Court Explains What Constitutes Consent to Jurisdiction in California Family Law Cases

The California Family Law Courts can only set forth rulings on issues over which they have valid jurisdiction. Thus, if a matter lies outside of a Court’s jurisdiction, the Court may refrain from addressing it. As demonstrated in a recent California ruling issued in a divorce action, however, in some matters, consent need not be explicit; instead, implied consent is sufficient. If you wish to end your marriage, it is important to speak to a skilled San Diego divorce attorney about what steps you can take to protect your interests.

Factual Background

It is reported that the wife joined the military in 1993. In 2000, the wife and the husband married. They had two children during the marriage. In 2016, the wife filed a petition for dissolution in San Diego County Superior Court in which she asked the Court to confirm her separate property and determine her rights to community assets. The parties also sought spousal support from one another.

Allegedly, the husband sought an immediate division of the wife’s military pension. The wife filed an objection to the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction over her pension under FUSFSPA (the Federal Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act). The Trial Court ruled in favor of the wife on the grounds that she never explicitly consented to such jurisdiction under FUSFSPA. The parties ultimately agreed to a stipulated judgment in which the Trial Court stated it lacked jurisdiction over the wife’s military pension. The husband appealed.

Consent to Jurisdiction in Family Law Cases

On appeal, the husband argued that the Trial Court erred because his ex-wife consented to the jurisdiction of the Court. The Court found that the judgment in question was not appealable as it failed to resolve all issues between the parties. The Court treated the appeal as a petition for a writ of mandate, however, and ultimately rejected the Trial Court’s ruling that a service member had to explicitly consent to the Court’s authority to divide a military pension under the FUSFSPA.

In doing so, the Court explained that under FUSFSPA, a state can only divide a military pension if it has jurisdiction over a service member due to their residence, other than because of a military assignment, their domicile, or their consent. In the subject case, the Court found that the wife consented to the Court’s jurisdiction by voluntarily filing for dissolution in California and requesting the Court to determine the community property assets, including retirement accounts, rejecting the notion that consent must be explicitly granted. As such, the Court granted writ relief directing the family Court to vacate the stipulated judgment and the relevant portion of the 2018 order.

Meet with a Skilled California Divorce Attorney

The division of assets in divorce actions often gives rise to heated disagreements, and it is critical for anyone contemplating ending their marriage to retain an attorney that will be aggressive to protect their rights as their legal advocate. The skilled San Diego divorce attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC are proficient at handling complex dissolution matters, and if we represent you, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us through our online form or call us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential meeting.

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