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In re Shah

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

January 11, 2018

In re the Matter of: ARPITA SHAH, Petitioner/Appellee,
PURVIN VAKHARWALA, Respondent/Appellant.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. FC 2016-096043 The Honorable Jerry Bernstein, Judge Pro Tempore

          Collins & Collins, LLP, Phoenix By C. Robert Collins, Jonathan S. Collins Counsel for Respondent/Appellant

          Judge Jennifer B. Campbell delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Michael J. Brown and Judge Patricia A. Orozco [1] joined.


          CAMPBELL, JUDGE:

         ¶1 Purvin Vakharwala appeals the superior court's grant of an order of protection in favor of his ex-wife Arpita Shah and argues that to violate an Arizona order of protection, the violation must occur within Arizona. For the reasons explained, we affirm.


         ¶2 Shah and Vakharwala have one child in common, a son. In 2015 the couple obtained a divorce in Georgia. Shah later moved to Arizona with the child. On November 24, 2015, she obtained an Arizona order of protection against Vakharwala, who remained in Georgia. The 2015 order of protection included the following restriction: "[Vakharwala] shall have no contact with [Shah] except through attorneys, legal process, court hearings, and as follows: . . . in writing by U.S. Mail only to discuss the parties' son. [He] [a]lso may contact [Shah's] attorney." Based on the 2015 order, the Georgia court amended the decree to include the no contact terms but also to allow Vakharwala some parenting time, including permitting him to contact their son through a video chat service with specified restrictions.[2]

         ¶3 On November 18, 2016, in anticipation of the expiration of the 2015 order, Shah petitioned for an ex parte order of protection. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. ("A.R.S.") § 13-3602(K) (an order of protection expires one year after service). In her verified petition, Shah listed three separate incidents evidencing acts of domestic violence. First, in a November 21, 2015 domestic violence incident, he physically removed the child from Shah and attempted to take him out of the state of Arizona. He was subsequently charged with assault. Second, between June 2, 2016 and June 16, 2016, he violated the 2015 order when he contacted her through video chat. Third, Vakharwala contacted Arizona law enforcement on 15 separate occasions in the preceding 12 months with allegations against Shah ranging from custodial interference to violations of court orders. Each contact resulted in law enforcement contact with Shah and the child and law enforcement finding Vakharwala's allegations to be unfounded.

         ¶4 In late November 2016, based on the claims contained in Shah's verified petition, the court granted another ex parte protective order and included the same contact restrictions contained in the 2015 order. Vakharwala then requested an evidentiary hearing. See A.R.S. § 13-3602(I). Following the hearing, based on the court finding that at least one of the contacts (a June 7 video chat) was an act of domestic violence because it violated the communication restriction in the 2015 protective order, the superior court continued the 2016 protective order.


         ¶5 We review the superior court's continuance of an order of protection following an evidentiary hearing for an abuse of discretion, but review questions of law de novo. Michaelson v. Garr, 234 Ariz. 542, 544, ¶ 5 (App. 2014). Upon the filing of a verified petition, A.R.S. § 13-3602(A)-(B), a court has jurisdiction to issue an order of protection if it finds there is reasonable cause to believe a "defendant may commit an act of domestic violence" or "has committed an act of domestic violence within the past year" or longer if the court finds good cause. A.R.S. § 13-3602(E); see also A.R.S. § 13-3602(P). When the court issues an ex parte protective order, upon the defendant's request it shall hold a hearing, after which it may continue the order. A.R.S. § 13-3602(I).

         ¶6 The term "domestic violence" is defined by statute. A.R.S. § 13-3601(A). "In the context of a past or current romantic relationship, the term domestic violence is broadly defined in § 13-3601(A) and includes a wide array of criminal acts as well as harassment by verbal, electronic, mechanical telegraphic, telephonic or written communication." Michaelson, 234 Ariz. at 544, ¶ 6 (citations omitted). As relevant here, Shah alleged that Vakharwala committed a domestic violence offense by engaging in online contact in violation of the order of protection. See A.R.S. § 13-3601(A) (domestic violence includes offense prescribed in A.R.S. § 13-2810(A)(2)); A.R.S. § 13-2810(A)(2) (disobeying a lawful court order).

         I. Jurisdiction

         ¶7 Vakharwala argues the superior court lacked both subject matter and personal jurisdiction to issue the 2016 protective order.[4] He bases this claim on the notion that Arizona courts lack jurisdiction to prohibit conduct outside of Arizona. In that vein, Vakharwala posits that when he initiated the June 7 video chat, he was in Georgia and Shah was in Amsterdam. He reasons, even assuming the contact constituted an act of domestic violence, the court lacked ...

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