In re Marriage of Robinson v. Thiel

In In re Marriage of Robinson v. Thiel, 201 Ariz. 328, 334, P 14, 35 P.3d 89, 95 (App. 2001) the court held that mature, vested stock options must be imputed as part of a parent's gross income. 201 Ariz. at 333, P 12, 35 P.3d at 94. To hold otherwise, would "allow the parent 'to shield a significant portion of the parent's income from the courts, and deprive the children of the standard of living they would otherwise enjoy.'" Id. The Robinson court concluded that "vested, matured stock options must be valued independently of and without regard to the employee parent's decision to actually exercise them." Id. The Robinson court declined to "adopt a universal method of valuing such options and left that to the trial court's discretion, based on the facts and circumstances of each case." Id. at 330, P 1, 35 P.3d at 91. In dictum, the court chose not to "foreclose the trial court from adopting the Murray v. Murray approach upon remand if the facts and circumstances warranted it." Id. at 334, P 16, 35 P.3d at 95. Robinson further noted that "the appropriateness of the valuation method will depend on such factors as the nature of the stock options, market conditions, tax consequences, ease of application, and other facts and circumstances peculiar to each case." Id. The method employed by the Ohio court in Murray was to "account for the options' appreciation in value as determined on the grant and exercise dates of the options that fall into the income year at issue." 128 Ohio App.3d at 675, 716 N.E.2d at 298. Under this approach, each option grant is valued on the most recent dates for which an option could be exercised minus the price on the date the option was granted. Id. "A shorthand method of doing this calculation is to add together the total number of unexercised shares from all the options, and multiply this number by the stock price increase for the income year at issue." Id. at 676, 716 N.E.2d at 299.