Recently, a family law case made its way to the California Supreme Court. The case involved musician Frankie Vallie, leader singer of the popular 60s group the Four Seasons, and his ex-wife Randy. Mr. Valli was represented by the experienced family lawyers at Walzer Melcher, along with their appellate counsel, Garrett C. Dailey.
The case made its way up from a local trial court, to the appellate court, and finally the CA Supreme Court. Issuing a decision intended to shed some light on a murky area of California divorce law, the California Supreme Court unanimously reversed the appellate court and found that the trial court ruled correctly in finding that a $3.75 million life insurance policy was community property and awarding it to Frankie Valli. The policy was owned by his ex-wife, Randy, but paid for with money from their joint bank account.
As a bit of background, Mr. Valli purchased a $3.75 million life insurance policy, naming Randy as the owner and beneficiary of the policy, shortly before separating from Randy in 2003. When the couple divorced after more than 20 years of marriage, Randy Valli argued that the policy at the time was her separate property. Attorneys Peter Walzer and Chris Melcher of Walzer & Melcher argued successfully on Mr. Valli’s behalf that the policy was community property under California divorce laws, paid for with their joint money, and should be split awarded to Frankie. The trial court agreed with their position, but the appellate court reversed the decision.
It appears that this case has resolved the question of whether an insurance policy purchased during the marriage with community property can be considered a spouse’s separate property in divorce proceedings if he/she is named as the owner of the policy. And according to the California Supreme Court, the answer is no. “’(Frankie Valli) never expressly declared in writing that he gave up his community interest in the policy bought with community funds,’ wrote Justice Joyce Kennard, who recently retired from the court.”
For assistance with your community property vs. separate property questions, contact the Los Angeles divorce lawyers at Walzer & Melcher today.