Three-Year Time Limit to Pursue Unpaid Spousal Maintenance in Arizona
A judgment for unpaid spousal maintenance must be requested within three years from the date that the spousal maintenance payments terminate.
The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the three-year statute
of limitations when it interpreted
A.R.S. § 25-553 in
Ames v. Ames.
The deadline appears unambiguous in the statute’s heading and language:
25-553. Request for arrearages; deadline
A. The person to whom the spousal maintenance obligation is
owed may file a request for judgment for spousal maintenance arrearages not
later than three years after the date the spousal maintenance order terminates.
In that proceeding there is no bar to establishing a money judgment for all of
the unpaid spousal maintenance arrearages.
In Ames, the husband was ordered to pay spousal maintenance
for 48 months, from July 2003 through June 2007. There was no dispute that the
husband failed to make all of the payments that were due during that time
period, and that the wife was owed nearly $30,000.
In 2014, the wife filed a Petition to Enforce, seeking to
reduce the unpaid spousal maintenance to a judgment. The husband filed a Motion
to Dismiss, and the Superior Court granted the husband’s motion and dismissed
the wife’s petition. The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, affirming that
the recipient of spousal maintenance must initiate an action to collect past-due
payments within three years from the termination date of the spousal maintenance
order – in this case, a deadline of June 2010.
The three-year statute of limitations would appear not to
apply to orders for “indefinite” spousal maintenance, i.e., those that do not
specify a termination date.
In addition to closely monitoring the termination of spousal
maintenance based on a specified termination date, recipients of spousal
maintenance should be aware that, in most cases, spousal maintenance also
terminates upon the remarriage of the recipient spouse. If the recipient spouse
remarries and there remains unpaid spousal maintenance, the spouse must seek
enforcement of the unpaid spousal maintenance within three years of the
remarriage, or the Petition to Enforce will be time-barred.