In re The Marriage of Badgley

Decision Date03 May 2022
Docket Number37841-1-III
PartiesIn the Matter of the Marriage of: DERRICK BADGLEY, Appellant, and MICHELLE PAPPAS, Respondent.
CourtWashington Court of Appeals


Fearing, J.

In this marital dissolution, husband Derrick Badgley assigns error to the trial court's characterization of his Spokane Valley residence and an IRA account as community-like property. He argues that, when characterizing the two assets as community-like property, the dissolution court mistakenly concluded that the couple engaged in a committed, intimate relationship before marriage because Idaho law does not recognize such a relationship. Because Badgley failed to plead Idaho law and neglected to sufficiently brief the question before the trial court, we decline to apply Idaho law. We affirm the dissolution court's distribution of property.


Derrick Badgley and Michelle Pappas formed their relationship in the neighboring Gem State. The two began dating in August 2008 when Badgley lived in Lewiston, Idaho and Pappas in Coeur d'Alene. They visited one another in the two cities. In November 2008, Pappas briefly moved to California, though she returned to Idaho several times to visit Badgley. Pappas returned to live in Idaho in June 2009.

Late in the summer of 2009, Michelle Pappas moved into Derrick Badgley's Lewiston home. Pappas enrolled at the University of Idaho. Pappas did not pay rent. Badgley paid all of the couple's living expenses. The couple adopted a dog together and attended vacations and holidays with each other's families. The pair, however, maintained separate financial accounts and did not commingle funds.

Michelle Pappas contracted cancer. She stopped attending the University of Idaho and thereby lost the medical insurance available because of her matriculation. Derrick Badgley investigated adding her to his medical insurance plan. He discovered that, without being married, he could not add Pappas to the plan. As part of his research, Badgley learned that Idaho does not recognize common-law marriages.

While Michelle Pappas and Derrick Badgley cohabitated in Idaho Pappas believed the pair would eventually wed. In December 2011, Derrick Badgley and Pappas became engaged to marry.

In August 2012, Derrick Badgley purchased a house in Spokane Valley. Michelle Pappas participated in the home search. She described the home as a "good common ground" between Badgley's preference for country living and her preference for city life. Report of Proceedings (RP) at 242. Badgley alone paid the down payment on the purchase of the residence. The deed to the home listed only Badgley's name. According to Pappas, the two agreed to add her name on the residential title on marriage. Badgley and Pappas relocated to Spokane to live in the new house. Badgley never added Pappas' name to the residential title.

In April 2013, the pair ended their close relationship after Michelle Pappas revealed she wanted to move to Texas. As a result of the breakup, Derrick Badgley sought a new romantic relationship. But in June 2013, Pappas discovered she was pregnant with Badgley's son, and the pair reconciled. In July 2013, Pappas returned to the Spokane Valley home to reside with Badgley. The partners married in August 2014.

Derrick Badgley maintained an IRA account through Edward Jones. After changing employers in 2017, he rolled a 401(k) fund from his employer, Sherwin-Williams, into the Edward Jones account. Badgley withdrew funds from the IRA during the marriage.


Derrick Badgley petitioned for marital dissolution in January 2019. His petition included no request for the application of Idaho law. In a trial brief, Badgley argued against the existence of a committed, intimate relationship, but, in forwarding this argument, he only analyzed Washington law. He did not request that the trial court apply Idaho law.

During opening statement at trial, Derrick Badgley's counsel commented, in part:

The history in this case and the facts will show that I kind of left the elephant in the room out of my opening brief. And I apologize for that. But I just-I realized as I was preparing for this that the parties lived in Idaho for the first few years, except eight months in Washington when they weren't married. And Idaho has done away with common law marriage; therefore, they've done away with CIRs [committed intimate relationships] completely or meretricious relationship cases because they-the factors in a CIR and a meretricious relationship and a common law marriage are exactly the same. And from the statutory common law factors over there at ICJI [Idaho Civil Jury Instruction] 911 and the case law in 2002, I have a case for the Court that indicates that it's no longer been the case since 1997.

RP at 8-9.

During the cross-examination of Derrick Badgley by Michelle Pappas' counsel, the following colloquy ensued:

Q. And do you remember how you held her out when you introduced her to your family?
A. No.
Q. Okay. And then-
MR. STENZEL [Derrick Badgley's attorney]: Your Honor I'm going to entertain an objection at this time. I'm really not sure where Mr. Dudley [Michelle Pappas' attorney] is going. I can voir dire counsel-the client and-they were living in Idaho at the time. There is no meretricious relationship or CIR in Idaho nor common law marriage. So I don't know how this is relevant.
MR. DUDLEY: Mr. Stenzel can do-could have done a summary judgment, if he wanted to, long ago. You don't get to show up at trial and try to prevent me from putting on my case.
MR. STENZEL: He can put on his case, Your Honor, but a summary judgment is optional because it is expensive, number 1; and number 2, you get issues decided sometimes that you don't want to before trial. And I am not even sure that-I said at the beginning, I said this was the elephant in the room that I missed. So as I'm talking-I can bring up the law even if it's the last day I find it out.
If there was no common law marriage in Idaho and no CIR and no meretricious relationship, then how could that even be relevant to what we're doing here under the conflict-of-law theory?
MR. DUDLEY: Well, you would have to invoke a choice of law. You would have had to do that. It would be as if someone lived in a noncommunity property state and brought property here to a community property state.
MR. DUDLEY: And so I believe I get to put on my case. And it's listed as a disputed issue. You don't get to-so . . .
MR. STENZEL: He can put that they didn't get a treasure, but if they start talking about treasure hunting, they didn't do any treasure hunting, treasure trove, then it's irrelevant. You know, he can put it in there and he won't sign it unless it's in there. Then we deal with it and deal with it here. And that's-we do it by objection. So my concern is where are we going with this.
THE COURT: Okay. I'm going to overrule the objection. RP at 125-26.

During the cross-examination of Michelle Pappas, her counsel commented:

THE COURT: Mr. Dudley?
MR. DUDLEY: Mr. Stenzel is always fond of saying a phrase called "case law," but he never actually gives you a case. He's just sort of throwing things out for the sake of-
THE REPORTER: I'm sorry, you need to slow down, please.
MR. DUDLEY: What you will find is that Mr. Stenzel throws out this phrase called "case law" but actually then doesn't give you any case law.

RP at 255.

During the closing argument of Derrick Badgley's counsel, counsel remarked:

So I'm also going to talk about the CIR and some of the other things when we deal with the-this issue of maintenance, because CIR does not allow-and it's a very common law-doesn't allow maintenance or attorney's fees to be paid. So if we consider even their argument may be even close to true, that you consider the Idaho time, which I'll talk about in a minute, in terms of the longevity of the relationship.

RP at 314. Badgley's attorney added:

Well, they lived in a state that didn't have common law marriage. But in 1997, based on the case that I-that I cited to the Court, or at least dealt with, says that, in fact there is no common law marriage there. So basically they were in what we used to call a shacking-up relationship. No disrespect for that. That's what I used to call it. Or they lived together. And that does not equate to the time under a CIR. They were in a state that didn't recognize that.
You can't take Washington law and impute that law to nonresidents.
You can't take it clear over to Idaho. They couldn't use Washington law over there. They can't take that in Idaho, you know, and say-and turn that into a CIR. That's not how it works. If they had common law marriage there, you could take that and use it over here. And I'm sure that Mr. Dudley would. He would catch that. He's a very smart attorney. He would have caught that.
Well, the conflict of law indicates very clearly that there is no CIR over there, because if they did, I would-I would-I cited to, I believe, the code in Idaho that specifically indicates that the factors to consider in a common law are almost identical to the factors to get a CIR here. And so if that wasn't there and it was not available anymore, you can't impute those factors just because they were living together.
Now, there is a case that says that she doesn't have to plead a CIR to argue it at the time of the dissolution. I know that. Well, then let's look at the time they were here. Is that enough time to make a CIR in this case? No, I don't think so. They were here approximately-well, what, less than a year under Washington law in that relationship. Now, the Court can consider that and maybe make their length of their relationship longer for some equities, but it would only make this marriage relationship about a five-year

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