Sample Appellant Opening Brief

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Sample Appellant´s Opening Brief in California

Based on courts.ca.gov/documents/3dca-self-help-manual.pdf

STATEM EN T OF THE CASE
In 2008, respondent Anne Adams (“Anne”) filed a petition for
dissolution of marriage. (CT 1) In 2009, the superior court entered a
jud gment as to marital status o nly. (C T 63 ) The issues concerning division
of community property, spousal support, and attorney fees were reserved
for trial at a later date. (C T 60)
A trial in 2010 culminated with a decisio n in which the trial co urt
divided the community property, calculated amounts for which appellant
Robert Adams (“Robert”) was ordered to reimburse the
community, and
denied motions for attorney fees, costs, and spousal support. (CT 147

150)
Among other things, the decision ordered Robert to reimburse the
community $5,128.36, one

half the amount paid from community funds,
over several years, to pay prop
erty taxes on a parcel of property that was
Robert’s separate property. The court entered judgment on October 25, 2010. (CT 163)
Robert filed a notice of appeal on November 12, 2010. (CT 166)
STATEMENT OF APPEALABILITY
This appeal is from the final judgment of the Yolo County Superior
Court that disposes of all issues between the parties, and is authorized by
Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1, subdivisions (a)(1), (a)(2) and
(a)(10).
STATEM EN T OF FACTS
The partie
s were married on June 3, 1994, and separated in May 2008. (RT 7) There are no children from the marriage. (RT 258)
Prior to the marriage, Robert owned real property in Yolo County,
which he leased to strawberry farmers (“the strawberry farm”). (RT 1
44)
Because the property came to be held with joint title that included Robert and Anne, the trial court determined that the strawberry far
m was
community property. (CT
148) Adjacent to the strawberry farm was
another parcel of land that Robert had owne
d for years before the marriage.
This parcel was leased to corn farmers, and remained Robert’s separate
property (the “corn field”). (RT 141; CT 148)
During the marriage, community funds were used to pay the
property taxes on both parcels of property,
i.e., on both the strawberry far
m
and the corn field. (RT 152)
Anne was in charge of paying the family
taxes, including property taxes. (RT 55) She knew she was using
community funds to pay property taxes on the corn field, Robert’s separate
property.
(RT 56) Anne testified she “
knew and didn’t care about the
taxes.” She “nev
er wo rried abo ut it. ” (RT 57 )
Anne admitted that Robert
never promised or agreed to repay the community funds used to pay
property taxes on the corn field. (RT 60)

ARGUM EN T
I.
THE TRI AL COUR T ERR O
NEOUSLY ORDERED ROBE
RT
TO REIM BURS E THE COM
M UNITY’S PAYM EN T OF
TAXES ON ROBERT’S SE
PARATE PROPERTY
The trial co urt imp ermissib ly o rdered Robert to reimb urse Anne for
community funds used to pay taxes on his separate prop
erty parcel, the corn
field. (C T 15 0) The law is well

estab lished that the use o f co mmun ity
funds to pay property taxes on one spouse’s separate property is not subject
to reimb ursement to the co mmunity.
The standard o f review o f a trial co urt order d iv
id ing co mmun ity
property is abuse of discretion. (
In re Marriage of Dellaria
(2009) 172
Cal.App.4th 196, 201; Hogoboom & K ing, Cal. Practice Guide: Family Law (The Rutter Group 2010) ¶ 16:208, p. 16

66.) But a trial court abuses
its discretion where, as
here, its order fails to co mp ly with the law.
In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, community funds
become separate property when used to make property tax payments for
one spouse’s separate property. The general rule is that payments from
co mm
unity funds to property purchased by one spouse before marriage
creates a community interest; but that general rule “has been commonly
understood as excluding payments for interest and taxes.” (
In re Marriage
of Moore
(1
980) 28 Cal.3d 366, 371

372.)
Inde
ed, this Court held, in
In re
Marriage of Wolfe
(2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 962, 973, that the trial court erred
in ordering one spouse to reimburse the community for property taxes paid
on his separate property. (See also Hogoboom & K ing,
supra
, ¶ 8:303, pp.
8

77 to 8

78.)

The trial co urt’s d ecisio n orders Robert to reimb urse Anne for half o f
the community funds used to pay taxes on his separate property, the corn
field. The trial co urt erred as a matter o f law.
CON CLUS ION
For the reasons stated above, Robert respectfully asks this Court to
reverse the judgment to the extent it orders Robert to reimburse Anne for
$5,128.36, one

half the amount paid from community funds to pay property
taxes on the corn field, Robert’s separa
te property.
Dated: June 30, 2011
Respectfully sub mitted,

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