Saturday, September 01, 2012

Religious Wedding Without License Is Not Remarriage That Terminates Spousal Support Order

California Family Code Section 4337 provides that the obligation under a court order to support a former spouse terminates when the former spouse remarries. In Left v. Left, (CA App., Aug. 23, 2012), a California appeals court held however that when a divorced wife goes through a Jewish religious marriage, performed without also having a marriage license from the state, her former husband’s support obligation is not terminated.  The issue arose in the dissolved marriage of Andrea and Andrew Left.  In June 2008, the trial court entered an order of dissolution as well as temporary child and spousal support. A number of other contested issues though remained for decision by the court.  In December 2008, Andrea became engaged to Dr. Todd Katzman and planned an elaborate wedding for May 2009.  Invitations were sent out and plans made.  As the wedding date approached, it became clear that Andrea and Andrew would not be able to resolve the remaining contested issues in the divorce before May. So Andrea and Todd went ahead with the celebration, signing a ketubah (Jewish marriage contract), and proceeding with a ceremony presided over by a rabbi, who was told only 30 minutes before the ceremony that there had been a problem getting the marriage license. The rabbi did not inform the guests at the ceremony of this. In holding that this ceremony did not terminate the prior support order, the court said:
it is reasonable to conclude that the Legislature never intended that the term “remarriage,” within the meaning of section 4337, would encompass a commitment ceremony where the couple intentionally did not meet the legal requirements of marriage.
National Law Journal reports on the decision.