Thursday, November 19, 2020

Reuter v. Macal (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 18, 2020)

So many things about this relationship just seem . . . strange.

Part of it I understand.  Mr. Reuter is around 65 years old (at this point) and Ms. Macal is around 45.  They began a "romantic relationship" in 2004, so that would have made him roughly 50 and her roughly 30.  So an older guy and a (relatively) younger woman.  Not uncommon.

They go out for less than a year when the parties begin to "discuss[] marriage."  By this point, not only is she living in his condominium, but so is her younger daughter.  "Plaintiff told defendant that he wanted to marry her, and she agreed, but on the condition that her name be placed on title to his condominium. Defendant continued 'pushing for' her name to be on title until plaintiff agreed."

Okay, I guess.  Agreeing to marry someone only if he gives you money (or property) isn't exactly a great sign, IMHO.  But whatever.  Different strokes for different folks.

So in 2005, they go to a notary and put her name on the condo.  So now she owns half.  So now they get married, right?

No.  Here's where I begin to get confused.  There's no mention in the opinion about what goes down for the next six years.  The core dispute between the parties in the case is whether the condo was a gift in contemplation of marriage, which Mr. Reuter wants back because (spoiler alert) the parties never, in fact, got married.  But Ms. Macal says, nope, it was just a gift, not in contemplation of marriage.  So what was the scoop between when (1) the condo was signed over in 2005, and (2) the parties ultimately broke up in 2011?  The opinion says she kept living there.  Why didn't they get married?  Were there continuing fights about more money, or more property, or other conditions before marriage?  What went down?  Inquiring minds want to know.  What happened during this period also seems relevant to whether putting the name on the condo was in fact in return for marriage.  If the parties just sit there, living together, for six years after the transfer, happy with the status quo, then I take that as a fair sign that the proposed marriage was not, in fact, the consideration for the condo, and it was instead (as Ms. Macal says) just a gift.  But if, instead, Mr. Reuter continued to insist on marriage, whereas Ms. Macal refused (or put things off), okay, I get that.  But I'm definitely left wanting to know which of these (or a combination thereof) it was.

Eventually, in 2011, they break up.  Did Mr. Reuter simply get tired of waiting?  Nope, that's not it.

They break up in 2011 when Ms. Macal "disclosed to plaintiff that she was pregnant by another man and intended to keep the child."


But at least it's a clean break.  Now the parties break up and lead their separate lives, only to fight in the future about the joint ownership of the condo, right?

Wrong again.

Upon learning of the upcoming kid fathered by someone else, Mr. Reuter says:  "'Okay, if that’s your decision, then you have to leave.’ Defendant agreed to move out, but asked plaintiff to ‘give [her] some time, about a year.’ Although plaintiff acquiesced, he understood that the relationship was over because the parties 'had separate bedrooms, and [they] didn’t really talk [that] much to each [other] . . . .' By that time, it was clear to him that defendant would not be able to carry out her promise of marriage.

During the following year, defendant’s son was born, and despite defendant’s promise to move out, she continued to live in the condominium through and including the time of trial. Plaintiff did not take any legal action against defendant because she “always asked for more time” to move out. Defendant explained that she needed more time to find a new “boyfriend,” and left her children with plaintiff while she went out on weekends “looking for boyfriends.”"

Not what I would have expected.  But crazy things can indeed happen in the modern relationship world, I guess.

But, yes, as you might suspect, he eventually ends up kicking her out of the condo and suing her for a declaration that he alone owns the condo since putting her on the deed was a gift in contemplation of marriage.  When does that happen?


Oh, yeah, and in the meantime, after she's told him he's having a kid by another guy, "[f]ollowing the breakup in 2011, plaintiff continued to give defendant between $6,000 and $7,000 a month, totaling over $250,000."


I get that love -- and sometimes generosity -- makes people do silly things.  But, I mean:  Wow.  Not a relationship that seems to work here.  And there's an undercurrent of commodification that isn't at all attractive.  To me, at least.

Ultimately, as a result of this opinion, Mr. Reuter gets half of his condo back.

Albeit after years of litigation and who knows how many tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

The ultimate result is presumably some solace to Mr. Reuter.  But, particularly in the scheme of things, perhaps small solace indeed.