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In re Marriage of Brooks

December 16, 2008

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MICHAEL W. BROOKS AND ANNIKKAWA A. ROBINSON.
MICHAEL W. BROOKS, APPELLANT,
v.
ANNIKKAWA A. ROBINSON, RESPONDENT; EXECUTIVE CAPITAL GROUP, INC., RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County. Duke D. Rouse, Judge. (Retired judge of the San Bernardino Super. Ct. assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.) Affirmed. (Super.Ct.No. SBFSS85992).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

After Michael Brooks and Annikkawa Robinson were married, Robinson took title to certain residential property solely in her name without reference to the marital relation. Brooks agreed that title would be held in Robinson's name. When they separated, Robinson moved out and Brooks remained in the house. Shortly before Brooks filed a petition for dissolution of their marriage, Robinson sold the property to Executive Capital Group, Inc. (ECG). Brooks then filed a "Complaint for Joinder" against ECG for a declaration that the property was community property and requesting that the transaction be set aside because he had not joined in the conveyance. The issues raised by the complaint for joinder were bifurcated from the family law proceedings and tried to the court. The court rejected Brooks's claims and entered judgment for ECG. We affirm.

II. SUMMARY OF FACTS*fn1

Brooks and Robinson were married in 1997. In October 2000, they purchased a home in San Bernardino (the Property). The money for the down payment was paid from Brooks's earnings; Robinson did not contribute any money. Their real estate agent recommended that title be taken solely in Robinson's name because it would be easier to obtain financing for the purchase. Brooks agreed.

The grant deed to the Property recites that title is held by "ANNIKKAWA A. ROBINSON, a Single Woman." The deed was recorded with the San Bernardino County Recorder in November 2000. Although Brooks knew that title was being taken in Robinson's name only, he did not know that the deed included the phrase, "a Single Woman."

Two deeds of trust against the Property recite that the trustor is "ANNIKKAWA A. ROBINSON, A SINGLE WOMAN," and are executed solely by her. Brooks testified that he made the payments on the loans secured by the two deeds of trust.

In February 2005, Brooks and Robinson separated. Robinson moved out and Brooks continued to live on the Property with their seven-year-old son. Initially, Brooks testified that he did not have "a clue" as to where Robinson went. Later, he testified that she had moved in with a friend named "Geneva."

Around the time they separated, the Property was, according to Brooks, "in foreclosure." Robinson contacted Brandon Floyd, an employee of ECG. ECG is in the business of purchasing "distressed" properties; that is, properties that are the subject of foreclosure proceedings. In late March 2005, Floyd and his supervisor, Rene Garcia, met with Robinson at the Property.

Brooks, on the one hand, and Garcia and Floyd on the other, presented conflicting testimony of what happened at the March meeting. Brooks testified as follows. He participated in the meeting along with Robinson, Floyd, and Garcia. Robinson introduced him to Floyd and Garcia as her husband. He told Garcia that he "wanted to refinance." Garcia said that "they didn't do refinances," they "purchased houses," and offered to purchase the property for $48,000. Brooks told Garcia that he "wouldn't go for that." He also told them that the Property was community property and that he refused to sell. Nevertheless, Garcia asked Brooks to take him through the house to look at it, and Brooks did so. Robinson stayed in the living room. After showing the house to Garcia, Garcia ignored Brooks and talked only to Robinson. Eventually, Brooks became angry and "called him some words. Called him a snake." Brooks remained with the others during the entire meeting, which lasted more than one hour.

Garcia testified about the March meeting as follows. He and Floyd met with Robinson at the Property. He was not introduced to Brooks, and Brooks did not speak to him. Brooks was in the living room, away from the others, just "standing there and mumbling in the background." He talked with Robinson about the house and "did a walkthrough" with her. This meeting lasted approximately 15 or 20 minutes.

Garcia further testified that he dealt exclusively with Robinson because he only deals with the owner of the property. He believed that she was the sole owner of the property based upon his search of the record title and the language in the grant deed and deeds of trust. When he asked Robinson about the man he saw in the house during the meeting, Robinson told him he was "just a tenant."*fn2 Robinson never gave him any indication that she was married.

Floyd's testimony regarding the March meeting was consistent with Garcia's testimony. According to Floyd, Robinson contacted him. He and Garcia then met with her at the Property. Brooks was "somewhere standing around the house. Just hanging out." He was not introduced to Brooks and did not talk with him. He talked with Robinson about comparable sales in the area. No one at the meeting said ...


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