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Legal Memorandum: Back Child Support for a Mother

Issue: Does a trial court err as a matter of law when it awards a Mother a potentially excessive amount of back child support after the Father already had paid birthing expenses and support?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Back child support; Potentially excessive amount
Jurisdiction: Arizona
Cited Cases: 169 Ariz. 449; 177 Ariz. 422; 868 P.2d 1005
Cited Statutes: A.R.S. § 12-849(A)
Date: 08/01/2008

In Ortiz v. Rappeport, 169 Ariz. 449, 820 P.2d 313 (Ct. App. 1991), which was decided by Division 2, the court concluded, “Back child support awarded pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-849(A) is for money and services actually expended for the care and support of the child.”  Id. at 452, 820 P.2d at 316.  In Pizziconi v. Yarbrough, 177 Ariz. 422, 868 P.2d 1005 (Ct. App. 1994), a Court of Appeals panel from Division 1 rejected the Ortiz court’s conclusion.  The Pizziconi Court said, “We do not read Ortiz to hold that the only way of arriving at back child support is to document what was actually spent on the child’s behalf.  It would be unreasonable to promulgate the strict rule for which the Father contends.”  Pizziconi, 177 Ariz. at 426, 868 P.2d at 1009.  The Pizziconi Court concluded that the trial court did not err in determining past child support based on the Guidelines, information about the parents’ income levels and expenses, and its finding of the monthly support obligation owing, and it did not err in giving the father credit for amounts paid during the period.  Id.  Finally, although the father could have attempted to prove that the mother’s past expenses were less than what was indicated by the Guidelines and the trial court’s findings, he did not try to do so.  Id.

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