In re Marriage of Gutierrez: Property Division

Mayela Gutierrez v. Alberto Gutierrez

California Court of Appeal, Second District

Published Opinion (2020) 48 Cal.App.5th 877

File Date:

Father makes four appellate complaints from a Los Angeles County family court judgment. (1) the court subtracted $171,099 balance outstanding on a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) from the value of the home awarded to Mother. Father contends his two witnesses testified the lender wrote off the loan. (2) The court sanctioned Father for failing to disclose an asset. Father claims error because the court didn’t make a finding that Mother was unaware of the asset. (3) Father argues the court misinterpreted a 2008 court order that he sell a third property, claiming the order required him to “act swiftly.” (4) Father complains about distribution of certain personal property. 

The Court of Appeal held that:

  1. (1) The trial court had powerful reasons for rejecting the testimony of both Father’s witnesses, stating “[Father’s] argument that [Mother] is paying as a pure volunteer strains credulity.” The $171,099 obligation remained, which the court subtracted from the home’s value. 
  2. (2) Family Code sections 271 and 1101 create incentives for divorcing parties to be candid with each other. These sanctions look forward to spur good conduct, not backward to right past wrongs. Imposition of the sanction does not require a finding that the other party did not have knowledge of the concealed asset. 
  3. (3) Parties to a marital dissolution must act in good faith. If there is a legitimate uncertainty about a court order, the proper response is to seek the court’s clarification, not to interpret the order in a self-serving way. The sale proceeds were for spousal and child support of the Mother and the children and should have been paid immediately upon receipt. Therefore, the trial court did not err in awarding Mother 50 percent of the sale proceeds plus interest dating back to the date of the court’s statement of decision.
  4. (4) Father provides no evidence to support his arguments about his personal property.

Opinion: IRMO Gutierrez 5-6-20

The case listed here was not handled by Walzer Melcher unless the description states that Walzer Melcher appeared as counsel.