In re Marriage of Nevai and Klemunes raised several important divorce issues such as reimbursements for payments of separate property with community property, the value of the community interest in separate property, attorney fees, and the award of permanent spousal support.
Valuation of Real Property
The first issue from this divorce was the valuation of the real property. This property was purchased before the marriage by the wife. During the marriage, both parties visited the home, and community funds were used to pay down some of the mortgage as well as to pay for the property taxes. The parties disagreed on the value of the real property at the time of their dissolution. Wife testified that it was worth $550,000 at the time of trial. The husband’s expert testified that it was worth $700,000 and testified that the community interest in the real property was $180,000.
If you’re having trouble determining the valuation of real property in your divorce case, consult with an experienced Orange County California divorce lawyer today.
Payment of Attorney Fees
Another issue in the case was the payment of attorney fees. In the beginning of the divorce, the husband agreed to pay $15,000 of his wife’s attorney fees. By the end of the divorce, both parties requested an order for attorney fees and costs.
The family law judge heard the issues and made an order. He awarded spousal support in the amount of $3,584 a month based on a Dissomaster formula which was attached to the judgment for divorce. The judge also awarded the community a pro tanto interest in the real property and ordered the community to be reimbursed for the payment of property taxes and interest on the same real property. Each side was ordered to pay his or her respective attorney fees.
Appealing the Decision
The wife appealed. On appeal the wife argued that the community was not entitled to both a pro tanto interest in the real property and a reimbursement for payment of the mortgage and taxes on the real property. Another issue was that there was insufficient evidence to support the value of the real property. In addition, she claimed it was an error for the California family law judge to award spousal support based on a computer calculation rather than the factors found in Family Code section 4320 and, finally, that the court was in error when it ordered each side to pay its respective attorney fees.
If you need legal help filing an appeal, our skilled Orange County divorce lawyer can provide legal assistance and representation in your California divorce case.
Appellate Court Decision
The appellate court reversed the order in part and upheld the order in part. It held that if the community uses separate property, and the community is not charged for the use of the separate property, the community should not be reimbursed for property taxes and mortgage interest paid during the marriage. In addition, the appellate court held that the reason the evidence was insufficient to value the real property in the trial proceedings was because the wife refused to provide the necessary evidence to her husband. Because of her failure, the court was correct in relying on the estimate of the forensic accountant. In terms of spousal support, the appellate court agreed with the wife stating that permanent spousal support should not be based on a computer program but rather should be based on the consideration of all of the factors found in Family Code section 4320. It further stated that permanent support is generally lower than temporary spousal support.
Discretion of the Family Law Judge
The appellate court acknowledged that the family law judge has a lot of discretion in a divorce as to whether or not to award attorney fees. In any determination of attorney fees, the court must consider all the factors to decide whether an award of attorney fees is appropriate. The court must look at whether or not there is a disparity in access to funds to pay counsel and also whether one party is able to pay for the legal representation of both parties. When an attorney fee decision is made the judge must make explicit findings on the record even if the judge does not award attorney fees. In this situation, the trial court did not explicitly state on the record how it weighed all of the factors.
Consult an Orange County, CA Divorce Attorney Today!
If you need legal advice and are looking for a family law lawyer in Orange County to address a divorce issue such as child support, legal separation, annulment, custody, spousal support and/or property division, call us at 949-894-4191 to get in touch with our experienced Orange County divorce attorney at Treviño Law can help! We are located in Laguna Hills right off Lake Forest exit to both the 405 and 5 freeway.
Although the posting of this information can be considered free legal advice for a divorce in Orange County, it does not address other factors which may play a significant role in a particular dissolution. Circumstances in your divorce may alter the results in your dissolution.
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