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In Re the Marriage of Bindiya W. and Ajay L. Chawla. v. Ajay L. Chawla


December 17, 2010


Contra Costa County Super. Ct. No. D06-04845

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Needham, J.

Marr. of Chawla CA1/5


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Ajay L. Chawla (husband) appeals from a final judgment on reserved issues in this marital dissolution action. He contends: (1) the court should not have ordered him to reimburse Bindiya Chawla (wife) for her uninsured medical expenses when she presented no evidence that she had actually paid her health care providers; (2) wife failed to disclose that she received income from renting the marital residence to a third party before losing the house in foreclosure; and (3) the court did not consider the factors listed in Family Code section 4320*fn1 when it awarded wife $500 per month in permanent spousal support. We affirm.


Husband and wife married in 1991and have two children. Husband was employed at CV Therapeutics and the couple also operated a jewelry business. They enjoyed an upper middle class lifestyle that seemed to surpass the income they reported on their tax returns.

In August 2006, husband traveled to India, where he had been born, raised and educated. Wife filed this dissolution action on October 12, 2006, while husband was gone. Husband stopped working for CV Therapeutics in January 2007, but was hired as a business development manager with a firm headquartered in Dubai in May 2007. Wife leased the family home in Walnut Creek without first contacting husband and moved to India with the children. Eventually, the house was lost in foreclosure.

On November 30, 2007, the court entered a judgment of dissolution as to status only, "subject to Family Code section 2337 protections." On December 24, 2007, the court issued an order stating "if [husband] can obtain medical insurance for [wife] through his employment he shall do so. If he cannot then he shall obtain a policy of medical insurance equivalent to the coverage provided while he was an employee of [CV Therapeutics]. In the event that [wife] incurs uninsured medical expenses [husband] shall reimburse her for those expenses up[on] presentation of satisfactory written proof that such expenses were necessarily incurred by her."

During the court trial on reserved issues conducted June 16 and 17, 2009, wife testified that she had incurred approximately $130,000 in uninsured medical expenses for the treatment of malaria at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek. She presented copies of the bills for that treatment as trial exhibits. Wife explained that she could not procure her own insurance due to her pre-existing medical conditions and she had been unable to secure COBRA benefits through husband's former employer. Although husband had e-mailed wife in January 2007 regarding COBRA benefits, when wife called the insurance company she was told that husband had left the country and they had no way of contacting him. Wife also testified that she had leased their Walnut Creek home without notifying husband because she did not know where to reach him.

The court issued a ruling and written statement of decision on a number of reserved issues including child custody, child support, visitation, division of community property and spousal support. The court found that husband had an affirmative duty to provide medical insurance coverage for wife and, because he did not fulfill that duty, he was responsible for her uncovered medical expenses in an amount of $111,086. The court rejected husband's claim that he was entitled to credit for the fair rental value of the property or for the rent received on that property, noting that wife's spousal support was not sufficient to allow her to make the payments on that property. (See In re Marriage of Watts (1985) 171 Cal.App.3d 366, 374.) It awarded wife permanent spousal support at $500 per month.


I. Reimbursement for Uninsured Medical Expenses

Husband argues that he should not be required to pay for wife's uninsured medical expenses when she presented no evidence showing she actually paid the bills of her health care providers. We disagree that the court's order on this issue must be reversed.

Section 2337 allows the court to sever the issue of marital status and enter a judgment of dissolution while reserving jurisdiction over other issues. As a condition of severance, the court may order that one spouse maintain the other's medical insurance until the case is finally resolved and indemnify the other for the consequences of a loss or reduction of existing coverage. (§ 2337, subd. (c)(2).) On December 24, 2007, after it bifurcated the issue of marital status and entered a judgment of dissolution, the court issued an order requiring husband to obtain medical insurance for wife and providing that his failure to do so would render him liable for her uninsured medical expenses. The record contains no indication that husband ever challenged that order on appeal, and it is now final and binding on the parties. (See Estate of Gilkison (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 1443,1450, fn. 5.)

Husband's complains that the court should not have ordered him to pay for wife's uninsured medical expenses in the absence of any evidence that she actually paid her health care providers. We agree that the spirit of the court's order is to see that wife's medical bills are paid, not to give wife a windfall. The judgment states that husband shall pay wife $111,086 "for reimbursement for medical expenses." (Italics added.) "Reimbursement" signifies the repayment of money already spent, and we construe this language to mean that husband is required to directly compensate wife only to the extent she has actually paid the bills. (See International Billing Services, Inc. v. Emigh (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 1175, 1194 ["Reimbursement ordinarily means to pay back or refund"].) To the extent that wife has not paid those bills, husband may satisfy his obligation by paying the health care providers on wife's behalf.

Because the court did not require husband to reimburse wife for medical expenses she has not actually paid, we reject husband's request for a reversal or modification of this aspect of the judgment.

II. Lease of Marital Residence

Husband argues that wife breached her duty of disclosure when she leased their marital residence to a third party and accepted the rent money without advising husband of the arrangement. Wife testified that she did not contact husband with this information because his whereabouts were unknown to her at the time. The court implicitly credited this testimony and specifically found that wife's income was not sufficient to cover the mortgage payment. Husband has not carried his burden of establishing that the court should have factored these rent payments into the division of community property or the calculation of spousal support or spousal support arrearages. (Hearn v. Howard (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 1193, 1207 (Hearn).)

III. Omission of § 4320 Factors

When making an award of permanent spousal support, the trial court is required to consider and weigh all the factors enumerated in section 4320 to the extent they are relevant to the case. (In re Marriage of Cheriton (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 269, 302.) Husband complains that the court failed to consider these factors when it ordered him pay wife $500 in monthly spousal support.

Husband's characterization of the court's ruling is belied by the record. In its statement of decision, the court specifically cited section 4320 and discussed a number of factors falling within its provisions: the length of the marriage, the couple's standard of living during the marriage, wife's marketable skills, wife's age and health, husband's ability to pay support, the goal that wife become self-supporting, and the lack of any evidence sufficient to make a finding regarding domestic violence, criminal activities or concealment of community property by either spouse. Husband's argument that the court violated section 4320 is completely lacking in merit.


The judgment is affirmed. In view of the unhelpful nature of the respondent's brief, the parties shall bear their own costs on appeal. (Hearn, supra, 177 Cal.App.4th at p. 1210.)

We concur. JONES, P. J. SIMONS, J.

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