Court Reverses Reimbursements Based on Separate Property Expenses

In this case, the Third District partially reversed a Sacramento County family court’s judgment.

In this marital dissolution proceeding, Martha J. Nevai (wife) contends the trial court erred in various orders of reimbursement to the community for spending related to wife’s separate property. She also argues the trial court erred in setting spousal support and in refusing to award her attorney fees. We agree that the court erred in fixing the permanent spousal support award and in reimbursing John Klemunes (husband) for mortgage interest and property taxes on wife’s vacation home. We also find the court erred in ordering that each side pay their own attorney fees. We reverse the relevant portions of the judgment and remand the matter for recalculation and further consideration consistent with our opinion. We otherwise affirm the judgment. The panel held that “a community that has received a pro tanto interest in separate property (which includes reimbursement for payment of the mortgage principal) is not also entitled to reimbursement for payment of property taxes on separate property.”

It also held that “(a) trial court may not rely on a computer-generated figure used as a guideline to calculate permanent spousal support. … Despite the parties’ pretrial briefs citing section 4320 and the testimony relevant to spousal support, the court stated it was deferring the issue of spousal support because the issue ‘really needed more time.’ The court then offered its tentative ruling via a copy of an XSpouse printout. Nothing in the record indicates the trial court took further steps to consider the section 4320 factors.” Finally, it held that the trial court failed to consider the factors required for a determination of W’s entitlement to attorney fees.

Read the court's full opinion here.

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