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Ex Must Pay Spousal Support to 'Remarried' Wife

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Perhaps you've never considered the similarities -- and differences -- between ducks and weddings.

But you're probably familiar with the "duck test." If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.

The same cannot be said for marriages, according to a California Appellate Court.

Andrea and Andrew Left were married in June 2001 and separated in February 2006. Andrew is a stock trader. Andrea was a practicing attorney before she and Andrew had children.

In 2007, Andrew and Andrea 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 in 2008.

In 2009, Andrew filed an order to show cause application to terminate spousal support, on the primary ground that Andrea had remarried. That sounds reasonable. Typically, spousal support — or alimony, if you’re old school — stops when the receiving spouse remarries.

Except Andrea didn’t technically remarry her new life partner, Todd. (Brief thanks, Above the Law, for highlighting that fact.) According to the appellate court:

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.

The ceremony may have looked, felt, and quacked like a wedding, but it was not a wedding.

In fairness to Andrew, a lot of people thought the couple had married. (The rabbi who performed the ceremony, the guests, the unsuspecting and easily-duped children. The list goes on …) But on June 24, 2009, Andrea informed Andrew that she and Todd were not really married, and, a week later, Andrew confirmed that he knew they were not married.

Andrew asked the court to terminate his spousal support obligations to Andrea under a theory of quasi-estoppel, claiming he was entitled to rely upon Andrea’s apparent remarriage. The trial disagreed, and the appellate court found no error in the trial court’s reasoning.

What do you think of Andrea’s legal maneuvering? And should Andrew appeal to the California Supreme Court? Considering that the court just abandoned California’s release rule in the interest of fairness last week, we could picture the state’s justices being sympathetic to Andrew’s position.

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