By Stacey F. Herhusky, Attorney at Law, Incline Law Group
During the summer, many couples decide to tie the knot. It is a happy time for new love. Men are planning their bachelor parties. Women are busy being fitted for wedding dresses. Family law attorneys are preparing Premarital Agreements. But perhaps nobody is as happy at this time of year as the ex-husbands who anxiously await termination of their spousal support obligations when their ex-wives remarry. In California, as well as most states, the obligation to continue paying spousal support to your former spouse terminates upon remarriage.
In a recent California case, we learn that it is not always that simple. In Marriage of Left (August 2012), a former lawyer used her knowledge of the law to find a way to keep her alimony payments coming even after her re“marriage”. Andrea and Andrew Left married in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Andrea got pregnant and decided to stop working. Prior to this, she had worked as a program attorney at ABC Entertainment and Touchstone Television, earning a substantial income and honing her legal skills. Her new husband, Andrew, was a very successful stock trader and founder of Citron Research. He earned an extraordinarily high income which enabled her to retire from law and stay home with their children. Sadly, they divorced in 2008. Since Andrea was a stay at home mom and Andrew was a earning a very high income, he agreed to pay Andrea $32,547 per month in spousal support and $14,590 per month in child support (yes, those figures were per month).
Within six months, Andrea decided to remarry. They set a date, informed the children’s school they were getting married, registered at Bloomingdale’s and mailed wedding invitations to their guests. The celebration with her physician boyfriend took place in Palm Springs. Andrea wore a wedding dress and signed a Ketubah (which is a Jewish marriage contract). The only thing they did not do was obtain a marriage license.
Mr. Left stopped paying support based on her remarriage and Andrea took him back to court for back support, ultimately garnishing his Etrade account for $255,000. The Court, upon learning that there was no marriage license, refused to recognize the marriage and ordered Mr. Left to continue paying support. The court cited California laws which hold that in order to have a valid marriage, a marriage license must be issued. Until that happens, the former Mrs. Left was not remarried and she has proven that you can, in fact, have your wedding cake and eat it too.