Law School Case Brief
In re Marriage of Huntley - 10 Cal. App. 5th 1053, 216 Cal. Rptr. 3d 904 (2017)
In providing courts with continuing jurisdiction, Fam. Code, § 2556, imposes no time limit on former spouses to seek to adjudicate omitted or unadjudicated community property after a dissolution judgment was entered. There is no statute of limitations imposed by § 2556 on a former spouse who seeks adjudication of omitted or unadjudicated community property. Section 2556 also imposes no limitation for default judgments. Accordingly, § 2556 applies to require adjudication of the omitted assets. Section 2556 applies even when former spouses were aware of the community property at the time the dissolution judgment was entered.
An ex-wife filed a motion to divide unadjudicated community property under Fam. Code, § 2556, more than two years after entry of a default judgment that dissolved her marriage to her ex-husband. The trial court denied the motion on ground that the ex-wife had not first moved to set aside the default judgment. On appeal, the ex-wife contended that Fam. Code, § 2556 conferred the trial court with continuing jurisdiction to adjudicate omitted community property without having to first move to set aside the judgment.
Did Fam. Code, § 2556 confer the trial court with continuing jurisdiction to adjudicate omitted community property without having to first move to set aside the judgment?
The appellate court held that Fam. Code, § 2556, provided the trial court with continuing jurisdiction to divide omitted or unadjudicated community property and that the trial court erred in ruling the ex-wife was required to move to set aside the default judgment before availing herself of that continuing jurisdiction. The dissolution judgment did not divide—or even mention—any community property. Consequently, the court held that the parties' community property remained subject to future litigation. Although the ex-wife handled the finances during the marriage and was aware of the very community property she sought to have divided under § 2556, her knowledge did not provide a basis for denying her motion. It was undisputed the judgment of dissolution of marriage did not include any property orders, and there was no evidence of any written agreement or an oral stipulation of the parties in open court. The trial court's finding in its statement of decision on the ex-wife's motion that the parties had divided all of their community property and the assets were now owned by the parties based on their actual title did not address or remedy the absence of any division of community property in the judgment. Accordingly, the trial court did not fulfill its duty to divide the parties' community property as required by Fam. Code, § 2550, and under the continuing jurisdiction provided by § 2556.
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