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TENTATIVE RULING – FAMILY LAW DEPT. 23
LAW AND MOTION CALENDAR
Friday, March 6, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.
COURTROOM #23- Hon. Barbara Phelan
(3055 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA)
The following Tentative Rulings will become the ruling of the Court unless a party desires to be heard. If you desire to appear and present oral argument as to any motion, it will be necessary for you to contact the Judicial Assistant by telephone at (707) 521-6723 by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, 2020.
LAW & MOTION TENTATIVE RULINGS
JUDGE BARBARA PHELAN
March 6, 2020
The parties make various claims. In summary, Husband claims that Wife is not complying with the terms of the MSA requiring her to refinance a vehicle in her own name and to remove Husband’s name from the vehicle. Husband also claims that Wife has fraudulently altered the MSA by adding language (after the MSA was signed) that Husband would be responsible for paying Wife’s outstanding student loans.
Wife argues that it is Husband who has altered the MSA and submitted a fraudulent copy of the MSA to the Court. Wife argues that the MSA the parties signed contained a provision requiring Husband to pay for Wife’s outstanding student loan debt. Wife asks that Husband’s motion be denied, and further requests an order that Husband immediately repay her student loan debt. Thus, she is also requesting enforcement of the MSA (her version of the MSA).
Both parties’ requests to enforce their versions of the MSA are DENIED, as are their requests for attorneys’ fees. On the record presented, it appears the parties never reached a final agreement. Assuming arguendo that there was a “meeting of the minds” regarding a settlement agreement and that one of the two versions of the MSA is an accurate representation of the settlement agreement, both parties fail to demonstrate that this Court has authority to enforce an MSA that was never made part of a judgment in this case. No judgment has been entered in this case, and no MSA has been incorporated into any judgment. At most, the MSA (to the extent one of the versions represents an actual agreement) is simply an out-of-court contract.
Code of Civil Procedure section 664.6 provides: “If parties to pending litigation stipulate, in a writing signed by the parties outside the presence of the court . . ., for settlement of the case . . . the court, upon motion, may enter judgment pursuant to the terms of the settlement.” (Code of Civil Proc. §664.6; see Hogoboom & King, California Practice Guide: Family Law (TRG 2019) ¶13:52.) A court hearing a section 664.6 motion is also empowered to resolve underlying factual disputes (including issues of settlement authority, settlement terms and whether the parties ever reached a binding agreement); and the court may retain jurisdiction over the parties to enforce the settlement until its terms are fully performed. (Marriage of Assemi (1994) 7 Cal.4th 896.) Neither party has filed a section 664.6 motion to enter judgment pursuant to the terms of any MSA, and this Court is not deeming Husband’s RFO or Wife’s opposition to constitute a section 664.6 motion. As noted earlier, such a motion presents the difficulty of proving the parties reached a final agreement as to all terms, which is doubtful here.
Family Code section 290 gives the court broad discretion to fashion orders enforcing Family Code judgments and orders, so long as they do not conflict with express statutory requirements and limitations. (In re Marriage of Schofield (1998) 62 Cal.App.4th 131, 135.) Neither party has cited Family Code section 290 as authority for their requests (or cited any legal authority at all), and even if they did, section 290 does not provide authority for enforcing the out-of-court MSA that has never been incorporated into an order or judgment. Since no version of any MSA has been incorporated into an order or judgment, section 290 does not authorize enforcement of any MSA.
Although not relevant in light of the Court’s finding that it has no authority to enforce any version of the MSA, the Court would note that the provision (of his version of the MSA) regarding the vehicle financing/registration that Husband is seeking to enforce would not be triggered “until the divorce is final.” As no judgment has been entered in this case, it’s unclear how this provision would be presently enforceable.
Both parties’ requests to enforce their versions of the MSA, neither of which has been incorporated into a judgment in this case, are DENIED. Both parties’ requests for attorney’s fees are also DENIED.