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In re Yurka

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department E

August 6, 2013

In re the Matter of: PETER A. YURKA, Petitioner/Appellee,
BARBARA M. YURKA, Respondent/Appellant.

Not for Publication -Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. DR1996-21240 The Honorable Daniel J. Kiley, Judge.

Mueller & Drury PC Scottsdale By James P. Mueller and Joel M. Mueller Attorneys for Petitioner/Appellee

Abram Meell & Candioto PA Phoenix By Gregory J. Meell Attorneys for Respondent/Appellant



¶1 The marriage of Barbara Yurka ("Wife") and Peter Yurka ("Husband") was dissolved in 1998 pursuant to a decree of dissolution. In 2010, Wife filed a petition to modify the decree based on an alleged mutual mistake as to the parties' retirement benefits. Wife also sought payment for unpaid spousal maintenance, child support costs, and education expenses. The family court denied Wife's petition in its entirety and she appealed. For the following reasons, we affirm.


¶2 Husband and Wife divorced in 1998. At the time of dissolution, the parties had two minor children. The decree of dissolution "incorporated" but did not "merge" the parties' Rule 80(d) agreement, which provided that Husband would pay Wife spousal maintenance for four years and child support in the amount of $1, 449 per month. The agreement also addressed how retirement benefits would be distributed upon dissolution. Wife's interest in Husband's pension plan was subsequently determined through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order ("QDRO"). Wife was also to receive the entire benefit of her retirement as a teacher and Husband would likewise receive his Cal Trust retirement. The agreement made no additional mention of retirement benefits outside of the agreement and the attached exhibits.

¶3 In December 2010, Wife petitioned to enforce the decree concerning various matters, including spousal maintenance and child support payments. Wife alleged that Husband failed to comply with the family court's order to pay his spousal maintenance obligation through the Support Payment Clearinghouse. According to Wife, even if the court gave Husband credit for the payments that he made directly to her rather than through the clearinghouse, he still owed a minimum of $12, 297.69 based on improper unilateral deductions. Wife also sought consequential damages based on Husband's refusal to make payments through the clearinghouse because she was unable to refinance her home in February of 2000 at "a very advantageous . . . interest rate of 3.75%." Regarding child support costs, Wife argued that Husband had failed to reimburse her for his 75% of the medical expenses and thus owed her a total of $3, 580.85. Additionally, Wife alleged that Husband had failed to pay his share of the children's education expenses and refused to transfer Marriott Rewards points to Wife.

¶4 Wife also sought re-opening and modification of the decree based on A.R.S. § 25-327(A). Wife asserted she recently learned that once she became eligible to receive federal Social Security benefits, those benefits would be reduced by "an amount equal to [two-thirds] of her Ohio State Teacher's Retirement System" payments. Wife alleged the parties had entered into their Rule 80(d) agreement "based on the mutual understanding and belief that Wife would receive an amount equal to one-half of Husband's Social Security benefits that accrued during the marriage." Wife therefore asserted that because the parties were mutually mistaken about a material fact, the agreement could be reopened and modified. Thus, Wife alleged that "fairness and equity require that the Decree be re-opened and that it and the [QDRO] be modified to provide Wife with an additional $840.37 [per month] beginning when Wife reaches the age of 66 and continuing for life thereafter."

¶5 Husband moved to dismiss Wife's petition, arguing that all of Wife's claims were barred by statutes of limitation, waiver, or the doctrine of laches. With respect to Wife's claim for spousal maintenance, Husband pointed to A.R.S. § 25-553(A), which provides that any claim for arrearages must be brought within three years after the date the spousal maintenance order terminates. According to Husband, the terms of the divorce decree and Rule 80(d) agreement made it clear that his spousal maintenance obligations ended, at the latest, in 2002 and Wife's claims related to such payments were therefore untimely. With regard to Wife's claimed medical expenses, Husband cited Section 9A of the Arizona Child Support Guidelines, which provides that "[e]xcept for good cause shown, any request for payment or reimbursement of uninsured medical, dental and/or vision costs must be provided to the other parent within 180 days after the date the services occur." According to Husband, all of the claims for medical expenses that Wife brought related to actions that occurred "anywhere between four (4) and thirteen (13) years ago" and were untimely.

¶6 The family court partially granted Husband's motion, dismissing Wife's claims with respect to unpaid spousal maintenance and the children's education expenses. Following an evidentiary hearing on Wife's remaining claims, the court found that because Wife's Social Security claim was based on mutual mistake, Rule 85(C)(1)(a) of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure ("ARFLP") barred her claim as untimely because it was filed "more than six (6) months after the judgment or order was entered." As to Wife's claim for consequential damages arising from her alleged inability to refinance her home, the court found that it was without authority under the Arizona Constitution to award such damages without giving Husband the benefit of a jury trial, and alternatively, Wife's claims were barred by statutes of limitation. With regard to the allegedly unpaid medical expenses, the court found the evidence Wife presented during the hearing provided no basis for relief. The court further determined that Wife's claims for medical expenses were barred by the doctrine of laches and by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Finally, with respect to certain Marriott Rewards points Wife was seeking, the court found that subsequent to the divorce, Husband transferred to Wife 100, 000 points along with $1500 in cash to satisfy the terms of the Rule 80(d) agreement. The court also denied both parties' requests for attorneys' fees.

¶7 Wife's subsequent motion to amend and/or for new trial was denied by the family court, which determined an award of attorneys' fees to Husband was appropriate because Wife reasserted arguments the court had already rejected. Wife timely appealed and we ...

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