Heidbreder v. Heidbreder (2012)

In Heidbreder v. Heidbreder, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the family court must address child support when it modifies parenting time. 

Mother filed a petition to modify Father’s parenting time and require it to be supervised. The case proceeded to trial where the family court awarded Mother with sole legal decision-making and ordered Father’s parenting time to be supervised. At the trial, the family court also directed both parties to submit affidavits of financial information and to proffer testimony to allow the court to recalculate child support. 

On her appeal, Mother initially argued that the family court lacked authority to modify the child support because the parties agreed to that amount in their divorce consent decree. The Court of Appeals immediately rejected this argument and reiterated that “child support provisions of a property settlement agreement … are subject to modification by the court.”

Mother also argued that the issue of child support was not properly before the family court because neither party had filed a petition to modify child support.

But, under A.R.S. § 25-403.09(A), the family court was required to address child support when it granted Mother’s petition to modify child custody. The statute states, “[f]or any custody ordered entered under this article the court shall determine an amount of child support in accordance with [A.R.S.] § 25-320 and guidelines established pursuant to that section.”

The Court of Appeals upheld the family court’s decision to address child support, but it found that the impromptu manner deprived the parties of their due process right to notice. Without adequate notice that child support would be modified, the parties did not have an opportunity to prepare adequately. The appeal remanded the issue to family court to allow the parties an opportunity to present evidence relevant to the modification of child support.