Monday, September 25, 2017
Composer Must Continue Paying Ex-Wife After Her Remarriage, C.A. Holds
Marital Settlement Agreement Provides for No Spousal Support; Mandated Monthly Payments Are a Device for Dividing Community Property, Not Subject to Statutory Termination—Lui
By a MetNews Staff Writer
LEBOHANG “LEBO M.” MORAKE
Producer/composer Lebohang Morake—better known as “Lebo M.”—made monthly payments to an ex-wife but, because those payments were not “spousal support” under the terms of the marital settlement agreement, he was not statutorily entitled to stop sending checks upon his former spouse’s remarriage, the Court of Appeal for this district has held.
This means that Wife No. Two, Nandi Morake, will resume receiving income from compositions Lebohang Morake arranged and performed for “Lion King” movies and stage productions, as well as other compositions he created, in whole or in part.
Justice Elwood Lui of Div. One wrote the opinion, which was filed Thursday and was not certified for publication. It affirms an order of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc D. Gross.
“This appeal presents a straightforward issue of contract interpretation,” Lui said.
Lebohang Morake, who has residences both in Johannesburg and Los Angeles, contended that when Nandi Morake remarried in December 2014, he was relieved, under Family Code §4337, of any obligation to provide further support. That provision says:
“Except as otherwise agreed by the parties in writing, the obligation of a party under an order for the support of the other party terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the other party.”
The composer acknowledged that the settlement agreement, incorporated into the judgment of divorce, recites that “Husband shall not be currently obligated to pay Wife spousal support,” and would incur that obligation only if it were later imposed by the court. However, he pointed out that the agreement goes on to provide “a substitute for Wife’s spousal support”; it says that, with respect to all intellectual property that was part of the couple’s community property:
“Husband shall pay Wife 40% of the annual net after-tax amounts he receives from all Gross Earnings.”
Payments under that proviso, Lebohang Morake asserted, were tantamount to spousal support and are subject to termination under §4337.
Gross found that the payments Lebohang Morake had been making (and which he had ceased making) did not constitute spousal support, but represented a mechanism for a division of the community property based on a continuing yield of its assets.
Lui agreed. He wrote:
“The Agreement is unambiguous and does not require Husband to pay spousal support to Wife….In his push to interpret the payments to Wife as spousal support, Husband entirely ignores the language of…the Agreement, which in no uncertain terms states Husband is not obligated to pay spousal support unless later ordered to do so by the court. Thus, under the terms of the Agreement, Wife received no spousal support. Instead, Wife received a distribution of the parties’ community intellectual property.”
The jurist added:
“Contrary to Husband’s position, ‘a substitute for Wife’s spousal support’ is not the same as spousal support. Rather, a substitute for spousal support means it is not spousal support. It is something different; something instead of spousal support.”
The case is In re the Marriage of Morake, B271144.
Michael A. Younge was the attorney on appeal for Lebohang Morake and Michael L. Abrams of Abrams & Heyn LLP represented Nandi Morake.
The couple met in Los Angeles in 1990 in connection with a musical, in which the future wife was a performer. They were wed in December 1992.
This came before the initial Lion King movie, a Disney animated feature, which was released in 1994.
The Morakes separated in May 2004, and their final judgment of dissolution came in February 2007.
Lebohang Morake last year re-wed his third wife. They had divorced in 2013, reportedly after splitting over rumors that the husband was engaging in a reconciliation with Nandi Morake.
The composer, born in South Africa during the Apartheid policy, came to the United States to study at the Duke Ellington School of Music in Washington, D.C., moved to Los Angeles and, unable to find work, was a street-begger before landing a job at a McDonald’s outlet.
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