Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In Re Marriage of Campbell (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 7, 2006)

Ah, bigamy. (Or, as some like to call it, "Utah Hold 'Em".) You don't see it around much anymore, at least around these parts. So when you do, it's certainly worth at least a brief mention. Especially when the particular twofer at issue is central to a decision by the California Court of Appeal.

You've got to love the facts of this one. Eric and Rebekah Campbell are married for over 13 years, but then separate. The parties agree that Eric will pay Rebekah $3500/month in temporary spousal support, so the trial court enters the appropriate order, and Eric promptly pays. So far, so good.

Here's the problem. As Justice Premo artfully put it, "Rebekah was struggling with sobriety." On (undoubtedly related) fronts, she was also unemployed, had no income, had limited contact with her and Eric's two young children (who were living with Eric), and -- as her own counsel put it -- was "going through a lot."

When that's your life, what's the solution? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? Go to Vegas. Get married. Again. And quick! Indeed, do it before your divorce is final. Yes. That's the ticket. Definitely.

Anyway, wise or not, that's what Rebekah does. Which makes her a bigamist, even in Nevada. At which point things get even worse. Because Section 4337 of the Family Code provides that spousal support automatically terminates upon death or remarriage. And since Rebekah has now remarried, Eric petitions to stop paying.

Justice Premo, however, reaches the right result, and affirms the trial court's ruling. A bigamous marriage is void. It's not a marriage. So Rebekah didn't "remarry" as that term is employed in Section 4337. And, no, this is not analogous to cases involving annulments. Even if you get your marriage annulled, you still "remarried" and hence aren't entitled to spousal support. But a marriage that's bigamous is different. It isn't a marriage at all. So you're still entitled to spousal support.

The right result, both textually as well as a matter of policy. Another marginal blow struck in favor of multiple marriage. And a soft cheer arises from the accumulated masses 750 miles to the northeast.