When a Divorce is Final in Arizona
In Natale v. Natale, each party cited difference precedents in response to a motion filed by the husband to appeal and the wife’s belief that he did not file the motion in a timely manner. The issue centered upon the question of when a divorce is final in Arizona.
Pertinent Background for the Case: A Timeline of Natale v. Natale
1976: Husband and wife were married.
March 2010: Wife filed for dissolution.
September 2011: The family court entered a decree of dissolution of marriage. There were no appeals filed by either party in response to any rulings included in the decree.
January 4, 2012: A Petition for Contempt and for Enforcement of court orders was filed by the wife asserting that the husband did not complete actions necessary to make divide the marital assets possible. She requested enforcement of a number of court orders, as well as an award of attorneys’ fees spent as a result of litigation.
A second application was filed the same day by the wife seeking attorneys’ fees for post-trial proceedings (June through December 2011). The husband responded in opposition to the wife’s petition. The court set an evidentiary hearing.
July 9, 2012: Evidentiary hearing on Wife’s petition for contempt and enforcement and additional unresolved issues.
August 9, 2012: Signed minute entry filed containing resolution of several issues pertaining to division of marital property/accounts for Natale v. Natale. The minute entry was signed as a formal order, but did not include a certification of finality for appeal under Family Rule 78(B).
August 24, 2012: Judgment entered by family court awarding attorneys’ fees for post-trial proceedings to the wife.
September 17, 2012: Judgment awarded wife additional attorneys’ fees for enforcement proceedings by family court. As of this date, all issues pending before the court in relation to the January 4, 2012 petition/application were resolved.
September 24, 2012: Notice of appeal filed by husband advising that he was appealing the rulings entered on: August 9th, August 24th, and September 17th. The notice of appeal was filed in compliance with precedent set down by Ghadimi v. Soraya, 230 Ariz. 621, 285 P.3d 969 (App. 2012) indicating that the family court ruling is not final or appealable until every claim that is pending with the court achieves resolution, unless a certification of finality is included as required by Family Rule 78(B).
Wife Requests Court Apply the Reeck Case to Natale v. Natale
While the appeal was pending, an opinion was issued in Reeck v. Mendoza, 232 Ariz. 299, 304 P.3d 1122 (App. 2013). The opinion addressed the finality of family court rulings. It declined to follow Ghadimi and Kassa, two other cases holding that without the certification of finality previously noted, an appeal is premature without full resolution of all issues raised in the petition.
Wife filed a motion to dismiss the portion of the husband’s appeal in regards to the ruling entered on August 9, 2012. She argued that according to Reeck, the ruling was final and appealable because the husband’s appeal was filed over 30 days after the ruling was entered.
The husband’s notice for appeal was filed over 30 days after the ruling. If the August 9th ruling was final and appealable when it was entered in the court records, the wife’s motion is appropriate. In reply to the wife’s motion, the husband argued that the wife had waived her jurisdictional argument when she did not assert the jurisdictional argument in her answering brief.
Husband contends that the August 9th ruling was not yet final and appealable until after September 17, 2012 ruling. The wife filed a reply and the court was able to hear an oral argument about the jurisdictional issue and the issues related to the appeal.
The court rejected the husband’s claim that the wife waived her jurisdictional argument. The court also denied the wife’s motion to dismiss the portion of the appeal that rose from the August 9, 2012 order. By doing so, the court declines to coincide with the Reeck case and instead chose to follow Ghadimi and Kassa alongside Family Rule 78(B).
Court Rules Consistent with Ghadimi, Kassi in Regards to Natale v. Natale
The court’s decision not to coincide with the Reeck case in this matter is sensible as the fact patter presented in Natale v. Natale is comparable outside of the timing of the filing. According to both Ghadimi and Kassa, as well as Family Rule 78(B), when a family court ruling provides resolution for only some of the issues pending with the court and does not include a certification of finality, the ruling is not final and appealable.
The Conflict Between the Ghadimi and Reeck Decisions
Judge Cattani felt it important to point out the conflict between the two decisions: Ghadimi and Reeck. He further stated that appellants who have complied with either one of the rulings should be considered as satisfying the requirement for timeliness regarding establishing jurisdiction.
Basing Conclusions on Plain Language of the Law:
The Court of Appeals of Arizona declined to base their ruling on the Reeck case. Instead the ruling was consistent with Ghadimi, Kassa, and Family Rule 78(B). The appellate court denied the wife’s motion to dismiss regarding the specified portion of her husband’s appeal and affirm the rulings of the family court.