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Law School Case Brief

In re Marriage of Andresen - 28 Cal. App. 4th 873, 34 Cal. Rptr. 2d 147 (1994)


When a petitioner asks the court to determine the rights of the parties as to specified property, the respondent is necessarily on notice that the court will undertake to assess and then divide the alleged community equally between the parties. If the respondent is willing to rely upon the trial court's independent obligation to accurately value and fairly allocate the community estate as a protection against any attempt by the petitioner to overreach, the respondent need not file a response to the petition. If the respondent disagrees with any allegation of the petition or is concerned about how the court will value an asset or liability identified in the petition or divide the whole of the property placed in issue under the petition, then he or she must file a response to preserve the right to appear before the court and present evidence and argument on such matters.


Elizabeth Andresen (wife) filed a standard form petition for dissolution of the parties' marriage, which requested, as a component of the relief she desired, that “property rights be determined..The top half of the first page of the standard form community property declaration, filed simultaneously with the wife's petition and incorporated in it by reference, contained in relevant part the following printed “Instructions”: “When this form is attached to Petition or Response, values and your proposal regarding division need not be completed.” In the body of the property declaration, the wife listed 10 separate items which she claimed to be community assets. She also listed numerous creditors under the caption “debts.” However, she did not attach any values to any of the items identified as community assets or community debts, nor did she request that the court divide the alleged community in any particular manne. Soon afterwards, the wife filed a request to enter the husband's default because of his failure to timely respond to the petition. The husband moved to set aside the default and default judgment, which . After a hearing, the trial court denied the husband's motion but ordered that the judgment be vacated because it gave relief to the wife, which was denied. The husband appealed.


Did the trial court err in entering a default judgment against husband?




The court affirmed the default judgment, holding that the husband was given adequate notice that respondent wife sought a division of the property and liabilities identified in her petition for dissolution. The default judgment was properly entered, and respondent was entitled to the relief demanded in her petition.

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