Monday, October 09, 2017

In Re Marriage of Kalinawan (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 6, 2017)

There's a lot fishy going on here.  But I think the Court of Appeal got the doctrine right when it held that the trial court overly extended the doctrine of estoppel.

Cesar marries Minerva, and then they get divorced.  But in those divorce proceedings, Cesar wants to claim that the marriage was a nullity because Minerva was essentially a bigamist because the divorce of her prior marriage was procured by fraud.

That prior marriage indeed seems sketch.  That happened when Minerva (a U.S. citizen) married Gerry (who was in the Philippines) so Gerry could come to the U.S.  Oh, and Gary's ex-wife was Minerva's sister.

After five years living in the U.S., Gerry files for divorce from Minerva.  The only reason why Gerry files for divorce appears to be so that Minerva can be allowed to marry Cesar.  Gerry files in Nevada, claiming that he's a bona fide resident of Nevada and has been so for quite a while.  The divorce gets granted, but that's the divorce that Cesar says was procured by fraud.

The trial court says that Cesar can't attack that prior divorce essentially because he "took advantage of it" to get married.  But the Court of Appeal seems right to me in saying that's wrong.  You can apply estoppel if the party to be estopped participated in the fraud, or was a party to that proceeding (so had a chance to contest it), or knew of the fraud.  That's one thing.

But if Cesar doesn't know about the fraud, then he's been victimized by the fraud (by marrying a "bigamist") and should have standing to object to it.  He wasn't a participant.

Justice Mihara's opinion is concise and looks to me to correctly distinguish the relevant contrary precedent.  You've got to cabin those estoppel cases to certain principles.  And they don't extend to cases like this one.

Maybe, when examining the facts under the proper legal lens, it'll turn out that the divorce was fine, or that Cesar is estopped, or whatever.

But you've got to apply the right law.