Rinegar v. Rinegar: The family and civil courts both can decide the issue of omitted property because the superior court is one of general jurisdiction.
By Leonard Karp & Katherine Scott, family law attorneys
In Rinegar v. Rinegar, the husband and wife entered into an agreement disposing of their property, but specifically excluding the wife’s retirement assets. The divorce proceeded to trial, where the parties presented evidence on the retirement benefits. However, the judge entered a decree that failed to mention any such assets. Two years later, the court entered stipulated QDROs as to the wife’s qualified pension plan and 401(k), but nothing as to W’s non-qualified pension plan and stock options. The husband filed a motion to reopen the decree and allocate the plan and stock options under Rule 85(C), Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. Rule 85(C) permits the court to “relieve a party or a party’s representative from a final judgment, order or proceeding” for various reasons, including, but not limited to, mistake, inadvertence, newly discovered evidence, and any reason justify relief. The trial court determined that the plan and stock options were “omitted property” subject to equitable division and gave the husband one half of the community interest in those assets. The wife appealed.
The issue before the Court of Appeals was whether the family court has jurisdiction over an action requesting allocation of property omitted from a decree of dissolution. The court held that a party may seek allocation of property omitted from a decree either by filing a separate civil action or by a motion to reopen the dissolution action. The family and civil courts both have jurisdiction to the issue of omitted property because the superior court is one of general jurisdiction. However, Arizona’s Thomas v. Thomas still prevents a post-decree allocation of property intentionally omitted from a stipulated decree., either under Rule 85 or its civil corollary, Rule 60(c), Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure.
Leonard Karp & Katherine Scott are family law attorney and an associate, respectively, with Karp & Weiss, a Martindale-Hubbell “AV” rated law firm, the highest possible rating.