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In re Marriage of Sterling

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department B

August 22, 2013

In re the Marriage of: PETER J. STERLING, Petitioner/Appellant,
v.
HEATHER K. STERLING, Respondent/Appellee.

Not for Publication -Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause Nos. FC2011-095094 and FC2012-090277 (Consolidated) The Honorable James P. Beene, Judge

Rowley Chapman Barney & Buntrock, Ltd. Mesa by Shane D. Buntrock Paul S. Rowley Nathaniel H. Wadsworth Attorneys for Petitioner/Appellant

Hymson Goldstein & Pantiliat, PLLC Scottsdale by Yvette Ansel Jennifer Rubin Attorneys for Respondent/Appellee

MEMORANDUM DECISION

MAURICE PORTLEY, Judge

¶1 Peter Sterling ("Husband") appeals the order requiring him to designate his former spouse, Heather Sterling ("Wife"), as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the court's order.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 The parties entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement ("Agreement") which was incorporated into their 2007 California divorce decree. In the Agreement, Husband agreed to pay child support for their two children and to keep Wife as the beneficiary of a million dollar life insurance policy.

¶3 Both parties subsequently moved to Maricopa County, and in 2011, both domesticated their California decree in the Maricopa County Superior Court. After the cases were consolidated, Husband sought to modify his child support obligation and Wife, by counterclaim, sought $110, 000 in child support arrears.[1] Wife soon discovered that the life insurance policy that Husband had maintained pursuant to the Agreement had lapsed. She also learned that Husband had acquired a different life insurance policy with AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company ("AXA life insurance policy") and had named his new wife as the beneficiary.

¶4 Wife filed a motion asking the court to order Husband to name her as the beneficiary on his current life insurance policy pursuant to the Agreement. Following briefing, [2] the court granted her request and ordered Husband to designate Wife the sole beneficiary of his life insurance policy.

DISCUSSION

I

¶5 Husband contends in his reply brief that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enforce the California decree.[3] We disagree.

¶6 Subject matter jurisdiction "refers to a court's statutory or constitutional power to hear and determine a particular type of case." State v. Maldonado, 223 Ariz. 309, 311, ¶ 14, 223 P.3d 653, 655 (2010). Because jurisdiction cannot be vested by waiver or estoppel, Guminski v. Ariz. State Veterinary Med. Examining Bd., 201 Ariz. 180, 184, ¶ 18, 33 P.3d 514, 518 (App. 2001), we independently review whether the superior court had subject matter jurisdiction over the domesticated ...


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