Smith v. Smith (mem.)

Smith v. Smith, No. 1 CA-CV 21-0300 FC, 2022 WL 320569 (Ariz. App. Feb. 3, 2022).

Facts and Procedural History

Heath and Tricia Smith were married in 2009 but lived together for about 10 years prior to that. Tricia, 40, is disabled due to a genetic disorder affecting her joints and is unable to work. Heath earns a modest income of about $72,000 per year as an electrician. Tricia’s only income comes from adoption subsidies of $1,931 per month. The parties have four children, three of whom are minors and two of whom were adopted.

Following a trial, the court ordered Heath to pay spousal maintenance of $1,500 per month for 20 years—twice the length of the parties’ actual marriage. Notably, the court made a finding that the parties were “legally married for approximately ten year[s] but ha[d] lived as a married community since the birth of their first [c]hild more than 20 years ago.”

After paying spousal maintenance and child support ($849/month), Heath’s income was $3,611 per month and Tricia’s income was $4,280 per month.

Heath appealed, arguing that the court improperly considered their premarital cohabitation in determining the “duration of the marriage” under A.R.S. § 25-319(B).

Ruling

The court of appeals found no abuse of discretion in ordering Heath to pay spousal maintenance for 20 years. A court must consider “all relevant factors” under § 25-319(B), and an award longer than the actual marriage is not automatically an abuse of discretion if other findings support the award. The court of appeals also noted that nothing in the trial court’s ruling indicated that the court gave much weight to the premarital cohabitation.

Likewise, the court of appeals found no abuse of discretion in ordering $1,500 per month in spousal maintenance because it was “approximately 25% of [Heath]’s income, which is not unusual.”