Tuesday, March 21, 2023

In re Marriage of Sullivan (Cal. Ct. App. - March 21, 2023)

Two lawyers are getting divorced in San Diego. Both of them are in the Navy; one on active duty, one in the reserves. They have two children. The resulting divorce could be a lot messier than it is, but the big fight is whether California has jurisdiction to divide the wife's military pension.

Justice Buchanan's opinion says "Yes," and its reasoning appears sound. I particularly liked footnote four, which reads:

"In Tucker, the court ruled that a service member “may both agree California has jurisdiction over nonpension issues and at the same time argue California has no power to divide his or her military pension.” (Tucker, supra, 226 Cal.App.3d at p. 1256.) Although this may be so when the service member is the responding party in a dissolution proceeding, as in Tucker, it is questionable whether a service member who files for dissolution in a California court may simultaneously withhold consent to the court’s exercise of jurisdiction over her military pension. This would be contrary to the usual rule that the plaintiff who chooses the forum impliedly consents to personal jurisdiction in related matters. (Sea Foods, supra, 150 Cal.App.4th at p. 786; Nobel Farms, supra, 106 Cal.App.4th at pp. 658–659.) Moreover, Congress’s concern about forum-shopping does not apply to a service member like Lisa, who is the petitioner and voluntarily chose the forum herself. We need not decide this question, however, because Lisa did not withhold her consent to the court’s jurisdiction over her military pension when she filed her dissolution petition and specifically requested judicial confirmation of her separate property and her interest in any community property."

That sounds right to me too.