from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Nos.
FC2011-091013, FN2017-092333 The Honorable Katherine M.
Murray Law Offices, PC, Scottsdale By Stanley D. Murray
Counsel for Petitioner/Appellee
Dickinson, Wright, PLLC, Phoenix By Steven D. Wolfson,
Michael R. Scheurich Counsel for Respondent/Appellant
Diane M. Johnsen delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Presiding Judge Kenton D. Jones and Judge James B. Morse Jr.
The manager of a professional minor-league baseball team
served a petition for dissolution on his wife in June 2017,
midway through the baseball season. We hold that a bonus he
received after his organization's major-league team won
the World Series that year is his separate property.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Anthony DeFrancesco ("Husband") and Adriene
DeFrancesco ("Wife") married in 1988 and legally
separated in 2012. Husband served a petition for dissolution
on June 23, 2017. Notwithstanding their legal separation,
both parties acknowledged they shared community property that
would need to be divided in the dissolution.
Husband was a long-time employee of the Houston Astros
baseball organization. From the outset of the 2017 baseball
season, he managed the Astros' AAA minor league affiliate
team. After the Astros won the World Series in October 2017,
the team paid Husband a bonus of $28, 151.26. The superior
court rejected Wife's argument that the bonus belonged to
the community and ruled it was Husband's separate
property. After the court entered its decree of dissolution,
Wife timely appealed the ruling. We have jurisdiction
pursuant to Article 6, Section 9, of the Arizona
Constitution, and Arizona Revised Statutes
("A.R.S.") sections 12-120(A)(1) (2019) and
Whether property belongs to the community or is the separate
property of a spouse is a matter of law that we review de
novo. In re Marriage of Pownall, 197 Ariz. 577, 581,
¶ 15 (App. 2000). The general rule is that
"[p]roperty that is acquired by a spouse after service
of a petition for dissolution" that results in a
dissolution is that spouse's separate property. A.R.S.
§ 25-213(B) (2019). Because Wife argues the bonus
Husband received after service of the petition was an
exception to that rule, she had the burden to establish any
facts required to support her contention. See generally
In re Marriage of Foster, 240 Ariz. 99, 101, ¶ 6
(App. 2016) (parallel community-property statute, A.R.S.
§ 25-211(A) (2019), creates "legal
presumption" that must be overcome by spouse claiming an
Wife correctly argues that, notwithstanding § 25-213(B),
not every item of value a spouse receives after service of a
dissolution petition is that spouse's separate property.
For example, a pension earned during a marriage belongs to
the community even though it may not be paid out until after
dissolution. In Van Loan v. Van Loan, 116 Ariz. 272
(1977), a spouse argued that as long as he had not yet
retired, his pension was a "mere
'expectancy'" rather than a property right
subject to equitable division in his dissolution. 116 Ariz.
at 273. Our supreme court ruled the pension was community
property because it was a contractual right earned during the
marriage, "not an expectancy." Id. at 274.
The court cited the California Supreme Court for the
proposition that "the defining characteristic of an
expectancy is that its holder has no enforceable right to its
beneficence." Id. at 274 (quoting In re
Marriage of Brown, 544 P.2d 561, 565 (Cal. 1976)).
Similarly, a contingent fee a lawyer earns during the
marriage but receives after dissolution is a community asset
because it is an enforceable contractual right that arose
during the marriage. Garrett v. Garrett, 140 Ariz.
564, 567-68 (App. 1983) (because contingent fee was not a
"mere expectancy," it was community property to the
extent "community labor contributed to" its
Courts in other community-property states have applied a
similar analysis in considering whether a payment received
after the marriage could belong to the community as
compensation for services rendered during the marriage. For
example, in In re Marriage of Nelson, 222 Cal.Rptr.
790 (App. 1986), the court ruled that a year-end bonus a
spouse received after the parties separated in anticipation
of divorce was that spouse's separate property. 222
Cal.Rptr. at 794. The other spouse asserted the bonus
"was paid either in consideration for or in recognition
of services rendered during marriage," id., but
the court concluded that although the employer often awarded