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In re Amadore

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

October 16, 2018

In re the Matter of: CAMILLE MORGAN AMADORE, Petitioner/Appellant,
v.
STEVEN PAUL LIFGREN, Respondent/Appellee.

          Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. FC2013-050118 The Honorable Roy C. Whitehead, Judge

          Berkshire Law Office PLLC, Tempe By Keith Berkshire, Erica Gadberry Counsel for Petitioner/Appellant

          Udall Shumway, PLC, Mesa By Steven H. Everts

          Co-Counsel for Respondent/Appellee The Sampair Group PLLC, Glendale By Brandy M. Ramsay Co-Counsel for Respondent/Appellee

          Presiding Judge Michael J. Brown delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Maria Elena Cruz and Judge John C. Gemmill joined. [1]

          OPINION

          BROWN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Camille Morgan Amadore ("Mother") appeals the superior court's order modifying several provisions of the marriage dissolution decree ending her marriage to Steven Paul Lifgren ("Father"). For the following reasons, we affirm the court's modification of child support and termination of spousal maintenance. We also affirm the court's denial of Mother's request that uncovered medical payments be apportioned based on the parties' incomes. We vacate, however, (1) the effective dates the court applied for the child support modification and spousal maintenance termination, (2) the court's reduction of Father's monthly child support obligation as reimbursement for his overpayments created by the retroactive effective dates, and (3) the court's award of attorneys' fees and costs to Father. We remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Mother and Father married in 2000 and have three children. Mother, who was not employed at the time, petitioned for divorce in February 2013, ultimately resulting in a default decree that ordered Father to pay (1) spousal maintenance of $2, 000 per month indefinitely, and (2) consistent with the parties' written agreement, child support of $3, 000 per month, which was an upward deviation from the Child Support Guidelines, Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 25-320 app. ("Guidelines").

         ¶3 Mother obtained a real estate license in May 2014. In September, Father petitioned the superior court to modify the decree, seeking joint legal decision-making, equal parenting time, and modified child support. Mother counter-petitioned to change the children's schools and modify parenting time based on her plans to move to a different community in the greater Phoenix area. On October 20, 2015, before the court ruled on the pending petitions, Father filed a petition to modify spousal maintenance, alleging Mother had "achieved an ability to be financially independent by obtaining her [r]eal [e]state license." Father requested that spousal maintenance be terminated or, in the alternative, significantly reduced. On November 9, 2015, Mother accepted a job (unrelated to her real estate license) as a sales coordinator earning an annual salary of $42, 500.

         ¶4 After a June 2016 evidentiary hearing on the petitions, the superior court modified the decree by (1) reducing child support to an amount resulting from application of the Guidelines, and (2) terminating spousal maintenance. Consistent with statutory presumptions, the court made the changes effective as of the first day of the month after the filing of Father's respective petitions. To account for the overpayments created by the changes, the court decided that Father's monthly child support obligation would be reduced to "$500 per month until Father's overpayment [was] equalized/offset." The court ordered each party responsible for half of the uncovered medical expenses for the children and declined to award attorneys' fees to either party. Mother filed a motion to amend/motion for new trial, which the court denied, and awarded Father attorneys' fees and costs incurred in defending the motion. Mother timely appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Spousal Maintenance and Child Support

         ¶5 An award of spousal maintenance or child support "may be modified or terminated only on a showing of changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing." A.R.S. § 25-327(A). We review the superior court's decision to modify a child support award for an abuse of discretion, which occurs if the record is devoid of competent evidence to support the decision. Jenkins v. Jenkins, 215 Ariz. 35, 37, ¶ 8 (App. 2007). The burden of showing changed circumstances is on the party seeking modification. Id. at 39, ¶ 16. We review de novo the court's interpretation and application of statutes. Thomas v. Thomas, 203 Ariz. 34, 36, ¶ 7 (App. 2002).

         ¶6 Following the evidentiary hearing, the superior court (1) adopted Father's child support worksheets, which attributed $3, 541 in gross monthly income to Mother, and (2) found that deviating from the Guidelines was not appropriate. The court ordered the following monthly child support obligations for Father: (1) $1, 288 from October 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015; (2) $1, 338 from July 1, 2015, to October 31, 2015; and (3) $1, 430 from November 1, 2015, to the present. The court also terminated the spousal maintenance award, effective November 1, 2015.

         ¶7 Application of these effective dates resulted in overpayments by Father of $31, 464 in child support and $14, 000 in spousal maintenance. The court then ordered that going forward, Father is obligated to pay a reduced amount of $500 per month in child support until he has recouped the overpayments, without ...


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