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In Re the Marriage of Mary L. Campi and George E. Campi. v. George E. Campi

January 24, 2013


Super. Ct. No. FAM074998) Trial Court: San Mateo County Superior Court. Trial Judge: Honorable Richard H. DuBois.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baskin, J.*fn9


Following more than 20 years of marriage and two years of separation, respondent Mary L. Campi (Mary)*fn1 filed for a dissolution of the parties' marriage in May 2003. For more than the next seven years, the parties litigated some issues and stipulated to others. They finally disposed of all remaining disputes with a one-day trial that ended on December 9, 2010, and this appeal followed.

Appellant George E. Campi II (George) argues that the trial court committed several reversible errors during and after the trial, including enforcing a stipulation between the parties and refusing to grant a new trial based on his posttrial claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. We conclude that because there is no right to counsel in dissolution proceedings, George's ineffective assistance claims lack merit. We also reject George's remaining arguments and affirm.


The parties were married on July 11, 1981. George (age 63 at time of trial), was employed as a garbage collector during the marriage, typically earning $83,900 per year; he also earned money playing the accordion at various events. Mary (55 at time of trial) was a homemaker throughout the marriage. During the marriage, the parties accumulated property, which included the family home in Pacifica, George's pension, an employee stock-option plan, two timeshare condominiums, and various bank accounts and retirement accounts.

The parties separated on January 4, 2002, and Mary filed a petition for dissolution of the parties' marriage on May 29, 2003. At the time of separation, the parties had two minor children, who had become adults by the time of trial. Mary sought child custody and support, spousal support, and determination of property rights. On August 26, 2003, George filed a response seeking child custody orders, a termination of spousal support rights, and a determination of property rights.

George retired at the beginning of 2009, subsequent to separation,. He was considered disabled and started receiving disability payments in December 2009. After separation, Mary completed "eight months of intensive school" to become a pharmacy technician. Mary was then employed for 18 months at a wage of $17 per hour. On June 3, 2005, Mary was involved in a traffic accident while commuting to work. Mary was hospitalized for a week with injuries to her back, neck, and shoulder. Due to the injuries she received, Mary has been unable to return to work or to be employed.

In a stipulated order filed on April 5, 2007, following a settlement conference, the parties agreed that George would have the option to purchase the family residence in Pacifica at a value of $679,000. In a second stipulated order (related to the value of the residence) filed about four months later, the parties agreed that George was awarded the family residence as his sole and separate property. This stipulated order again stated that the "fair market value of the residence is $679,000," and that George would receive credit "against the purchase price" for his assumption of the debt secured by the property, for his separate property down payment of $60,000, and for any support overpayments to Mary. This order also provided for payment to Mary of $30,000 from a brokerage account and for adjustment of the amount owed for the equalizing payment depending on whether these funds were separate or community. The order concluded, "George shall pay to Mary, on or before March 31, 2008 her remaining community share in the family residence in the approximate amount of $250,000-$270,000 plus 6% interest thereon from July 13, 2007."

A bifurcated trial was held to determine the date of separation, which was determined to be January 4, 2002. Trial on all remaining issues was held on December 9, 2010. At trial, the stipulated order was not in issue, and the parties agreed that George would be awarded the home at the stipulated value of $679,000. The main disagreement at trial was over the amount of credits George should receive against the stipulated value. George argued he should owe only $120,000, while Mary argued for an equalizing payment of $279,861. The main difference in the parties' calculations was George's contention that he was entitled to a credit for overpayment of support in an amount exceeding $139,000.

On March 2, 2011, the court's tentative decision was filed. The ruling awarded the home to George "at the agreed upon value of $679,000," determined the various credits and offsets, and concluded that George should pay Mary $227,754 for her interest in the home after offsets and credits. Each party filed a timely objection to the tentative decision, and disagreed with the court over determination of some of the credits and offsets. Significantly, for purposes of this appeal, George accepted the court's methodology and valuation of the property at $679,000, but argued that the correct equalizing payment was $219,233.

On March 18, 2011, the court issued a 14-page "Orders Following Trial," which constituted the court's statement of decision. The court agreed with George that the equalizing payment should be $219,233 plus interest at six percent per annum. The order granted the petition of dissolution, and restored the parties to the status of single individuals as of the date the statement of decision was filed. The court's final paragraph is titled "PREPARATION OF JUDGMENT," and provides: "[George] shall prepare a judgment incorporating the contents of this order."

Instead of preparing a judgment, however, George obtained new counsel and filed a motion for a new trial, mostly on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel, and he also requested a modification of the stipulated qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) entered in January 2011, as well as a modification of spousal support. George argued, among other things, that his previous attorney had provided inadequate representation at trial, that the home in Pacifica should have been valued as of the date of trial, that the QDRO based on the time rule was unfair because George's post-separation earnings increased the amount of the benefits,*fn2 and that insufficient evidence supported the court's ruling. George's requests were denied on September 20, 2011. The court stated that "both counsel were competent during the trial" and that "[George] prevailed on many more issues than [Mary] did. If I had to pick who I thought was the prevailing party . . . , I would have picked [George] as being the one who prevailed on a lot of issues . . . ."

On December 14, 2011, George filed his notice of appeal. The following day, the court entered a judgment that terminated the marriage as of the date of the March 18, 2011 "Orders Following Trial" and ...

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