Termination of Alimony on Remarriage
Questions sometimes arise regarding the termination of alimony on remarriage of the spouse receiving the alimony. In Arizona, Arizona Revised Statute section 25-327(B) states: “Unless otherwise agreed in writing or expressly provided in the decree, the obligation to pay future maintenance is terminated upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance.”
In the case of Kathy I. Palmer, Petitioner/Appellee, v. Sydney N. Palmer, Respondent/Appellant, Sydney (husband) referenced the above statute when filing for termination of spousal maintenance. The court had to consider whether a specified end date in the Decree took precedence over the general interpretation of the law.
Facts of the Case: Palmer v. Palmer
The facts of this case are as follows:
The marriage between Palmer and Palmer was dissolved on November 9, 2004. Included in the Decree was the husband’s obligation to pay spousal maintenance in the amount of $3,100 per month until October 31, 2008. It further stated, “Said term and amount of spousal maintenance are non-modifiable until October 31, 2008, except such, shall end upon the death of [the wife].
The wife remarried approximately four months after the dissolution of marriage in March 2005. In September 2005, the husband petitioned the court for termination of spousal maintenance based upon Arizona Law quoted above in reference to termination of spousal maintenance due to remarriage. Both parties involved appeared before the family court on June 7, 2006, for the evidentiary hearing.
The family court concluded that the husband must abide by the original Decree, continuing to pay spousal maintenance through October 31, 2008. The court also awarded attorneys’ fees to the wife. Formal judgment was entered. Husband’s filed motions for a new trial were denied. The Court of Appeals of Arizona has jurisdiction to review the case.
When Does Remarriage Serve as Just Cause for Termination of Spousal Maintenance?
Upon the dissolution of a marriage, an individual’s obligation to pay spousal maintenance to their former spouse is determined in their divorce decree. This obligation continues until the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the former spouse in receipt of spousal maintenance.
This general interpretation of the law has one exception: when the decree of dissolution “expressly” provides a mandate to the contrary or if the parties have some other written form of agreement that spousal maintenance will continue post-remarriage. In the matter of Palmer v. Palmer, the appellate court must determine whether the couple’s decree of dissolution “expressly” states that the spousal maintenance should continue post-remarriage.
The husband in the Palmer v. Palmer case appealed the ruling of the family court. He argues that they also made an error in awarding attorneys’ fees to his ex-wife.
Findings of the Appellate Court of Arizona in Regards Palmer v. Palmer:
The family court ruling was reversed, which resulted in terminating the husband’s obligation to pay spousal maintenance. Further proceedings would ensue regarding attorneys’ fees. This determination was based on the interpretation of the verbiage of the Decree in compliance with Arizona state law.
Even the intentional omission of language regarding the termination of spousal maintenance upon the remarriage of the spouse in receipt of the maintenance does not serve as an “express” statement that the parties intended the spousal maintenance to continue after remarriage.
Interpreting the lack of reference to termination upon remarriage in this situation requires a level of inference that does not fulfill the legal specification for an express statement. The court holds that if spouses seek to avoid the application of the Arizona state law regarding spousal maintenance termination upon remarriage, the intention to do so must be made unmistakably clear.
Due to the fact that the decree does not expressly state that the spousal maintenance should continue after the remarriage of the wife, the court concludes that the obligation to pay is terminated upon the wife’s remarriage.