Court Reverses Order Directing Wife to Repay Husband $27,000 in Spousal Support, plus $2,700 in Attorney fees.
Upon ending their marriage, respondent Craig Martin (husband) agreed to pay appellant Cynthia Martin (wife) spousal support for a period of four years. After discovering that wife had remarried, husband stopped paying spousal support and requested reimbursement of the total amount he had paid since her remarriage. The trial court granted husband’s request and entered an order requiring wife to repay $27,000, plus $2,700 in attorney fees.
Wife challenged the postjudgment order arguing that husband’s spousal support obligation did not terminate by operation of law upon her remarriage because the parties had agreed in writing that Family Code section 4337 would not apply.
Family Code Section 4337 provides: “Except as otherwise agreed by the parties in writing, the obligation of a party under an order for the support of the other party terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the other party.” Although a written agreement between the parties is required to waive the provision of section 4337, “[n]o particular words are required. [Citation.] On the other hand, silence will not do. [Citation.]” (In re Marriage of Glasser (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 149, 151.)
Husband Waived Section 4337 by failing to check the box on a local San Bernadino County Court form SB-12035 attached to the Judgment, judicial council form Fl-180.
The California Appeal Court reasoned, the contents of family law Judicial Council forms, or in this case a local court form that does not conflict with the Judicial Council forms, “are relevant when evaluating the rights and responsibilities of the parties [citations].” (Faton v. Ahmedo (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 1160, 1170; see In re Marriage of Kahn (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 1113, 1116-1119 [default judgment was void to the extent it awarded spouse more than requested because there was no declaration of property filed with the form petition]; County of Lake v. Palla (2001) 94 Cal.App.4th 418, 424-428 [“To the extent inclusion of additional information on the form complaint would improve the process, it is not for the trial court to make such changes to the form’s requirements itself on an ad hoc basis. Any such changes must come from the Legislature.”]; In re Marriage of Sharples (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 160, 166-167 [discussing distinction between mandatory and optional forms]; In re Marriage of Lippel (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1160, 1169-1171 [mandatory standard forms require the checking of boxes, from a series provided, to indicate the relief requested, and thus the failure to check the child support box in a standard marital dissolution form petition precludes inclusion of child support in a default judgment].)
The Appeal Court applied In re Marriage of Cesnalis (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 1267, 1275-1276 to this case, stating “logic suggests that the parties should affirmatively “opt out” of the statutory requirement in order to waive section 4337’s application.”
The California Appeal Court agreed with wife and reversed the order of the trial court.
Caveat? Dot your I’s and cross your T’s. This is a must when it comes to Divorce judgments in California!
If you are involved in an acrimonious type divorce or family law matter and your money is at stake, you need an experienced and capable attorney on your side. Contact the Law Office of Robert Rodriguez!
Robert Rodriguez has litigated well over 100 family law cases and civil litigation matters including personal injury motor vehicle cases, dog bite and slip & fall cases, breach of contract, defamation & invasion of privacy, fraud, unfair business practice, malicious prosecution, wrongful termination, workplace and employment matters including sexual harassment, wage & hour violations, discrimination pursuant to the FEHA, Gov’t Code §§ 12940 et seq., violations of the FMLA & Pregnancy Leave, Civil Rights discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the State of California and California federal district courts.
* Disclaimer – Robert Rodriguez is licensed to practice only in the State of California & this analysis is applied only under State of California law. Robert D. Rodriguez is also admitted to practice in the U.S. District Courts, Central, Northern & Eastern Districts of California. Robert Rodriguez has practiced in the State of California Court of Appeal.