Arizona Court of Appeals

Wethe v. Wethe

Wethe v. Wethe is an unpublished memorandum decision where the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s award of spousal maintenance and its denial of one party’s request for attorney’s fees.

Decided:

January 28, 2020

Reporters:

Unpublished
1 CA-CV 19-0185-FC

Tags:

Attorney’s Fees
Divorce
Spousal Maintenance

Mediation and Family Court Trial

The parties were married in 2000 and had two children together. After the parties physically separated, they attempted mediation. When it was unsuccessful, Wife filed for divorce in 2017.

The parties reached a partial settlement that resolved the issues of legal decision-making, parenting time, and property division. The remaining issues — spousal maintenance and Husband’s request for attorney’s fees — proceeded to trial where Husband sought maintenance of $2,500 per month for a period of eight years.

At trial the parties testified regarding their respective careers and the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Wife was employed as a neuropsychologist and earned approximately $170,000 per year. Husband was employed as a career coach at a university where he earned $50,000 per year and supplemented this income with part-time employment as a tennis instructor.

The family court awarded Husband spousal maintenance in the amount of $1,000 per month for a period of two years and denied his request for attorney’s fees.

Standard of Living During Marriage

Husband appealed and argued that the family court abused its discretion when it determined spousal maintenance and denied his request for attorney’s fees.

In his pretrial statement, Husband characterized the parties’ standard of living as “upper, middle class” and cited several specific categories of expenses such as a nice Scottsdale home, expensive health club memberships, frequent vacations, and new cars.

But the family court received “no credible evidence” supporting any of these expenses. It found that the parties rented their home and there was no evidence of vacations or new car purchases as Husband claimed.

On appeal, Husband claimed he suffered from health conditions that prevented self-sufficient employment and resulted in permanent disability. But Husband waived these arguments when he failed to raise them in his pretrial statement or in his testimony at trial.

The Court of Appeals found sufficient evidence existed to support the family court’s findings and affirmed its spousal maintenance award.

It also affirmed the family court’s denial of Husband’s request for attorney’s fees. Although the family court found a “substantial” disparity between the parties’ financial resources, it also determined that Husband acted unreasonably during the litigation. Notably, it found that Husband ultimately entered into agreements “strikingly similar” to those he rejected at pre-litigation mediation.

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