Trial Court’s Use of Spousal Maintenance Guidelines is Approved by Appellate Court

Trial Court’s Use of Spousal Maintenance Guidelines is Approved by Appellate Court

The trial court’s use of the Maricopa County Spousal Maintenance Guidelines was approved by the Arizona Court of Appeals, Div. 1, so long as the use of the Guidelines was not the sole basis for the maintenance award.    Cullum v. Cullum,, June 19, 2007.

The trial court had applied the Guidelines consistently with the statutory factors (ARS 25-319B) and had clearly considered those statutory factors in making the award.  The trial court had first made a finding that Wife qualified for an award of maintenance pursuant to ARS 25-319A.  The Guidelines state that they are not to be used to determine if a party qualifies for maintenance, and are not to be used if a party does not qualify pursuant to that statute.

After making the determination that Wife met the qualification requirements of ARS 25-319A, the trial court heard evidence of the parties’ respective incomes, the standard of living established during the marriage, Wife’s status as a stay-at-home mother during much of the marriage, and Wife’s anticipated future income.    The court then applied the Guidelines’ formula (.015 times the number of years of marriage times the difference in the parties’ incomes) in reaching the spousal maintenance award, and this award was affirmed.

The Guidelines’ preface explains that they should be “a starting point for discussion, negotiation, or decision-making” and do not replace the court’s duty to consider the statutory factors.   In this case, the Court’s reliance on the  Guidelines’ formula was consistent with the statutory factors, and so the award was affirmed.

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