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In re Marriage of Siegel Summary


In re Marriae of Siegel summary. 

Opinion published 8/21/15. 


Factual Background  


Husband and Wife married in 1957 and divorced in 1987.  The parties then entered into a Marital Termination Agreement (MTA) which was incorporated into the Judgment.  Among other things Husband was to establish an insurance trust for Wife’s benefit.  The policy was to be at least $250,000 and paid in lieu of support upon Husband’s death.  The policy was conditioned upon Husband’s continued insurability.  


In 2013, Wife filed her RFO “to Disclose Insurance Information.”  She stated Husband never provided her with documentation the trust existed and resisted her requests.  She insisted the court order Husband to provide such proof.  An order setting the hearing issued and requested Husband to appear in court to “ ‘give any legal reason why the orders requested should not be granted.’ ”   


Husband’s response consented “For an order that [Husband] disclose information about his existing life insurance for [Wife.]”  In his supporting information, Husband detailed his prior disclosures to Wife that were responsive to her insurance inquiries.  His current coverage was $123,084 held for Wife’s benefit.  At his advanced age he could not obtain additional coverage for a reasonable cost.   


Trial Court’s Decision  


A hearing was held on Wife’s request.  Husband did not appear.  The court acknowledged Wife’s RFO was a request for information.   However the court “then gave [Wife] the option to turn the hearing into something else[.]”  Although the court acknowledged it was a separate issue, it opined Husband never set up the trust and what Wife really wanted was for the court to enforce the MTA.  Wife offered Husband could “well afford it.”   


In its written findings the court “construed” Wife’s information request as a motion for enforcement.  According to the court, Husband admitted in his response he did not set up a life insurance trust for Wife nor did he provide Wife with proof of its existence.  Noting there was a missing 127,000 the court granted Wife’s RFO and ordered Husband to establish a trust for $126,916.  


Decision on Appeal  


The Court of Appeal from the outset stated the issue was whether Husband’s due process rights were ignored when the court made an order without notice.  The Court acknowledged “it is a fundamental concept of due process that a judgment against a defendant cannot be entered unless he was given proper notice and opportunity to defend.”  Further, a litigant must have the opportunity to respond to new, surprising, and relevant evidence.   


Husband filed a response that he consented to the order.  The trial court in disregard to notice concepts broadened Wife’s RFO and “awarded relief far in excess of what was sought.”  Wife’s brief countered Husband received notice by reason of the MTA signed when they parties divorced.  The Court of Appeal lamented Husband had no way to know from Wife’s request that she sought to enforce the MTA and require him to establish a trust.  Finally section 580 warranted Wife in the event of default was only entitled to what she requested.  She requested no monetary award so she was not entitled to one. The order was reversed  




If Husband had appeared the answer might well have been different.  “It is well settled that the appearance of a party at the hearing of a motion and his or her opposition to the motion on its merits is a waiver of any defects or irregularities in the notice of the motion. [Citations.] This rule applies even when no notice was given at all. [Citations.] Accordingly, a party who appears and contests a motion in the court below cannot object on appeal or by seeking extraordinary relief in the appellate court that he had no notice of the motion or that the notice was insufficient or defective.” (Tate v. Superior Court of San Francisco (1975) 45 Cal.App.3d 925, 930; See also Pacific Std. Life Ins. Co. v. Tower Industries, Inc. (1992) 9 Cal.App.4th 1881, 1888 [“Tower has waived its right to complain of insufficient notice of the motion for judgment [because it] did not object to the motion on the ground of lack of notice.”]; Carlton v. Quint (2000) 77 Cal.App.4th 690. 697.)  





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