In Clark v. Clark, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s decision to award attorney’s fees, pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-324, in a child support modification.

A couple of years after the parties divorced, Father filed a petition to modify child support based on substantial and continuing changes in circumstances. The family court reduced his ongoing child support obligation and entered a judgment against him for child support arrears. The family court also found that Father maintained unreasonable positions during the litigation and ordered him to pay Mother’s attorney’s fees and costs.

On appeal, Father argued that the language of A.R.S. § 25-503(E) prohibited the family court’s award of attorney’s fees. It states an “order of modification or termination [of child support] may include an award of attorney fees and court costs to the prevailing party.”

Father argued that because the family court reduced his child support obligation, his modification was successful and, therefore, he prevailed. While the Court of Appeals noted that Mother cross-petitioned and successfully obtained a judgment against Father for arrears, the “prevailing party” determination did not affect the family court’s authority to award attorney’s fees under other statutes, including A.R.S. § 25-324.