California divorce cases involve a wide range of rules about how, when, and where the case is litigated. These include limits on when a person can appeal a decision that he or she doesn’t like. If you don’t play by those rules, you risk harming or even losing your case. That’s the main takeaway from a recent decision by California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals. The Court said a former spouse who appeared to have evidence showing that she was entitled to part of the family home simply raised her arguments just a little too late.
Husband bought a house in Pasadena in 1997, about six years before he married Wife. When Wife and he divorced in 2011, a court awarded Husband the home as his sole property. As the Court explained, California law generally treats all property obtained by a spouse prior to a marriage as that spouse’s separate property. All assets gained by one or both spouses during the marriage, on the other hand, are considered community property to be split between the spouses in the event of a divorce.
Wife didn’t appeal the trial court’s decision within the proscribed time limits. Instead, she filed a request for relief from the court’s order, in which she argued that a hearing on the property issue had been fraudulent. The trial court denied the motion, and Wife appealed that decision. Wife presented for the first time on appeal a 2003 grant deed showing that Husband had transferred the house to Wife and himself as joint tenants. She said she didn’t realize that she was still a joint tenant on the property until after Husband died in 2014.
The Fourth District said that argument came too late. The Court said the trial judge’s original judgment made clear that Husband was receiving the property as his sole and separate property. Meanwhile, the fraud that Wife alleged happened during a 2011 litigation, but she didn’t file her motion for a new order until some four years later.
The Court also observed that Wife could have raised her arguments in a direct appeal of the trial court’s original order granting the property to Husband. “The time for appeal or relief from judgment has long passed,” the Fourth District concluded.
This case is a good example of the complicated rules that govern divorce and related litigation in California. It is vital that a person considering a divorce seek the guidance and counsel of an experienced attorney. A divorce lawyer can help you explore and weigh your rights and options in these cases.
If you’re considering divorce or are grappling with community property and other related issues in California, contact San Jose divorce 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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