Arizona Court of Appeals

Hanger v. Hanger

Summary

Hanger v. Hanger was an unpublished memorandum decision where the Arizona Court of Appeals vacated the effective date of a child support modification to the date the other parent received notice instead of the date of service.

Background

After the parties agreed to a child support order, Father filed a motion to set aside the stipulation and a simplified petition to modify child support. Father alleged that he was coerced into signing the stipulation and that he subsequently lost his job.

The family court denied Father’s motion to set aside the stipulation and dismissed his petition to modify child support. After Father appealed both orders in a different appeal, the Court of Appeals determined that the family court “should have held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether changed circumstances warranted modification” before it denied Father’s petition to modify.

The Court of Appeals remanded (sent the case back) to family court and an evidentiary hearing was set to hear Father’s petition to modify child support. Father testified that he was unemployed for approximately six months and part-time employed for the six months following unemployment. Father further testified that he earns significantly less income at his current employer than he did prior to the unemployment.

Father also alleged that Mother misrepresented her childcare expenses. Mother testified that her childcare expenses were accurate and asked the family court to attribute annual income to Father consistent with his previous employment.

The family court modified child support using Father’s current income and Mother’s claimed childcare costs effective the “first day of the first month … following the service of Father’s petition.” Father appealed.

Prior Appeal

Father first argued that the family court erred when it set an evidentiary hearing on his simplified petition to modify child support. Although it is true that the purpose of the simplified procedure is to enable parents to modify child support without family court hearings, Father’s previous appeal was sent back to family court with specific instruction to set an evidentiary hearing. Further, the record actually reflected that Father actually requested an evidentiary hearing on his petition.

Childcare and Child Support

Father next argued that the family court erroneously included Mother’s claimed childcare costs. Father reiterated his position that Mother falsified her childcare costs and that she was eligible for employer reimbursement.

However, at trial, Father provided no evidence to support this claim and Mother testified that the expenses were accurate. As is often the case in family court proceedings, it was a matter of ‘he said, she said’ and the family court acted within its discretion to weigh witness credibility and evaluate conflicting testimony when it accepted Mother’s testimony.

Effective Date of Modification

Finally, Father argued that the family court erred when it used the date of service as the effective date of the modification instead of the date Mother received notice of the petition to modify.

Pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-327(A), a petition to modify child support is “effective on the first day of the month following notice of the petition for modification … unless the court, for good cause shown, orders the change to become effective at a different date but not earlier than the date of filing the petition for modification.”

The Court of Appeals acknowledged that the statute provides discretion to the family court to select an effective date other than the first of the month following notice, but it found that the circumstances in this case that warranted modification existed when the petition was filed. Specifically, the reduction to Father’s income that necessitated modification of child support occurred before Father filed the petition so the Court of Appeals determined the first of the month following notice of the petition was the appropriate effective date.

Full decision