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East v. Matthews - 6/23/2009

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That The Arizona Child Support Guidelines Require Courts to Consider the Standard of Living that the Child Would Have Had if the Parents Lived Together Even if the Child Was Born Out of Wedlock and the Parents Never Lived Together.


East brought a paternity action against Matthews after the birth of their daughter.  The family court determined that Matthews made approximately $10,000,000 per year and ordered him to pay East $1,561 per month in child support, the presumptive amount under the Arizona Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) for parents with a combined gross income of $20,000 or more per month.  In making this award, the family court relied on Edgar v. Johnson, 152 Ariz. 236 (App. 1986), which held that once it is determined that the non-custodial parent has sufficient income to provide for the child’s needs, the child support awarded is determined by the needs of the child and not by the non-custodial parent’s income.  The family court also accepted Matthews’ argument that the lifestyle that the child would have lived if she lived with both of her parents was irrelevant because she never lived with both parents.  East appealed, arguing that the family court abused its discretion when it precluded her from introducing evidence to support a child support award of more than the presumptive $1,561 per month.   

The Arizona Appeals Court agreed with East, held that the family court erred, and remanded the case for a redetermination of an appropriate amount of child support.  The Court reasoned that it was improper to rely on Edgar, as that case was decided before the Guidelines were adopted and is no longer good law.  The Court further reasoned that the trial court erred in ignoring the standard of living the child would have had if the parents lived together.  Under the Guidelines, an award of more than the presumptive amount can be made if “a higher amount is in the best interests of the child[], taking into account such factors as the standard of living the child[] would have enjoyed if the parents and child[] were living together . . . .”

Judge Hall authored the opinion, Judges Thompson and Barker concurred. 

 

Posted On: 7/9/2009