In re the Marriage of: GENE R. AMES, Petitioner/Appellee,
JULIE L. AMES, Respondent/Appellant
from the Superior Court in Maricopa County. No.
FN2003-001250. The Honorable Richard Albrecht, Judge Pro
L. Patterson, PLLC, Tempe, By Scott L. Patterson, Counsel for
& Perkins, P.C., Scottsdale, By Max Nicholas Hanson,
Counsel for Petitioner/Appellee.
Judge Michael J. Brown delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Acting Presiding Judge Samuel A. Thumma and Judge
Randall M. Howe joined.
J. Brown, Chief Judge:
This opinion addresses whether the trial court erred in
dismissing a petition for enforcement of spousal maintenance
based on Arizona Revised Statutes (" A.R.S." )
section 25-553, which provides that a party may not seek a
judgment on spousal maintenance arrearages more than "
three years after the spousal maintenance order
terminates." Because the court properly concluded that
the petition was not timely filed, we affirm.
The marriage of Julie L. Ames (" Wife" ) and Gene
R. Ames (" Husband" ) terminated in June 2003 upon
the entry of a consent judgment and decree of dissolution.
The decree stated that Husband would pay Wife spousal
maintenance of $1,000 per month for four years.
In May 2014, Wife filed a petition to enforce the spousal
maintenance order, alleging Husband owed her more than
$46,000 for missed payments plus interest from July 2003
through April 2014. In support of her petition, Wife filed an
unsigned pleading titled " Affidavit of Direct
Payments," together with email correspondence, alleging
that Husband made only eighteen of the forty-eight monthly
payments and, even then, paid less than the designated amount
when he made sixteen out of those eighteen payments. Wife
alleged further that she had repeatedly contacted Husband
regarding his failure to make the court-ordered payments,
which often resulted in Husband making renewed efforts to
meet his obligation.
Husband and Wife represented themselves at a subsequent
hearing on the petition. In response to questioning from the
trial court, they agreed that the " total of [the] past
due obligation" was $29,673.26. At that point, however,
Husband orally moved to dismiss the petition, contending the
action was barred by a three-year statute of limitations
(A.R.S. § 25-553) governing enforcement of spousal
maintenance orders. Wife responded that she had "
addressed" that issue in her petition, and the trial
court took the matter under advisement.
Several days later, the trial court entered a signed order
dismissing the petition to enforce spousal maintenance. The
court explained that the spousal maintenance obligation began
in July 2003, terminated in July 2007, and that Wife waited
more than three years after the order terminated to seek
enforcement, in contravention of A.R.S. § 25-553(A).
Through counsel, Wife filed a motion to amend the order or,
alternatively, for a new trial. With greater specificity,
Wife argued that she and Husband had " kept in contact
over the years regarding the payment of the spousal
maintenance award," Husband " made repeated
promises to make additional payments in the future," and
he had made continuous monthly payments of differing amounts
from January 2007 to February 2011. Wife also argued the
court violated her right to procedural due process by ruling
on the oral motion to dismiss without providing her an
opportunity to file a written response. Finally, Wife argued
that because the decree did not expressly identify a specific
date on which the spousal maintenance order would end, it did
not terminate until the obligation was paid in full, and
therefore A.R.S. § 25-553 did not bar her claim. The
trial court denied Wife's motion to amend/motion for new
trial and this timely appeal followed.