In McClendon v. McClendon, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that substantial and continuing changes to modify family court orders are measured from the date of the order the party seeks to modify.
The parties divorced in 2007 and Wife was awarded spousal maintenance of $5,500 per month until “further agreement of the parties or Court order.” In 2014, Husband retired and filed a petition to modify spousal maintenance. The parties entered into a binding Rule 69 agreement to reduce the monthly spousal maintenance to $4,000.
In 2016, Husband again petitioned to modify spousal maintenance. After trial, the family court concluded that changes for purpose of modification should be measured by comparing the parties’ current circumstances to the circumstances in 2007, when the parties divorced.
On her appeal, Wife argued the family court used the wrong period to determine if changes existed to warrant modification.
Under A.R.S. § 25-327(A), spousal maintenance can be “modified or terminated only on a showing of changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing.” The statute does not specify the time period to compare circumstances.
The Court of Appeals agreed with Wife and held that the party seeking to modify spousal maintenance must prove substantial and continuing change since the decree he or she seeks to modify. Additionally, the Court clarified that all Rule 69 agreements adopted by the court are considered court orders for the purposes of statutory application.