Court Granted Husband and Wife’s “Stipulated Reversal” of Divorce Judgment

No two-divorce cases are alike. The facts and circumstances surrounding the dissolution of marriage can vary in great or small detail, depending on the family. Some differentiating factors include the relative location of the parties, whether the couple has any children, the extent and value of community property, and many other issues. As these circumstances vary, so too does the applicable law, whether it is statutory or established case law. Not only are these laws local in nature, but they are frequently evolving. Parties who seek to divorce in San Diego are encouraged to contact a local experienced family law attorney who fully understands the current legal requirements applicable to their case.

A recent California divorce case illustrates some of the more complicated and uncommon twists and turns that can occur when spouses seek to dissolve their marriage. The parties were married in Taiwan in 2010. The wife is a United States citizen, and the husband is a citizen of Singapore but lives in Taiwan. Their one child was born in Taiwan in June 2010. The wife brought their daughter to California in July 2011 to visit family and to give the couple time to decide whether they wanted to remain married. In January 2012, the wife filed a petition for legal separation in Orange County. In response, the husband filed to dissolve the marriage in Taiwan and later answered the petition for separation by asking the court to dissolve the marriage.

The parties agreed to dissolve the marriage in Taiwan and set forth a “Deal Memo” identifying a variety of terms that must be included in the divorce agreement. After several motions and requests by both parties, the California court ultimately granted the husband’s petition to bifurcate the matter, entering a judgment dissolving the marriage and a second judgment addressing custody, visitation, child and spousal support, and property division. The wife appealed the judgments, arguing that the Deal Memo required the court to dismiss the action rather than enter any judgments.

Interestingly enough, the parties reached a new settlement dissolving their marriage in Taiwan, which resolved all issues related to custody, support, and property division. Within that settlement, the spouses together asked this court to reverse the trial court’s judgments and remand the action with prejudice to avoid conflict with the dissolution of marriage taking place in Taiwan.

Under California procedural law, a court is prohibited from reversing a trial court’s judgment based on the parties’ stipulation unless: 1) there is no reasonable possibility that the interests of non-parties or the public will be adversely affected by the reversal; 2) the parties’ reasons for requesting the reversal outweigh the erosion of public trust that may result from the nullification of a judgment; and 3) the parties’ reasons for requesting reversal outweigh the risk that the availability of stipulated reversal will reduce the incentive for pretrial settlement.

Here, the court concluded that the record supported each of these three findings and restored jurisdiction to the trial court so that it could foster the settlement by dismissing the action. This will allow the parties to dissolve the marriage in Taiwan. While the opinion is unpublished, and parties are prohibited from citing or relying on the holding, the court’s underlying rationale for the judgment could influence later decisions in this jurisdiction.

At the very least, this case exemplifies the complicated nature of divorce proceedings. Roy M. Doppelt has been representing parties involved in family law disputes for more than 20 years. Doppelt and Forney, APLC serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

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