Joining Someone Other Than a Spouse to a Divorce Case in Arizona
There are situations that arise in a divorce when you may need to join a third party in the divorce to ensure justice is done in the divorce. One such situation arose in the case of DiPasquale vs. DiPasquale. In the DiPasquale case, a former wife was seeking to collect unpaid spousal maintenance from her former husband.
During the case, the wife asked the trial court to allow her to file a third-party complaint against Husband’s new wife. She sought to do this because she wanted to be able to investigate and make claims against the community property of the couple to collect on the unpaid spousal maintenance. The trial court denied the former wife’s request to join her for husband’s new wife into the family law case.
On appeal, the Arizona Court of Appeals found that the former wife had a legal basis to collect past due spousal maintenance from community property accumulated during the former husband’s current marriage. The Court of Appeals also interpreted the law to allow the former wife to collect on unpaid spousal maintenance payments from the community property the former husband accumulated with his new wife, but only to the extent Husband contributed to the community property.
Rule 33(A) of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure
The Arizona Court of Appeals found that Rule 33(A) of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure allows a divorce judge to permit a party to a divorce case to make a statutory legal claim against a third party related to the divorce case. However, it is still within the judge’s discretion whether such a third party claim can be filed in the divorce case; as opposed to a separate legal action.
The Court of Appeals found authority that permitted the former wife from collecting on the former husband’s premarital and separate debt through community property but only to the extent husband contributed to that community property. In the prior case of Flexmaster, the Court of Appeals found that a non-debtor spouse (i.e., the new wife) is a necessary and proper party in a suit to establish the limited liability of the community property for separate premarital debts. The court held that is was also much more efficient to handle those claims in the family law case than to spur another civil lawsuit to address the former wife’s claims.
The Court of Appeals also rejected the trial judge’s decision that the collection of the spousal maintenance from the community property created during the husband’s new marriage was not an issue for the family court to handle. It appears the family law court concluded that the claim was more of a civil lawsuit that should not be part of a family court case.
The Court of Appeals indicated that although there are divisions of the Superior Court, such as civil division, criminal division, and family law division, the Superior Court is one unified court and the specification of divisions of the court are imaginary and for convenience only.
Claims Against Third Party Must be Related to the Divorce
Now, this case does not mean you can combine any cause of action against a third party in your divorce. The lawsuit against a third person must contain issues related to an issue in the divorce case. In this case, the issue of collecting overdue alimony from the community property created during the husband’s new marriage was sufficiently related to the spousal maintenance enforcement action that the former wife should have been able to file a third-party lawsuit against the former husband’s new wife to collect on overdue alimony from a portion of the community property owned by the former husband and his new wife.
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Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about joining a third party in a divorce case to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case.