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Roberts v. Malott

Supreme Court of Arizona

January 31, 1956

Carol Neal Malott ROBERTS, Appellant,
James R. MALOTT, Jr., Appellee.

Rehearing Denied Feb. 28, 1956.

[80 Ariz. 67] Lester J. Hayt, Phoenix, for appellant.

Shimmel, Hill & Cavanagh, Phoenix, for appellee.

STANFORD, Superior Court Judge.

On September 11, 1948, the appellant, Carol Neal Roberts, plaintiff below, was granted a decree of divorce from defendant-appellee, James R. Malott, Jr., and was awarded the custody of their children, James and Lucinda, who were at that time 8 and 5 years of age, respectively. Defendant was ordered to pay to plaintiff as and for support and maintenance of these minor children the sum of $75 per month for each child, or a total of $150 per month notwithstanding the defendant was entitled to have the children in his custody during vacation periods. Defendant was also ordered, in the event the plaintiff should marry again, to purchase a $25 (face value) U. S. Defense Bond for each child each month. Plaintiff has remarried, and this provision has been effective since 1950.

Defendant was further ordered to pay any extraordinary medical bills incurred by

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the children. He was also required to keep in force and pay premiums on a $5,000 life insurance policy in which the children were [80 Ariz. 68] named as beneficiaries; also to retain the children as primary beneficiaries of half of his $10,000 National Service Life Insurance policy until the younger of the children attained the age of 23.

On June 25, 1954, the plaintiff filed a petition to modify the decree, asking that the defendant be required to pay $250 per month for each child for support and maintenance. Upon the hearing of the petition for modification, the court increased defendant's monthly payments to the plaintiff for the support of each minor child from $75 to $100 per month. Since June of 1954 defendant had voluntarily been paying this increased amount. The court also ordered defendant to pay the plaintiff the sum of $200 as and for attorney's fees incurred in this proceeding.

Plaintiff appeals from these orders on the ground that the court abused its discretion in allowing only these amounts and presents two assignments of error. The first is that the trial court abused its discretion in increasing the $150 monthly allowance for the support and maintenance of the two children by only $50 per month.

The second assignment of error is that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing only $200 for plaintiff's attorney's fee.

In determining whether there has been an abuse of discretion-i. e., whether as a matter of law the allowances for support and maintenance and for attorney's fee were inadequate-we must first determine whether from the record before us it appears that the decision of the trial court is supported by competent evidence. In testing the sufficiency of the evidence it will be taken in the strongest manner in favor of the appellee and in support of the court's findings, and a judgment will not be disturbed when there is any reasonable evidence to support it. Kenton v. Wood, 56 Ariz. 325, 107 P.2d 380.

The facts are not in serious dispute. The only evidence as to the needs of the children was offered by the plaintiff. Since her divorce the plaintiff has remarried and she and the two children live with her husband in Castro Valley, California, about 50 miles from San Francisco. The plaintiff's present husband is a vice-principal in San Leandro High School and has a salary of $466 a month. They also receive $30 per month from rental property and $15 per month from an oil royalty.

In itemizing the estimated monthly expenses for the children, the plaintiff allocated $188.50 to the children as being their share of the total sum of $377 for house payments, utilities, water, phone and food. The boy's clothing expense was listed at $22.08 per month and the girl's as $27.66 per month. Shoes and shoe repair were $11.25 per month. The sum of $37.50 per month, being one-half of the expense of maintaining an automobile, is attributed to the children. Dancing and music lessons were listed at $48.50 per month. Magazines,[80 Ariz. 69] parties and trip equipment, and summer camp were listed at $10.50 per month; school lunches at $16 per month; entertainment at $31 per month, and medical and dental expenses at $10 per month. These items, together with some miscellaneous matters, totaled $438.65 for the expenses incurred per month and attributed as legitimate expense of maintaining the two children. In arriving at this total the plaintiff stated that she made no allowances for birthday parties, gifts, tickets to symphony, ballet or opera or better summer camps.

As to the increase in the ability of the father to pay for support of his children, the evidence showed that for 1948, the year the divorce was granted, the defendant's income was $10,910.26. His average annual income for the five years after the divorce was $17,623.36.

The governing statute, section 27-811, A.C.A.1939, reads as follows:

'The court may from time to time after the entry of final decree, on petition of either party, amend, revise and alter such portions of the decree as relate to the payment of money for the support and maintenance of the wife or the expenses of the proceedings, as may be ...

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