The Truth - the Winning Argument for Your Case

17 Feb. 2014

Seeking Justice in Civil Court From a False Claim of Marriage in Family Law Court

Posted By The Buncher Law Corporation

Young Couple Sitting on Love SeatA common scenario in a so-called Marvin Action between cohabitating adults who've split up starts with the plaintiff filing a petition for dissolution of marriage in family law court. The plaintiff claims, under penalty of perjury, that the couple entered into valid marriage which now entitles him or her to spousal support and half of the community property amassed during the relationship.

The respondent will claim that the couple cohabitated but was never legally married. If the respondent prevails, the family law action for dissolution of marriage will be dismissed.

The plaintiff then responds by filing a new Marvin Action lawsuit - this time in civil court, not family law court — claiming that although the parties were never married, they had agreed to treat each other as if they were. They entered into an agreement to share all property and debts acquired during their relationship, and perhaps agreed to support one another in the event of a break up.

Family law proceedings can be costly, and the defendant will want to recoup their attorney's fees and perhaps other damages such as for emotional distress. The law allows for this, but in practice family law judges are hesitant to award such damages. But if a strong case of perjury can be established, the judge may be more inclined to award such sanctions.

A second avenue for collecting damages is a claim for malicious prosecution against the plaintiff or their family law attorney.

A malicious prosecution action is intended to protect an individual from unjustifiable and unreasonable litigation. [Sheldon Appel Co. v. Albert & Oliker(1989) 47 Cal. 3d 863, 878.] A claim for malicious prosecution asserts that a party brought an unsuccessful legal action without "probable cause" and with "malice". Having "probable cause" may be described as an honest belief, founded on sufficiently strong facts, that grounds existed for the lawsuit. [Kennedy v. Byrum (1962) 201 Cal. App. 2d 474, 480]. As against an attorney, the standard may be whether any reasonable attorney would have thought the claim was tenable. [Sheldon Appel Co. v. Albert & Oliker (1989) 47 Cal. 3d. 863, 885-886.] But if the client lied to the attorney about the facts of the case, then the attorney may not be liable for malicious prosecution unless the attorney knew the facts to be false. [Swat-Fame, Inc. v. Goldstein (2002) 101 Cal. App. 4th 613, 625.]

At The Buncher Law Corporation, we are one of a limited number of family law firms with expertise in prosecuting or defending Marvin Actions. For more information and a free consultation contact us.

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