Arizona Court of Appeals

Lane v. Lane

Summary

Lane v. Lane was an unpublished memorandum decision where the Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s award of spousal maintenance to a spouse who also received significant financial assets in the divorce.

Background

The parties were married for 37 years before Wife filed for divorce in 2016. Prior to trial, the parties resolved all outstanding issues except for spousal maintenance and attorney’s fees. Pursuant to their agreement, Wife received approximately $426,000 in retirement accounts, an estimated $200,000 from the sale of their marital residence, and $95,000 in cash.

Wife sought indefinite spousal maintenance in the amount of $4,000 per month. Husband argued that Wife received sufficient property in the divorce to support herself and was not entitled to any spousal maintenance. The family court awarded Husband to pay $2,500 per month for five years and $1,000 per month for four additional years.

Spousal Maintenance Eligibility

Husband appealed and first argued that Wife was ineligible for spousal maintenance and that the family court failed to consider interest Wife would earn from her share of the retirement assets when it evaluated her eligibility.

Pursuant to A.R.S. § 25-319(A), a spouse seeking spousal maintenance is eligible if he/she:

  1. Lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for that spouse’s reasonable needs;
  2. Is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to be self-sufficient;
  3. Contributed to the educational opportunities of the other spouse;
  4. Had a marriage of long duration and is of an age that may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to be self-sufficient; or
  5. Has significantly reduced that spouse’s income or career opportunities for the benefit of the other spouse.

A spouse is eligible for an award of spousal maintenance if any of those criteria are met. Husband’s argument that the family court failed to consider the interest Wife might earn from her portion of the retirement accounts essentially sought to impose a means test on each eligibility criterion. The Court of Appeals explained that the first factor, (A)(1), allows family courts to award spousal maintenance based on insufficient property apportioned as part of the divorce even when the recipient spouse is otherwise financially self-sufficient or gainfully employed.

Full decision