Arizona Court of Appeals

DeFrancesco v. DeFrancesco


December 5, 2019


Not reported yet
No. 1 CA-CV 19-0055 FC


Community Property

In DeFrancesco v. DeFrancesco, a published opinion, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that this specific type of bonus received after the date of service of the petition for divorce was the separate property of the recipient spouse.

The parties were married in 1988 and legally separated in 2012. In 2017, Husband filed for divorce. Despite already being legally separated, the parties agreed they shared community property that needed to be divided in the divorce.

Husband managed the AAA affiliate of the Houston Astros, a major league baseball team. A couple months after Husband filed for divorce, the Astros won the World Series and paid to Husband a bonus of $28,151.26.

The family court rejected Wife’s claim that the bonus constituted community property to which she was entitled. Wife appealed and argued that the bonus was community property because it was earned while the parties were still married.

This caused the Court of Appeals to explain the distinction between vested rights earned for work performed during the marriage and mere expectancies to which a spouse holds no enforceable right.

Under Arizona law, the service of a petition for divorce or legal separation terminates the marital community. This means that property acquired after the date of service is generally the separate property of the acquiring spouse.

However, when a spouse receives compensation after the date of service for work performed before the date of service, the other spouse may retain a community interests in that property. One of the determinative factors is whether that property resulted from a legal right earned during the marriage.

Here, the Court of Appeals agreed with the family court that Husband had no legal entitlement to the bonus he received. It affirmed the family court’s decision to characterize the bonus as separate property.

The Court of Appeals issued a separate memorandum decision to address the other issues in Wife’s appeal.

Summarily, the Court of Appeals affirmed the family court’s award of spousal maintenance to Wife and its denial of Wife’s request for attorney’s fees.

Originally, the family court ruled it would award Wife a portion of her attorney’s fees limited to Husband’s alleged non-compliance with the temporary orders.

But after Wife’s attorney submitted a fee affidavit that requested more than $19,000, the family court deemed this request to be excessive and reconsidered its fee award.

Wife unsuccessfully argued that this and the family court’s original decision to award only a limited portion of her fees were abuses of the family court’s discretion.