APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Nori Anne Walla, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. GD041530).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kitching, J.
CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION
The superior court entered a judgment nullifying the marriage of appellant Xiao Hua Sun and respondent Xia Guo on the ground that Sun was married to another woman when he purportedly married Guo. The court also denied Sun's claim that he was Guo's putative spouse pursuant to Family Code section 2251.*fn1 Sun appeals the order denying his putative spouse claim.
A party claiming to be a putative spouse must show, among other things, that he or she believed in good faith that the marriage was valid. A determination of good faith is tested by an objective standard. In this case, the superior court found that Sun did not have an objectively reasonable belief that he was married to Guo, and thus was not Guo's putative spouse.
There are two main issues on appeal. The first is whether there was substantial evidence supporting the superior court's finding that Sun did not have a good faith belief that the marriage was valid. We shall conclude that there was substantial evidence to support that finding.
The second issue is whether Sun can claim putative spouse status based on Guo's alleged good faith belief in the validity of the marriage, even though Sun did not have such a good faith belief. We hold that Sun is not a putative spouse under these circumstances. In so holding, we respectfully disagree with the holding in In re Marriage of Tejeda (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 973 (Tejeda).
The order denying Sun's claim for putative spouse status is affirmed.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Sun and Guo met in North Korea in 1997 or 1998, began a romantic relationship, and shortly thereafter moved together to Los Angeles.~(RT 318-319; 341)~ Prior to the purported marriage between Sun and Guo, Guo knew that Sun was married to another woman in Italy.
In approximately January 2001, Sun met with his lawyer, Tonnie Cheng, and advised Cheng that he wanted to divorce his wife in Italy. Sun testified that although Guo was not present at his initial meeting with Cheng, shortly thereafter Guo met Cheng and worked with Cheng to arrange for Sun's divorce from his first wife. Guo testified that she did not meet Cheng until one or two years after Guo purportedly married Sun.
On February 14, 2001--Valentine's Day--Sun and Guo decided to marry, went to Las Vegas, and were married that day. Both Sun and Guo claim that at the time, they believed that Sun was already divorced from his Italian wife and that Sun and Guo were legally married. Guo's belief that Sun divorced his first wife prior to February 14, 2001, was based solely on Sun's representation to her that he had done so. Although both Sun and Guo knew that Sun was previously married, their marriage license stated that this was Sun's first marriage.
On February 15, 2001, Cheng filed on behalf of Sun a petition to dissolve Sun's marriage with his Italian wife. On August 21, 2001, the superior court entered a judgment dissolving Sun's first marriage.
On August 24, 2007, Guo filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. Guo filed an amended petition on January 7, 2008. In her amended petition, Guo sought to nullify her marriage with Sun on ...