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In re Marriage of Moore

California Court of Appeals, Third District, Butte

May 9, 2014

In re the Marriage of LESLIE and TERRY MOORE. LESLIE MOORE, Appellant,
TERRY MOORE, Respondent.


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Butte County, No. FL034462 William P. Lamb, Judge. (Retired judge of the Mendocino Super. Ct., assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.)

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Leslie Moore, in pro. per.; Law Office of Elizabeth N. Niemi and Elizabeth N. Niemi for Appellant.

Kimberly Merrifield for Respondent.



This appeal arises from judgments in a marriage dissolution action regarding the division of retirement and employment benefits, the division of other assets, the award of temporary and permanent spousal support, and the denial of requests for attorney fees and costs. We affirm in part and reverse in part.


Appellant Leslie Moore and respondent Terry Moore were married for over 27 years. They married on October 17, 1980. Leslie is a homemaker. Terry is

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an officer with the Chico Police Department, and has been since 1984. Leslie filed a petition for dissolution on March 18, 2008.

The case proceeded with difficulty. All of the Butte County Superior Court judges eventually recused themselves for cause. In August 2009, the presiding judge reassigned the case to a visiting judge, the Hon. William P. Lamb, for trial.

Leslie was represented by three different attorneys. The latter two received permission from the court to withdraw as counsel. Leslie proceeded to represent herself at trial. She filed her appellant’s opening brief in propria persona, but she retained an attorney to file her reply brief.

The court awarded temporary spousal support. As discussed further below, Leslie later requested the court to modify the award, but the court never entertained the requests.

The court entered judgment terminating the marriage on September 1, 2009, effective August 19, 2009. Trial continued on the issues of support, division of Terry’s retirement and employment benefits, property division, and attorney fees. The court entered its judgment on those matters on June 3, 2010. It ordered Terry to pay spousal support of $900 per month. It awarded the couple’s home to Leslie by stipulation of the parties, a value of $230, 000. It also awarded Leslie one-half of the community interest in Terry’s retirement (PERS), deferred compensation, and other deposits. It reserved jurisdiction on two of Terry’s employment benefits: a retiree medical reimbursement account and his accrued sick leave. It did not rule on a motion by Leslie for sanctions due to Terry’s failure to disclose the reimbursement account and other employment benefits. It also concluded Terry’s accrued vacation had no value.

The court ordered Leslie to make an equalization payment of $153, 648. That payment included reimbursement for Terry’s separate property contributions to the community and the value of Leslie’s exclusive occupation of the couple’s home from separation to judgment. Finally, the court ordered the parties to bear their own attorney fees and costs.

Leslie appeals, challenging numerous trial court rulings. She contends the court erred by: (1) refusing to hear her motion to modify temporary spousal support retroactively; (2) incorrectly dividing, or reserving jurisdiction on, Terry’s retirement benefits, employment benefits, and deferred compensation, and not ruling on her motion for sanctions for failure to disclose; (3) incorrectly dividing and valuing other community assets, including Leslie’s use of the home after separation and Terry’s separate property contribution;

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(4) awarding too little in permanent spousal support; and (5) not awarding her attorney fees and costs. She also contends (6) the entire trial proceeding was tainted with bias.

We will address each contention, and we will provide additional facts as required.




Division of Employment Benefits and Retirement

Leslie contends the trial court erred in dividing certain of Terry’s employment benefits and retirement. She challenges the court’s ruling on Terry’s retiree medical reimbursement account, his accrued vacation, the commencement of her share of Terry’s PERS, his accrued sick leave, and his deferred compensation. She also claims the court erred by not imposing sanctions against Terry for his failure to disclose the medical reimbursement account and other employment benefits. We conclude the court erred in its analysis of Terry’s accrued vacation. We also conclude the court erred when it declined to consider ...

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