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Marriage, as creating the most important relation in life, as having more to do with the morals and civilization of a people than any other institution, has always been subject to the control of the Legislature. That body prescribes the age at which parties may contract to marry, the procedure or form essential to constitute marriage, the duties and obligations it creates, its effects upon the property rights of both, present and prospective, and the acts which may constitute grounds for its dissolution. When persons enter into a contract or transaction creating a relationship infused with a substantial public interest, subject to plenary control by the state, such contract or transaction is deemed to incorporate and contemplate not only the existing law but the reserve power of the state to amend the law or enact additional laws for the public good and in pursuance of public policy, and such legislative amendments or enactments do not constitute an unconstitutional impairment of contractual obligations.
Respondent husband sought dissolution of marriage on the ground of irreconcilable differences. Appellant wife responded, seeking legal separation on the same ground. Prior to trial, appellant wife moved the court to dismiss respondent husband’s petition on grounds that certain provisions of the Family Law Act enacted in 1969 (Stats. 1969, ch. 1608), particularly Civil Code, sections 4506, subdivision (1) and 4507, were violative of the California and federal Constitutions on several bases. The motion was denied, the matter proceeded to trial, and the court rendered an interlocutory judgment of dissolution of the marriage placing custody of the minor children of the parties with appellant wife, providing for spousal and child support and dividing the marital property. Appellant wife challenged the interlocutory judgment.
Were certain provisions of the Family Law Act violative of the California and federal Constitutions, thereby rendering the grant of the dissolution of the parties’ marriage an error?
The court affirmed on appeal, holding that the impact of the Family Law Act on appellant was not unfair or unjust, as marital rights and obligations were not contractual rights and obligations within the meaning of the California or United States Constitutions. The court also dismissed appellant's allegation that granting respondent's motion for dissolution of marriage was a deprivation of appellant's property without due process of law. The court held that appellant's interest in remaining a married woman was not properly within the meaning of the due process clauses of U.S. Const. amend XIV and Cal. Const. art 1, § 13. Whatever interest appellant had was subject to the reserve power of the state to amend the law or to enact additional laws for the public good and in pursuance of public policy.