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In Re the Marriage of andrea and andrew Left v. andrew Edward Left

August 23, 2012

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF ANDREA AND ANDREW LEFT ANDREA NICOLE LEFT, RESPONDENT,
v.
ANDREW EDWARD LEFT, APPELLANT.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Mark A. Juhas, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BD436243)

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Affirmed.

This matter arises out of dissolution of marriage proceedings between Andrew Edward Left (Andrew) and Andrea Nicole Left (Andrea).*fn1 On February 7, 2007, the parties entered into a stipulation providing for Andrew to pay spousal support to Andrea in the amount of $32,547 per month and child support in the amount of $14,590 per month. A judgment of dissolution, as to status only, was entered on June 30, 2008. On October 19, 2009, Andrew filed an order to show cause (OSC) application to terminate spousal support, on the primary ground that Andrea had remarried. Andrea filed a competing OSC application for contempt, on the ground that Andrew had failed to pay spousal support. Andrew appeals from the trial court's order denying his application to terminate spousal support and modifying the spousal and child support orders. We affirm.

CONTENTIONS

Andrew contends that the trial court erred in determining that the ceremony that Andrea participated in with Dr. Todd Katzman (Todd) did not constitute a remarriage under Family Code section 4337.*fn2 Further, Andrew contends, even if the ceremony did not constitute a remarriage under section 4337, Andrea should be estopped from denying that she has remarried. In addition, Andrew argues, by giving little or no weight to the short duration of the parties' marriage, the trial court abused its discretion in declining to terminate spousal support.

As to the modification of the spousal support order, Andrew contends that the trial court erred by refusing to make the modification retroactive to a date prior to May 2010, when Andrew filed an updated income and expense declaration.

As to the modification of the child support order, Andrew argues that the trial court erroneously reserved jurisdiction to adjust the start date for the new child support order. Andrew requests that any references to the court's reservation of jurisdiction on this issue be stricken.

BACKGROUND

1. The marriage and divorce

Andrea and Andrew were married in June 2001 and separated in February 2006. Andrew is a stock trader. Andrea was a practicing attorney before the marriage and early in the marriage, but she stopped working when she became pregnant in 2001. During the marriage, Andrea did not work outside the home. There are two minor children of the parties' marriage: Jordan, age 8, and Lauren, age 7.

On November 18, 2005, Andrea filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. Andrew filed his response on June 3, 2008.

In December 2006, Andrea filed an order to show cause application for relief, including temporary child support and spousal support. On February 7, 2007, the parties entered into a stipulation under which Andrew agreed to pay child support of $14,590 per month and spousal support of $32,547 per month.

As of mid-2008, there had not yet been an adjudication of contested issues. A judgment of dissolution, status only, was entered on June 30, 2008. The ruling dissolved the marriage, but the court reserved jurisdiction over all other issues.

2. Andrea's commitment ceremony

At the end of December 2008, Andrea became engaged to marry Todd. At the time that she set the date for her wedding, Andrea believed that she and Andrew would have their issues resolved. Andrea and Todd set their wedding date for May 2, 2009, and sent out wedding invitations in early March 2009. They began living together in February or March 2009.

Andrea switched custodial weekends with Andrew so that the children could attend the ceremony. She also advised her children's school that she was getting married and would be away on her honeymoon. She and Todd were registered at Bloomingdale's for gifts.

According to Andrea, in the weeks before the wedding, it became clear that she and Andrew would not be able to resolve the remaining issues regarding the divorce. Neither she nor Todd were comfortable going forward with the wedding while the litigation with Andrew was unresolved. Andrea stated that she did not want Todd entangled in her divorce. However, because they had sent out invitations for a May 2, 2009 ceremony and had spent money on planned activities, they wanted to proceed with the celebration.

On May 2, 2009, the celebration took place in Palm Springs. Andrea testified that she would call the event a "commitment ceremony." She wore her wedding dress, and she wanted the children to believe that she was getting married. She and Todd signed a ketubah, which is a Jewish marriage contract. However, Andrea and Todd did not obtain a marriage license.

According to Rabbi Haim Asa, who presided over the ceremony, when he arrived in Palm Springs he believed he was going to preside over a wedding. Approximately 30 minutes before the ceremony, when Rabbi Asa would normally have had the parties sign the marriage certificate, he learned that there was a problem getting the license. Rabbi Asa did not inform the guests that he was not performing a wedding. Indeed, the guests who testified stated that at the time of the ceremony they believed Andrea and Todd had actually gotten married. Rabbi Asa called Andrea and Todd every month following the ceremony to see whether they had obtained a civil license yet.

On June 24, 2009, Andrea informed Andrew that she and Todd were not really married. On July 31, 2009, Andrew confirmed that he knew they were not married.

3. Andrew's OSC to terminate or reduce spousal support

Andrew filed his OSC to terminate spousal support on October 19, 2009. The primary ground for the application was Andrea's remarriage to Todd. In the alternative, Andrew requested termination based on a combination of factors: (1) the marriage was one of short duration; (2) Andrew had already paid spousal support to Andrea for over three years, which represented nearly three-fourths the length of the marriage; (3) Andrea had a law degree, yet had made no effort to support herself; and (4) Andrea was cohabitating with Todd.

4. Andrea's application for writ of execution and OSC for contempt

The day after Andrew filed his OSC to terminate spousal support, Andrea filed an application for writ of execution, claiming that Andrew owed her $247,666.86 in past due support, plus accrued interest and costs. The application for writ of execution encompassed payments due between December 2008 and October 2009. A writ was issued the same day.

On November 5, 2009, Andrea filed an OSC for contempt based on Andrew's failure to pay the full amount of child and spousal support each month, for a time period beginning in December 2008.

The parties appeared in court on December 1, 2009. The court set the contempt OSC hearing for January 13, 2010. The court ordered Andrew's OSC regarding termination of spousal support to trail behind the contempt proceeding, and stayed Andrew's obligation to pay spousal support until his OSC could be heard. The court made it clear that it needed "a current and updated income and expense declaration under California Rule[s] of Court[, rule] 5.128" before it could consider the issues raised in Andrew's OSC. ...


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