Donlann v. Macgurn

Decision Date12 September 2002
Docket NumberNo. 1 CA-CV 01-0095.,1 CA-CV 01-0095.
Citation203 Ariz. 380,55 P.3d 74
PartiesIn re the Marriage of Angela M. DONLANN, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Richard W. MACGURN, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtArizona Court of Appeals

Mohr, Hackett, Pederson, Blakley & Randolph, P.C. by Thomas M. Quigley, Phoenix, Attorneys for Petitioner-Appellant.

Santin, Poli & Ball, P.L.C. by Jeffrey Messing, K. Scott Reynolds, Phoenix, Attorneys for Respondent-Appellee.



¶ 1 Petitioner Angela M. Donlann ("Wife") appeals from the superior court's order in a marital dissolution action declaring invalid her marriage to Respondent Richard W. Macgurn ("Husband"). The principal issue we decide is whether the marriage, performed in Mexico, is valid. In doing so, we review the superior court's conflicts of law analysis. We also consider Husband's alleged new evidence and his allegation that Wife perjured herself. ¶ 2 The material facts are as follows. Husband and Wife participated in a marriage ceremony in 1990 during a vacation in Puerto Vallarta, in the State of Jalisco, Mexico. They obtained the necessary blood tests and marriage certificate in Mexico. The marriage certificate was signed by Dr. Antonio Robles, a Civil Registry Official. It is undisputed that Dr. Robles is a man and that he was a duly authorized member of the Civil Registry Office. It is also undisputed both that the person who performed the marriage ceremony was a woman and that at the time of the ceremony, there were no female Civil Registry Officials.

¶ 3 The parties returned to Arizona and resided together here. In 1997, Wife petitioned for dissolution. Husband moved to dismiss the petition, alleging that the marriage was invalid under Jalisco law because the wedding was not performed by a Civil Registry Official.1 Wife moved for partial summary judgment, arguing both that the marriage was valid under Jalisco law and that Husband was estopped from denying its validity.

¶ 4 Superior Court Judge Mark Armstrong denied both motions because Husband had failed to meet his burden of proving the marriage invalid and because genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the validity of the marriage. Judge Armstrong also rejected Wife's estoppel claim.

¶ 5 Husband filed another motion for summary judgment, this time including the affidavits of two experts stating that the marriage was invalid under Jalisco law. Wife responded that, regardless of technical defects in the ceremony, Jalisco law treated the parties as married because they had acted in good faith.

¶ 6 Judge Louis A. Araneta, newly assigned to the case, denied Husband's motion. Judge Araneta agreed that the ceremony was flawed: He found that at the time of the marriage, no females were Civil Registry officials. However, he also decided that "Arizona also recognizes the solemnization and validity of a marriage as long as the only defect is in the person performing the ceremony and as long as one spouse believes in good faith that the person is authorized to perform the ceremony." Judge Araneta noted that Jalisco law was not inconsistent with Arizona law because it similarly protected a party's marital rights if the party acted in good faith. Finally, Judge Araneta concluded that the parties' good faith belief in the authority of the woman who performed the ceremony was a question for the trier of fact. At the trial, the parties stipulated that the woman performing the ceremony purported to have authority to do so and that Wife reasonably believed in good faith that the woman had such authority. The court, applying Arizona law, determined that the marriage was valid.

¶ 7 Husband petitioned for special action relief, which this Court denied. Husband then filed a motion for reconsideration in the superior court based on Wife's alleged perjury and on newly discovered evidence.

¶ 8 In his motion, Husband asserted that after extensive discovery attempts, he had recently discovered that Wife had filed her 1991 and 1992 tax returns as a "single" person. He also claimed to have recently obtained an affidavit from an attorney stating that in 1995, Wife had told him that she did not know whether the marriage was valid. Husband argued that these facts cast doubt upon Wife's good faith belief in the validity of the marriage. Wife argued that Husband's motion was untimely and that the relevant inquiry was whether the parties held a good faith belief at the time of the ceremony that the person performing the ceremony was authorized to do so.

¶ 9 Judge J. Richard Gama had been assigned to the case and decided Husband's motion. Judge Gama found that Husband's motion for reconsideration "was an appropriate procedural vehicle to get before the Court a reconsideration of the issue on the validity of the marriage."2 Judge Gama decided that the marriage was invalid under the laws of Jalisco and was not recognized as a valid marriage in Arizona. Although Judge Gama found Arizona's good faith statute3 inapplicable, he also found that Husband's new evidence negated Wife's good faith belief in validity of the marriage ceremony.

¶ 10 Based on these conclusions, Judge Gama granted summary judgment in favor of Husband and dismissed the dissolution petition. Wife filed a timely notice of appeal. We have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-2101(B) (1994).

¶ 11 The threshold question is whether the validity of the marriage is determined by the law of Jalisco or of Arizona. We review choice of law determinations de novo. See Garcia v. Gen. Motors Corp., 195 Ariz. 510, 516,

¶ 19, 990 P.2d 1069, 1075 (App.1999) ("Choice-of-law issues are questions of law, which we review de novo.").

¶ 12 Judge Gama correctly applied Jalisco law to initially determine the validity of the marriage. Unless strong public policy exceptions require otherwise, the validity of the marriage is generally determined by the law of the place of marriage. See Vandever v. Indus. Comm'n of Ariz., 148 Ariz. 373, 377, 714 P.2d 866, 870 (App.1985)

; Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws ("Restatement") § 283(2) (1971); A.R.S. § 25-112 (2000) (declaring certain marriages void regardless of validity in the state where contracted).

¶ 13 Judge Gama also correctly decided that the marriage did not satisfy the formal requirements of Jalisco law. The Civil Registry Code of the State of Jalisco ("Jalisco Code") lists several acts that the Civil Registry Official performs. The official is to obtain documents, declarations and signatures from the parties and witnesses and declare the parties married upon completion of the ceremony. See Jalisco Code, tit. 4, ch. 7, arts. 86, 87, 89, 91.4

¶ 14 The flaw in this case is that the person who signed the marriage certificate did not perform the ceremony.5 The marriage therefore did not comply with Jalisco Code Articles 87, 89, and 91. Because the marriage violated those provisions, the marriage is invalid under Jalisco law: Article 291 of the Jalisco Code nullifies a marriage that has been "celebrated in violation of that which has been set forth under Articles 86, 87, 89, 91."

¶ 15 Even if a marriage is invalid where it was contracted, however, a marriage can be recognized by another state with a more significant relationship to the parties and to the marriage. Restatement § 283(1). The overriding rule is that the law of the state with the more significant relationship governs. See id. at cmt. i. The basic policy is "protection of the justified expectations of the parties." Id. at cmt. b. Thus, when a marriage ceremony in one state is technically flawed and therefore invalid in that state, it can nonetheless be recognized in the state most concerned with the marital relationship and with the parties. See id. at cmt. i; 82 A.L.R.3d 1240 § 2(a) (1978) (recognition by forum state of marriage which, although invalid where contracted, would have been valid if contracted within forum state).

¶ 16 Arizona law recognizes a marriage performed elsewhere if the parties intended at the time to reside in Arizona and if their ceremony would have created a valid marriage if performed in Arizona. A.R.S. § 25-112 governs the validity and effect of marriages contracted elsewhere. It states:

A. Marriages valid by the laws of the place where contracted are valid in this state, except marriages that are void and prohibited by § 25-101.
B. Marriages solemnized in another state or country by parties intending at the time to reside in this state shall have the same legal consequences and effect as if solemnized in this state, except marriages that are void and prohibited by § 25-101.6
C. Parties residing in this state may not evade the laws of this state relating to marriage by going to another state or country for solemnization of the marriage.

¶ 17 We presume the legislature used different terminology in these subsections to address different situations. See Airport Props. v. Maricopa County, 195 Ariz. 89, 96, ¶ 23, 985 P.2d 574, 581 (App.1999) (presumption that "the legislature does not intend to draft statutory provisions that are redundant, void, inert, trivial, superfluous or contradictory") (citing Vega v. Morris, 184 Ariz. 461, 463, 910 P.2d 6, 8 (1996)). Accordingly, § 25-112(A) and (B) apply to different situations.

¶ 18 First, § 25-112(A) concerns valid foreign marriages, which Arizona recognizes as valid unless expressly declared void by other Arizona statutory provisions. Subsection (A) does not apply because this marriage is not valid under Jalisco law.

¶ 19 Section 25-112(B) addresses something other than valid foreign marriages, namely certain foreign marriages considered invalid where they were performed. When parties intending to reside in Arizona solemnize their marriage elsewhere but the marriage is invalid where contracted, § 25-112(B) accords the same legal consequences and effect to the marriage "as if" it had been solemnized7 in Arizona.

¶ 20 Section 25-112(B) governs this case. Husband and Wife,...

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  • Cook v. Cook, 1 CA-CV 03-0727.
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    • United States
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    • June 1, 2012
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