Leathers v. Leathers – 9/13/2007

September 18, 2007

Arizona Court Of Appeals Division One Holds That The Trial Court Erred In Its Divorce Decree By Miscalculating Spousal Maintenance And Awarding A Life Insurance Policy And Attorneys’ Fee In Favor Of The Wife, But The Trial Court Correctly Divided The Community Assets And Debts.

Mr. and Mrs. Leathers filed for divorce after forty-plus years of marriage. It was “undisputed that, throughout the marriage, husband was the bread-winner and wife was primarily a homemaker and stay-at-home mother.” The trial court ruled for Mrs. Leathers with respect to “spousal maintenance, a life insurance policy on husband’s life, attorneys’ fees, and the distribution of assets and debts . . . .” Mr. Leathers appealed.

The Arizona Court of Appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part. First, it held that, while spousal maintenance was warranted, the trial court improperly calculated Mr. Leathers’ actual income when determining the amount of maintenance. Moreover, as part of Mrs. Leathers’ spousal maintenance, the trial court awarded her half of Mr. Leathers’ anticipated social security benefits. The trial court erred by failing to offset that amount by Mrs. Leathers’ own anticipated social security benefits. Second, it concluded that Mrs. Leathers failed to raise the life insurance policy issue in a timely manner pursuant to Rule 16(d) of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires that contested issues of fact and law appear in the joint pretrial statement. Third, it reversed and remanded the award of attorneys’ fees in light of its holdings in favor of Mr. Leathers. Finally, it affirmed the trial court’s distribution of community assets and debts.

Judge Thompson authored the opinion; Judges Portley and Winthrop concurred.