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Lakers Divorce Case a Lesson in Spousal Support and Community Property – In re Marriage of Scott

L.A. Lakers basketball coach Byron Scott and his wife, Anita, are currently embroiled in a divorce case in California. The proceedings are largely like some chapter out of “Family Law for the Rich & Famous,” but a recent ruling sheds some light on an important point for anyone facing a divorce. The Second District Court of Appeals explained the difference between community property, which covers assets gained during the marriage and generally divided evenly upon divorce, and temporary spousal support, which is intended to help one spouse meet expenses without having to dig into community property.

basketball-1442709The Scotts separated in June 2013, ending a 28-year marriage during which Byron played professional basketball and later became a coach. While the case was pending, Anita filed a motion for temporary spousal support. She said Byron was currently paying her $18,000 per month in support, but she argued that her monthly expenses totaled more than $35,000. Byron was coaching the Lakers at the time, earning more than $312,000 per month, according to the Court. He was also still being paid more than $52,000 per month by the Cleveland Cavaliers, his former employer. Anita asked the trial court to order Byron to pay her one-half of the Cavs income as community property.

The trial court eventually ordered the Scotts to split the Cavs money. It also ordered Byron to continue paying a wide variety of expenses, including mortgage payments, a smattering of insurance coverage, property taxes, utilities, and a car note. Anita later appealed the decision, asserting that the trial judge wrongly labeled the Cavs income as temporary spousal support, rather than community property. The Second District agreed.

“Community property assets may not be part of a temporary spousal support award; instead, those funds must continue to be characterized as community property until the final property division, at which point both parties will be credited with community funds used by or distributed to the other,” the Court explained. “Any other interpretation would contravene one of the basic purposes of temporary support, which is to preserve community assets pending trial.”

Since the Cavs money was community property, the Court said it should not have to be used to maintain the living status that Anita enjoyed during the marriage. The Court said that was part of the purpose of separate temporary spousal support:  to ensure that Anita could meet existing expenses, and to preserve the couple’s community property until the trial court issued a ruling on how that property should be divided.

As a result, the Court reversed the trial judge’s decision and remanded the case back to the trial court. It instructed the trial court to render a new temporary spousal support award that didn’t include the Cavs money.

If you’re considering a divorce or are grappling with support and other issues in California, contact San Jose spousal support lawyer John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished family law attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve a wide variety of marital disputes. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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Getting Divorced in California? Another Reason Why You Need a Lawyer – In re Marriage of Hendrix

The Importance of Playing by the Rules in California Divorce Cases – In re Marriage of Murphy

Retirement Income and Spousal Support – In re Marriage of McKarus