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In re Marriage of Boblitt

California Court of Appeal, Third District

February 7, 2014

IN RE the MARRIAGE OF Linda A. and Steven B. BOBLITT.
v.
Steven B. Boblitt, Respondent. Linda A. Boblitt, Appellant,

[CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, Jaime R. Román, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. 04FL00159).

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

[167 Cal.Rptr.3d 779] Law Office of Sharon M. Huddle and Sharon M. Huddle for Appellant.

No appearance for Respondent.

OPINION

ROBIE, Acting P.J.

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In this postjudgment marital dissolution proceeding, the parties extensively litigated the division of the proceeds from the sale of a parcel of community real property. On appeal from the resulting order, appellant Linda Boblitt (wife) contends— [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 780] among other things— that the trial court violated her right to due process because, less than a month before the postjudgment evidentiary hearing, the court added an issue to those that were scheduled to be heard, thereby effectively precluding her from conducting discovery on the new issue because " discovery is cut-off 30 days before

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trial by statute." In the published portion of our opinion, we reject wife's due process claim because in a marital dissolution proceeding like this, once discovery closes before the initial date set for trial of the action, no provision of law operates to automatically reopen it upon or in connection with the filing of a postjudgment motion. Because wife never moved to reopen discovery following the filing of the postjudgment motion on which the evidentiary hearing was set, she was not deprived of any discovery rights by the trial court's ruling relating to the scope of the issues to be heard.

In the unpublished portion of our opinion, we reject the remainder of wife's arguments and affirm the trial court's postjudgment order relating to the division of the sales proceeds.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

We take the initial facts from our prior unpublished opinion in this case ( In re Marriage of Boblitt (Oct. 15, 2010, C059747, 2010 WL 4033487)):

" Wife and respondent Steven Boblitt (husband) were married in December 1989 and separated in January 2004. Wife filed the petition for dissolution of the marriage in January 2004.
" At the time of separation, the parties were running two companies: Boblitt Trucking and Made Rite Concrete. In 2005, Scott German, a certified public accountant, was appointed as a ‘ sort of’ receiver for the two companies plus a third, Steve's Rock N Ready Mix.
" The marriage was dissolved by a status only judgment of dissolution in October 2006.
" In April 2007, a two-day trial was held before Judge Peter McBrien on the characterization of a parcel of real property (the Hedge Avenue property). The remainder of the case was tried over 19 days before Judge James Mize in July and August 2007." ( In re Marriage of Boblitt, supra, C059747, fn. omitted.)

On August 2, 2007, Judge Mize told the parties he was " going to try to get all of [his], not just decisions, but thinking and analysis ... on the record so it w[ould] be available for production into the judgment in this case." As relevant here, the court divided numerous items of community property and

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debt and resolved various claims for credits and reimbursements. Among other things, the court stated as follows: " The debt taken by wife of 77,246 will be credited to her account. Debts, see community property by husband of 27,096 will be credited to him." [1] The court took under submission an issue regarding " pre-marital tax debt."

The court asked husband's attorney if he was going to prepare the judgment, and counsel agreed he would. The court reminded him to " submit it to [wife's] counsel for review."

[167 Cal.Rptr.3d 781] At some point, husband's attorney wrote to the court " concerning the Statement of Decision and requesting a ruling on the submitted matters," and the court set a meeting with the parties and their attorneys for February 7, 2008. At that meeting, husband's attorney submitted a proposed judgment and statement of decision to the court and served it on wife's attorney. The court also set a briefing schedule on the premarital tax debt issue.

Wife did not file or serve any objections to husband's proposed statement of decision. Instead, wife filed and served her own proposed statement of decision on February 22, 2008.

On April 2, 2008, the court issued an order after hearing that ruled on the premarital tax debt issue the court had taken under submission and that also addressed the court's statement of decision. With regard to the statement of decision, the order stated as follows:

" The Court has reviewed [husband]'s Proposed Statement of Decision in this case. [Wife] has not filed any objections to [husband]'s Proposed Statement of Decision. [Wife] has filed a [wife's] Proposed Statement of Decision. The court has reviewed [wife]'s Proposed SOD and found it significantly inconsistent with [husband]'s Proposed SOD. Since [wife]'s Proposed SOD is organized differently and is different in focus and style from [husband]'s Proposed SOD, the Court is unable to determine what provisions of [husband]'s Proposed SOD [wife] finds objectionable, if any.
" To the extent that the two proposed SOD's are submitted for the Court's consideration, the court finds [husband]'s Proposed SOD to be a more accurate reflection of the Court's findings at trial. In addition, since [wife] did

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not file any formal objections, the court has insufficient guidance to assist it in determining any possible objections [wife] may have had.
" Nevertheless, in its own review of [husband]'s proposed SOD, the Court found three items that needed correction or clarification:...."

After articulating these three items (which are not relevant for our purposes) and making its ruling on the tax issue, the court concluded as follows:

" Subject to the addition of the Court's ruling on the tax reimbursement matter, the Court will otherwise adopt [husband]'s Proposed SOD as amended herein as the Court's Statement of Decision in this matter. [Husband] is ordered to prepare the formal final SOD with the above stated edits for the Court's execution and filing."

Thereafter, on April 14, 2008, the court filed the revised statement of decision and a judgment on reserved issues that incorporated the statement of decision. The bottom line of the property division and other determinations was that wife owed husband a small equalizing payment. The judgment and statement of decision did not conclusively and finally resolve all of the property issues, however. The court made some determinations regarding the Hedge Avenue property and another parcel of real property (the Ranchita Way property) that left certain issues for future resolution as follows:

The Ranchita Way Property

The court determined that the Ranchita Way property was community property and awarded it to wife, subject to an outstanding mortgage and home equity line of credit. The court further determined that husband was entitled to Epstein [2] credits [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 782] for payments he had made on the mortgage and the line of credit after separation. The court ordered wife to " refinance the Ranchita home and hold husband harmless from all debt on the home." The court further ordered that " [i]f husband makes any additional mortgage payments due to Wife failing to do so, he shall have a right of reimbursement secured by all other property awarded to [wife] in this action." (These provisions were not part of the court's oral ruling in August 2007.)

The Hedge Avenue Property

The Hedge Avenue property, which had previously been determined to be community property, was " primarily a commercial property that the parties

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had utilized for their businesses," although " there [we]re also two small adjacent residences associated with the property." The court ordered the property sold and ordered that " the net proceeds shall be divided equally subject to equalization payments." The court also ordered that each party was to have " the right of first refusal to match any viable, good-faith offer to purchase the property from an ‘ arm's length’, bona fide third-party, and purchase the property from the community." The court ordered wife to " immediately execute an Interspousal transfer deed on the ... property in favor of Husband and Wife as tenants in common."

Additionally, the court noted that " [t]here were also residential rents paid by tenants" on the Hedge Avenue property and ordered that the parties were " to share equally in the net profit, if any, from the rental of the residential units at the property." The court ordered the parties " to collaborate and render an accounting which takes into account the income and expenses of the property and each party is entitled to one-half of the net proceeds, if any." The court further ordered that there would be no " rent charged to either party for truck space rental."

The court determined that wife was entitled to an Epstein credit for mortgage payments she made after separation on the Hedge Avenue property. The court also noted that " [o]n this same asset, in a previous order, the parties agreed that the [ Watts ] charge for the Hedge Avenue property would be $3,000.00 per month payable to the community.[[3]] As of trial, Mr. Boblitt had used the Hedge property exclusively for twenty two months and, therefore, owed the community $66,000.00 ‘ rent’ for the property." The court " reserve[d] jurisdiction on updating these figures for equalization from the sale of the property."

Wife filed a timely appeal from the judgment, and this court affirmed in October 2010. ( In re Marriage of Boblitt, supra, C059747.)

A year and one-half later, in March 2012— four years after the entry of judgment— a third party offered to buy the Hedge Avenue property for $350,000. That offer expired before it was accepted, but the potential buyer later expressed continued interest in buying the property and revived its offer toward the end of [167 Cal.Rptr.3d 783] April, although the amount of the offer was to start dropping after five days. On May 4, 2012, husband filed a motion to compel

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the sale of the property. Husband also requested that the net sales proceeds be placed in a trust account pending further order, that the parties " exchange a written accounting specifically setting forth their proposed credits with regard to post judgment contributions to the Hedge property," and that the court set a date for an evidentiary hearing on the division of the net sales proceeds.

In her initial response, wife informed the court that she wanted to exercise her right of first refusal. At an ex parte hearing on husband's request for emergency relief or an order shortening time, the court ordered that wife could exercise her right of first refusal by depositing the same amount as the third-party buyer would have to deposit in an account that could be withdrawn only upon order of the court. The court then set the hearing on husband's motion for May 18. Before that hearing, wife filed another response in which she requested that she be allowed to deposit the money necessary to buy out husband's ...


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