Arizona Child Support Cases Weighed Carefully by Judges

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An Arizona appellate court has revisited an earlier ruling in the divorce settlement of Phoenix-area NBA star Steve Nash and his now-ex-wife, Alejandra Amarilla Nash.

Our Maricopa County divorce attorneys understand that there were two primary points of contention:

  • An earlier child support agreement.
  • The ongoing disparaging comments both parties were making publicly about one another.

First, let’s talk about the child support issue. In the state of Arizona, A.R.S. 25-501(A) stipulates that both parents – custodial and non-custodial – must provide “reasonable support” for their minor children. This is not an optional obligation. To ensure that children’s welfare is prioritized in these cases, the courts always look at them through the lens of, “What is in the best interest of the child?”

Of course, that’s a highly subjective measuring stick. But generally, it means that child support obligations will be given priority over all other financial obligations throughout the proceeding.

Every case is different, but the guidelines hold that generally, a parent will pay support that is approximate to what he or she would have spent on the children had the parents remained together. Factors that are considered are employment and income of both parents, prior standards of living, costs of health care and child care and costs associated with shared parenting time.

In the case of Nash, who left the Phoenix Suns last year to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, the two parties have been battling for the last three years. A previous divorce settlement between the two resulted in Nash, the non-custodial parent, making a one-time, lump-sum child support payment of $5 million for their three minor children.

However, a three-judge appellate panel recently determined that the lower court’s decision to let Nash off the hook for further support payments was erroneous. The court overturned this agreement, finding that the lower court failed to properly consider the state’s basic guidelines for the determination of child support, as well as a legitimate request by Nash’s ex-wife for an increase in payments.

So that aspect of the case will go back to the lower court for reconsideration, and Nash will likely end up paying a fair amount more in monthly child support obligations.

However, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s earlier ruling, holding that both parties must refrain from publicly disparaging one another. Amarilla had argued that such a ruling interfered with her First Amendment right to exercise free speech.

The court had said that Amarilla’s Twitter account had been used to dispense “biting criticism” of her ex after their split. The court said that the order does not violate her right to free speech because both parties agreed to limit their speech, per their joint custody agreement.

As such speech might ultimately be damaging to the children, the court ruled, the parents have an obligation to limit it.

This case reveals that even when a divorce is granted, the case may not be over. When children are involved, there are likely to be ongoing issues, and it may at some point be necessary to return to court to have those issues addressed, particularly when they impact the well-being of your child.

We’re here to help.

Our Maricopa County divorce attorneys may be reached at (480) 833-1113.

Additional Resources:

Steve Nash Should Pay Child Support in Divorce With Alejandra Amarilla, Appeals Court Rules, July 23, 2013, By Ray Stern, Phoenix New Times

More Blog Entries:

Military Issues in Divorce and Custody Matters, July 16, 2013, Mesa Divorce Lawyer Blog

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