Thomas v. Thomas – 3/17/2009

March 20, 2009

Arizona Court ofAppeals Division One Holds That a Trial Court in a Marriage Dissolution Case Does Not Have Jurisdiction in Post-Decree Proceedings over Property Intentionally Omitted from a Decree of Dissolution.

Husband and Wife divorced and stipulated to a decree of dissolution in January 1998.  The parties intentionally omitted a condo purchased during their marriage from the decree.  In September 1998, Husband signed a quitclaim deed conveying the condo to Wife pursuant to an agreement between the parties, and Wife recorded the deed in October 1998.  Husband claimed the recordation was fraudulent.  In October 2005, Husband filed a motion to show cause in the dissolution action asking the trial court to, among other things, award him one-half of the equity in the condo.  After a hearing on the motion, Wife raised whether the Court had jurisdiction over the condo.  The trial court determined that it had jurisdiction and ordered Wife to convey to Husband a one-half interest after Husband satisfied certain conditions.  Wife timely appealed.

The ArizonaAppeals Court vacated the trial court’s ruling on the condo, holding that following entry of the dissolution decree, the condo was no longer marital property and thus was not subject to a post-decree reallocation.  The Court began by explaining that a trial court in a dissolution proceeding is only vested with jurisdiction provided by law, and under A.R.S. § 25-318(A), courts only have jurisdiction over “community, joint tenancy and other property held in common.”  It then looked to A.R.S. § 25-318(D), which states that any such property “for which no provision is made in the decree shall be from the date of the decree held by the parties as tenants in common, each possessed of an undivided one-half interest.”  Based on the plain language of the statute, the condo was transmuted to separate property because it was intentionally omitted from the dissolution decree, and the trial court lacked jurisdiction over it.

The Court rejected Husband’s argument that Wife’s allegedly fraudulent procurement of the quitclaim deed could not divest him of his community property, explaining that the condo had transmuted to separate property after it had been acquired as community property.  The Court also rejected Husband’s argument that he was entitled to Rule 60(c) relief to resolve issues over omitted property, because the property was intentionally omitted from the decree.

Judge Brown authored the opinion; Presiding Judge Portley and Judge Johnsen concurred