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Spousal support continued after ex-wife's remarriage ceremony

Under California divorce law, the obligation of a spouse to pay spousal support terminates upon the remarriage of the ex-spouse. However, what exactly qualifies as a remarriage?
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    January 31, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Spousal support continued after ex-wife's remarriage ceremony

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Under California divorce law, the obligation of a spouse to pay spousal support terminates upon the remarriage of the ex-spouse. However, what exactly qualifies as a remarriage? Is a marriage ceremony alone enough to end the spousal support obligation?

The California Court of Appeal case of In re Marriage of Left answers this question.

A divorce and a new marriage?

The husband and wife in this case separated after approximately five years. The wife petitioned for a dissolution of the marriage thereafter. The couple had two minor children.

About one year later, the parties entered into a stipulation under which the husband agreed to pay child support and spousal support, but nearly a year later there had not yet been an adjudication of several contested issues. A judgment of dissolution, status only, was entered later, which dissolved the marriage, but the court reserved jurisdiction over all remaining contested issues.

Another year later, the wife became engaged to marry a new spouse. At the time that she set the date for her wedding, the wife believed that she and her ex-husband would have their issues resolved and wedding invitations were sent out. In the weeks before the wedding, it became clear that the former couple would not be able to resolve the remaining issues regarding the divorce, but the new couple went forward with the wedding.

After the wedding, the ex-husband filed with the court to terminate spousal support based on his ex-wife's remarriage. The court denied the application to terminate spousal support and the ex-husband appealed.

Requirements for a valid marriage

The California Court of Appeal reviewed the language of the applicable California statute and determined that the word "remarriage" under the law was clear and unambiguous, and required entry into a legal marriage.

The evidence in this case showed that the new couple had not been comfortable going forward with the wedding while the litigation with the ex-husband was unresolved. Because they had sent out invitations for a ceremony and had spent money on planned activities, they did proceed with the celebration. However, although the ex-wife wore a wedding dress and the new couple signed a ketubah--a Jewish marriage contract--the new couple did not obtain a marriage license. The rabbi presiding was informed 30 minutes before the ceremony that there was a problem getting the license, although the ceremony went forward.

In California, there are several requirements for a valid marriage. The parties must consent to the marriage; consent must be followed by the issuance of a license; and the marriage must be solemnized by an authorized person.

Here, the record showed that the new couple did not become legally married at the commitment ceremony because no marriage license was issued, and the rabbi who presided over the ceremony was aware that the parties did not have a marriage license. Thus, the new couple did not enter into a valid marriage under California law and the ex-husband's obligation to pay spousal support did not terminate.

Protecting your rights and interests

The amount and duration of spousal support in a divorce is determined based on a number of factors, including the income and earning potential of each spouse, the duration of the marriage and the couple's lifestyle during marriage. If you are facing a divorce, or are attempting to modify an existing spousal support order, you need an experienced family law attorney who will work aggressively to ensure that your rights and interests are protected throughout the proceedings.

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