a large inheritance, bringing her income, excluding support, to $15,000 per month.

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

He also sought to attribute income to her, since he claimed that she was voluntarily unemployed, and might have worked as an accountant. Last, he sought to have his own assessed income reduced because he claimed that the manner in which his stock options had been valued was unfair.

Although Devon filed the appeal early, the Court of Appeals considered his supplemental notice of appeal as timely. The Court declined to consider Julie’s cross-appeal, which was also filed early since she did not file a supplemental notice of appeal.

Arizona law requires that each parent contribute financially to the care of minor children. The divorce court combines the total monthly income of each parent and uses this to calculate the child support amount required. Then, by comparing the income of the parents, it allocates a percentage of the monthly support to each.

If one parent is able to work but chooses not to, the court can assess that person’s income that she could have made but didn’t, called hypothetical income. However, if that parent would then have to hire someone to look after the children, the court can also add hypothetical childcare costs into the equation.

Are Stock Options Included as Income When Calculating Child Support

In Engel v. Landman, the divorce court attributed hypothetical income to Julie. This did not increase the total child support available for the children, since the maximum amount of combined income considered under the child support law is $20,000 per month, and Devon’s monthly income, taken alone, was $20,000.

Therefore, assessing Julie’s hypothetical income did not increase the amount of child support. However, when the court assessed hypothetical income to Julie, it did reduce Devon’s share of child support, initially set at 100%.

But when hypothetical childcare expenses of $900 per month were added into the expenses, Devon’s share of child support, rather than decreasing, increased. The Court of Appeals found this result unfair, and contrary to the intent of the law. Therefore, it reversed the divorce court’s allocation of hypothetical income and childcare expenses.

Affect of Stock Options on Child Support in Arizona.

Devon received stock options as part of his compensation for 2004, 2005, and 2006. The options were vested but he had not exercised them. All agreed that the fact that he owned the vested options should impact his gross income for child support, but valuation became an issue. Devon proposed various methods of valuation but the divorce court rejected them.

Instead, it calculated the total number of shares (20,200) and multiplied that number by the price per share increase ($13.88) that had occurred in 2006, and added the resulting figure to Devon’s gross income for 2006 for child support purposes. Devon argued that this was unfair, as it included the value of options earned during three years in his income for 2006.

The Court of Appeals agreed that the valuation method was not consistent with the purpose of the child support law. That is, it did not establish a standard of support for children consistent with their needs and the ability of parents to pay, and to make child support awards consistent for persons in similar circumstances. Rather, the valuation approach used made the child support amount depend on market fluctuations that had no actual effect on the money available to support the children.

It also led to an unfair calculation of Devon’s income, one based upon the present value of years of accumulated wealth, rather than the rate of return of those assets.

The Court of Appeals sent the issue back to the lower court to resolve. It did not order that a particular valuation method is used but suggested that the valuation Devon’s employer placed on the stock options might be a starting point. Once a new valuation is placed on the options, the divorce court must recalculate Devon’s gross income and the child support amount.

If you need information about the effect of stock options on child support in Arizona, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona child support attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in child support cases in Arizona.

Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.

Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your Arizona child support case around today.

Other Articles About Child Support in Arizona

Scottsdale Arizona Divorce Attorney.

Scottsdale Arizona Divorce Attorney.

Chris Hildebrand wrote the information on this page about the effect of stock options on child support in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.

[gravityform id=”1″ title=”true” description=”true”]

Related Blogs – What’s Hot

Personal Injury Awards and Divorce in Arizona Can a Judge Reject a Divorce Settlement in Arizona Contesting a Prenuptial Agreement in Arizona
Enforcing Prenuptial Agreements in Arizona Failure to Disclose Financial Information in a Divorce in Arizona Unauthorized Use of Power of Attorney to Dispose of a Spouse's Separate Property

Skip to toolbar