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).