Arizona Court of Appeals
Mathis v. Mathis
In Mathis v. Mathis, an unpublished memorandum decision, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s calculation of past due child support.
The parties married in 1997 and have four children. Mother filed for divorce in 2016 where she sought to establish child support. Months later, Mother filed a motion for temporary orders to establish child support and spousal maintenance temporarily pending final orders.
When the case proceeded to trial, Mother sought to calculate child support for three different time periods: (1) the parties’ physical separation prior to Mother’s petition; (2) the eight months between the petition and the temporary orders; and (3) prospective support after the divorce. Mother argued that an upward deviation was appropriate to maintain the level of wealth and privilege to which the children were accustomed.
After hearing conflicting testimony from the parties regarding the dates of their separations and reunifications, the family court denied Mother’s request for child support for the period prior to her petition.
For the period between the petition and temporary orders, the family court ordered Father to pay $1,900 per month, without deviation, and credited him for payments of $4,500 during that time.
For prospective child support after the divorce, the court agreed that upward deviation was appropriate and adjusted child support from $1,586 per month to $3,200 per month.
When the family court denied Mother’s motion for reconsideration, Mother appealed and argued that the court erred in its calculation of child support for the period after the petition was filed but before temporary orders.
Mother argued the court erred when it (1) failed to make required findings for past support; (2) credited Father with direct payments; and (3) denied Mother’s request for an upward deviation during this time period.
Pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-320(B), when the family court first establishes child support, it must use “retroactive application of the child support guidelines to the date of the filing … taking into account any amount of temporary or voluntary support that has been paid.”
Here, the family court incorporated a child support worksheet where it applied the Arizona Child Support Guidelines and made the requisite findings for past support.
The family court also found that Father voluntarily paid to Mother $9,000 prior to the date she filed her petition. It discretionarily credited Father with 1/2 of that amount based on “the uncertainties” of the parties’ pre-petition relationship. The Court of Appeals found this credit to be within the family court’s discretion.
Finally, the Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s decision to calculate past support without upward deviation even though it found upward deviation appropriate for prospective child support. The family court reached its decision based on “other payments and general support” Father provided to Mother during the same time period.