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Dismissal of an Appeal for Not Obeying Court Orders in a Divorce in Arizona

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The Arizona Court of Appeals in a published decision in the case of Stewart v. Stewart addressed the issue of the dismissal of an appeal for not obeying court orders in a divorce in Arizona.

In the Stewart case, the husband had repeatedly refused to comply with court orders for the payment of spousal maintenance to his wife and the court-ordered payment of the wife’s attorney fees incurred in their divorce.

The husband then compounded his refusal to comply with the divorce court’s orders by repeatedly failing to show up at hearings scheduled by the court to enforce those court orders via the contempt powers of the court.

As a result, the trial court entered a default divorce decree granting the wife support and an additional award of attorney fees over the husband’s objections to the entry of his default. The husband appealed the default decree to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Dismissal of a Family Law Appeal When the Appellant Refuses to Follow Court Orders

Dismissal of Appeal for Not Obeying Court Orders in a Divorce in Arizona.

The Arizona Court of Appeals in the Stewart case began its analysis of the husband’s appeal by noting the numerous occasions the husband failed to comply with court orders in the underlying divorce case. It found the husband failed to comply with court orders for the payment of support and attorneys fees to the wife and failed to comply with other court orders requiring him to appear in court on contempt proceedings.

Once they got that analysis out of the way, the Arizona Court of Appeals focused its attention on whether the court of appeals had the authority to dismiss the husband’s appeal based upon his contemptuous conduct at the trial court level.

Disobeying Trial Court Orders Versus Appellate Court Orders

It is clear that a person appealing a divorce court decision can have his or her appeal dismissed by the court of appeals if a person disobeys the appellate court’s orders. However, the question was whether a court of appeals can dismiss a person’s appeal not for violating any court of appeal’s orders but, instead, for disobeying the underlying trial court’s orders from which the appeal is sought.

The Court of Appeals found no distinction between a person violating their orders or violating the trial court’s orders. In both cases, the dignity of the judicial process was disregarded in either circumstance. In support of its decision, the Court of Appeals cited the United States Supreme Court case of the National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards v. Arnold.

In the Arnold case, the United States Supreme Court concluded dismissal of an appeal under such circumstances was “a reasonable method of sustaining the effectiveness of the state judicial process” and did not violate due process.

Dismissal of Appeal for Violating Divorce Court Orders in Arizona.

Types of Orders Violated Supporting Dismissal of an Appeal

The Arizona Court of Appeals then cited other similar rulings in other states where appeals were dismissed when the appealing party failed to comply with child custody orders, spousal maintenance orders, orders for the payment of attorney fees and costs, and refusal to participate in an examination.

The Court of Appeals analogized such cases as those in which a criminal defendant’s appeal of his or her conviction is summarily dismissed when they escape from prison during the pendency of their appeal.

The court was careful to distinguish that its decision to dismiss the appeal of a recalcitrant litigant is different from a situation where the person lacks the ability to comply with the trial court’s orders or where compliance with the trial court’s order would substantially impair a person’s rights.

If you have questions about the dismissal of an appeal for not obeying orders in a divorce in Arizona, you should seriously consider contacting the attorneys at Hildebrand Law, PC. Our Arizona restraining order and family law attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in restraining order and family law cases.

Our family law firm has earned numerous awards such as US News and World Reports Best Arizona Family Law Firm, US News and World Report Best Divorce Attorneys, “Best of the Valley” by Arizona Foothills readers, and “Best Arizona Divorce Law Firms” by North Scottsdale Magazine.

Call us today at (480)305-8300 or reach out to us through our appointment scheduling form to schedule your personalized consultation and turn your restraining order or family law case around today.

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