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Divorce and Family Law

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[1]. 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.


[1] 239 Ariz. 246, 370 P.3d 115 (Ct. App. 2016), review denied

 
          

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