2022 Amendments to Title 25

Senate Bill 1383 was signed by the governor on June 14, 2022 and becomes effective on September 24, 2022 (90 days after the legislature adjourned sine dine). The bill amends several sections of chapter 3, adds new section 25-314.01 and repeals and replaces section 25-316. All of the substantive changes are detailed below.

Most important changes for practitioners

If you’re short on time, here are the most important changes you need to know about:

  • New procedure for cancelling a legal separation: If the parties are legally separated and later reconcile, there is a new process for terminating the legal separation decree. Any property awarded to either spouse in the legal separation decree or acquired during the period of legal separation remains separate, unless stated otherwise. You also have to address what happens to property payments and support payments that were ordered in the legal separation decree but haven’t been fulfilled.
  • Formal adoption of summary consent decree process: The summary consent decree process that was being trialed in Maricopa County is now codified in § 25-314.01. But there are some changes—the filing fee is now 50% of the combined petition and response fee, and the decree can be submitted to the court earlier than 60 days (but cannot be entered until after 60 days).
  • Minor changes to temporary orders: Provisions regarding temporary orders have been moved to § 25-316. “Physical or emotional” harm has been deleted as a requirement for exclusive use of property, and there is now specific authority for exclusive use and possession of other property, not just the marital residence. The definition of “liquid assets” now includes cryptocurrency and “nonretirement funds in financial institutions.”
  • Spousal maintenance guidelines: The new § 25-319 authorizes the supreme court to establish spousal maintenance guidelines, and limits the court to awarding maintenance “only for a period of time and in an amount necessary to enable the receiving spouse to become self-sufficient.” The court may deviate from the guidelines if the application is inappropriate or unjust (like child support). The actual guidelines haven’t been created yet.

If a statute has been amended but isn’t mentioned below, it’s because the changes are only cosmetic—e.g., changing custody to legal decision-making and parenting time, or adding annulment to divorce and legal separation.

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Costaras v. Costaras

  • If a foreign judgment includes support and non-support components, is it subject to the four-year statute of limitations for domesticating foreign judgments in A.R.S. § 12-544(3)?

Facts and Procedural History

Bill and Pana were divorced in Ohio in 1999. In 2016, another Ohio court entered judgment against Bill for $174,467.84–30% for spousal support arrearages and the remaining 70% for a “civil judgment” for attorney’s fees and costs.

Pana domesticated the judgment in Arizona about five years later. Bill moved to set aside the judgment, arguing that it was time-barred by A.R.S. § 12-544(3), which requires foreign judgments to be domesticated within four years after they become enforceable. Foreign judgments for support, however, are exempt from this statute of limitations.

The trial court held that the judgment could not be “dissected,” and therefore the entire judgment was exempt from the statute of limitations because the judgment included a support component. Bill appealed.

Ruling

Judgments that include support and non-support components can be bifurcated. The four-year statute of limitations in A.R.S. § 12-544(3) only applies to the non-support components of the foreign judgment, and the support components remain exempt.

If you’re not familiar with § 12-544, here’s what it says about domesticating foreign judgments:

There shall be commenced and prosecuted within four years after the cause of action accrues, and not afterward, the following actions: […] Upon a judgment or decree of a court rendered without the state, or upon an instrument in writing executed without the state. This paragraph does not apply to a judgment for support, as defined in section 25-500, and to associated costs and attorney fees.

Costaras v. Costaras, 1 CA-CV 21-0401, 2022 WL 1467900 (App. May 10, 2022).

Arizona House Bill 2642

Arizona House Bill 2642 passed the House yesterday. The bill would give children 14 years and up the right to choose which parent they will live with in a divorce or custody proceeding. If the child is under 14, it requires the court to “strongly consider” the wishes of the child. The current law gives much more discretion to judges when considering a child’s wishes.

In some family court cases, a child is mature enough to express a preference on who they want to live with. But in many more cases, children are being influenced by one or both parents in inappropriate ways. It is not uncommon for one parent to poison a child’s relationship with the other parent, even when there are no legitimate concerns about parental fitness.

If the law passes, it will put extreme pressure on children in divorce proceedings to pick sides. Their parents will know that, if they can convince the child to live with them, it will almost ensure a favorable outcome in their case. An award of primary custody also has a significant effect on child support. In the middle of a divorce case, parents frequently act out of malice for the other parent or are motivated by financial gain, rather than the child’s best interest.

A child’s wishes should be a factor in determining custody (which is already the case under current law). However, it should not be the deciding factor. HB2642 would cause huge negative effects in the family court system and on children with divorced parents. It would also create a flood of litigation from parents who have already laid the groundwork to alienate the other parent. I oppose HB2642 and encourage you to contact your representative to express your views.

You can track the bill’s progress here.

Big finger pointing at a scared man

New DV Offense: Doxxing

HB2502 became effective on September 29 and amends A.R.S. § 13-2916 to to include “doxxing” as a criminal domestic violence offense.

Doxxing is the act of publicly revealing previously private personal information about an individual or organization, usually through the internet.

The amendment adds the following language to the electronic harassment statute:

Without the person’s consent and for the purpose of imminently causing the person unwanted physical contact, injury or harassment by a third party, use an electronic communication device to electronically distribute, publish, email, hyperlink or make available for downloading the person’s personal identifying information, including a digital image of the person, and the use does in fact incite or produce that unwanted physical contact, injury or harassment. This paragraph also applies to a person who intends to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass an immediate family member of the person whose personal identifying information is used.

A.R.S. § 13-2916(A)(4)

Personal identifying information is defined as: “information that would allow the identified person to be located, contacted or harassed [and] includes the person’s home address, work address, phone number, email address or other contact information that would allow the identified person to be located, contacted or harassed.”

Doxxing is now considered a form of domestic violence and can be used as the basis for an order of protection. See § 13-3601 for the legal definition of domestic violence.