Spring 2016, Issue 2

Hot Off the Press! Journal Edition

Editor’s Note:
The holdings from various cases are below. Dawn Gray’s extensive summaries of these cases, as well as summaries of other cases of interest, too lengthy to publish in the Journal, are on the ACFLS website on the ACFLS Family Law Specialist Current Newsletters page.

Cite: In re Marriage of Drake, 194 Cal. Rptr. 3d 252 (2015).

Holding: In this case, the Fourth District reversed a trial court that ordered adult child support for the parties’ incapacitated adult son payable to the other party, who did not work, to provide her with the financial means to be involved in the child’s care. The court held that the trial court was required to consider and decide the best means for paying the child support directly to the child.

Cite: In re Marriage of Cecilia and David W., 194 Cal. Rptr. 3d 559 (2015).

Holding: In this case, the Fourth District reversed a postjudgment order establishing a duty of parental support to Wife for the parties’ adult child. It held that the trial court applied the wrong standards to determine that the adult child was incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means under Family Code Section 3910.

Cite: In re Marriage of Bonvino, 194 Cal. Rptr. 3d 754 (2015).

Holding: In this case, the Second District reversed a trial court’s holding that the parties’ family residence was community property, holding that Husband’s separate property down payment and community property loan proceeds resulted in co-ownership between the community estate and Husband’s separate estate. It held that as a matter of law, the transmutation requirements of Family Code §852(a) must be satisfied before the court can hold that a title asset to which one spouse takes title as their separate property during marriage is community property even if the spouse obtains a quitclaim deed from the other spouse by undue influence.

Cite: In re Marriage of Smith, 195 Cal. Rptr. 3d 162 (2015).

Holding: In this case, the third appellate decision in the case (although the first published one), the Fourth District affirmed a trial court’s award of attorney fees against Kiersten and in favor of Mark and his current wife, Cindy, under Family Code Sections 2030 and 271. The court held that the trial court did not err in failing to state how much of the fees were awarded under which statute or in considering the fact that wife’s father is funding her attorney fees in making the order against her.

Cite: In re Marriage of Eustice, 195 Cal. Rptr. 3d 876 (2015).

Holding: In this case, the Fourth District affirmed a trial court’s entry of a default judgment on reserved issues against Joseph, holding that the default judgment did not exceed the relief requested in the petition because Annette provided information regarding all assets and debts in her Preliminary Disclosure Declaration, and holding that the trial court did not err in striking Joseph’s response and entering a default judgment as a sanction for his failure to comply with the court’s discovery orders.

Cite: Schneer v. Llaurado, 195 Cal. Rptr. 3d 858 (2015).

Holding: In this case, the Fourth District reversed a San Bernardino trial court’s holding that the California court lacked jurisdiction over Child under the UCCJEA to make an initial child custody determination. It held that “(t)he child’s absence from California for almost four months before father filed his petition is not determinative because father continued to reside in California. Under these facts, the family court erred by finding California lacked jurisdiction under section 3421, subdivision (a)(1).”

Cite: Marriage of Peterson, 197 Cal. Rptr. 3d 588 (2016).
Holding: In this case, the Second District considered the “legal question that has divided states across the country: When one spouse contributes to Social Security, which according to federal law is a spouse’s separate property, and the other spouse participates in a state or local pension plan in lieu of Social Security, which according to state law is community property, how should a state court divide the parties’ retirement benefits?” It affirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Silverman’s holding “that because the husband’s Social Security benefits are separate property and the wife’s county retirement benefits are community property, the Social Security benefits may not be considered and the county benefits must be divided equally between the parties.”

Cite: Stuard v. Stuard, 199 Cal. Rptr. 3d 821 (2016).

Holding: In this case, the Third District affirmed a Sacramento trial court’s order granting a petition by grandparents for visitation with their granddaughter over their divorced son’s and his ex-wife’s objections. It held that the court properly applied Family Code section 3404, concluding that the section:

permissibly reflects a legitimate state interest in preserving an already existing grandparent-grandchild relationship that is threatened but in the best interest of the grandchild to safeguard. Here, the grandparent visitation order permissibly safeguards a strong bond between Riley and her paternal grandparents that Matthew and Rebekah fostered over the years and Riley’s best interest in preserving her relationship with Jeffrey and Cindy after her parents’ relationship ended in divorce. United States and California Supreme Court decisions have rejected the contention that the right to parent is absolute except after a finding of parental unfitness.

Cite: In re Marriage of Shimkus, 198 Cal. Rptr. 3d 799 (2016).

Holding: In this case, the Fourth District reversed a trial court’s post-judgment termination of spousal support, holding that its failure to issue a statement of decision made it impossible to determine whether it considered all of the section 4320 factors. However, it affirmed the trial court’s refusal to admit certain declarations, stating that Wife failed to explain how she was harmed by the omission, and in any event she had the opportunity to present oral evidence, which she did not do. It held that “the declarations were not automatically in evidence nor did the court err in not admitting them under the circumstances of this case.”

Cite: In re the Marriage of Obrecht, 199 Cal. Rptr. 3d 438 (2016).

Holding: In this case, the Sixth District reversed the entry of a default and default judgment against Husband, holding that the trial court erred in entering the default judgment while the appeal was pending. However, it also held that the absence of a transcript of the proceedings required it to infer that the court made all findings required to support its determination that he had made a general appearance, rather than a special appearance, in the case, and that it had in rem jurisdiction over the action.

Cite: In re Marriage of Murchison, 199 Cal. Rptr. 3d 800 (2016).

Holding: In this case, the Second District reversed a trial court’s order disqualifying Wife’s divorce attorney from representing her. Wife apparently sold her attorney the former family residence that she received in the dissolution judgment. The trial court granted Husband’s disqualification motion but the Second District held that he had no standing to bring a motion to disqualify Wife’s counsel on the basis that he allegedly violated RPC 3-300. It held that “no precedent supports a court otherwise disqualifying a lawyer for potential ethical violations when the client wishes to continue being represented and the moving party cannot demonstrate it would be harmed by the continued representation.”

Cite: Mooney v. Superior Court (Mooney) 199 Cal. Rptr. 3d 647 (2016).

Holding: In this case, another one dealing with problems resulting from the lack of court reporters in courtrooms, the Sixth District issued a writ of mandate compelling the Santa Cruz County trial court to rule on Wife’s motion to accept a settled statement under Rule of Court 8.137 and to vacate its order compelling Wife to pay Husband’s attorney fees and costs in connection with his attorney’s work on opposing Wife’s settled statement.

Other cases of interest:
V.L. v. E.L., 16 DJDAR 2273 (2016), decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 7, 2016.
Costello v. Buckley, 199 Cal. Rptr. 3d 891 (2016).