Monday, June 26, 2017
Court of Appeal Declares:
Ex-Husband Doesn’t Get Rental Properties Restored
Wife Who Received Real Estate ‘In Part’ for Forever Waiving Child Support Not Required to Return The Properties Upon Invoking Extra-Contractual Right to Seek Such Support, Panel Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Beverly Hills attorney who, through a 2009 stipulated judgment in the case dissolving her marriage to a wealthy entrepreneur, received ownership of three rental properties—in part conditioned on her forever waiving child support—is entitled both to obtain child support and to keep the properties, Div. Seven of this district’s Court of Appeal has declared.
The ex-husband, Andrew E. Stevens, 95, acknowledged that agreements purporting to waive child support are against public policy and void. Accordingly, he did not dispute the order that he pay $4,248 per month in child support until their son reaches the age of 19 (which will be next year) or graduates from high school.
But he did argue that the rental properties, which he asserted had been his separate property prior to the judgment taking effect, should be returned to him by his ex-wife, international business/immigration lawyer Ildiko Cseto, 64.
The stipulated judgment recited that in light of the property division—which included Cseto receiving the couple’s $7.4 million Beverly Hills home—“each of the parties will have assets and income which are more than sufficient to enable each party to pay for his/her own expenses as well as any and all expenses for the parties’ minor child during each party’s respective time of custody.”
“Based thereon, no child support shall be payable from one party to the other....”
The judgment specified that Cseto promised not to seek child support in the future, that Stevens relied upon that, and that his agreement to transfer the rental properties was “in part consideration” for the waiver of child support.
Trial Court Decision
The words “in part” led to the defeat of his contention in the trial court. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick Cathcart in 2015 declared:
“I am not going to order that the properties be returned...because I don’t find that the exchange of properties was a completely child support-bearing issue. It also was for spousal support and division of property issues, so I am not going to upset that part of the judgment.”
The Court of Appeal agreed. In an opinion that was not certified for publication, Acting Justice Michael C. Small, on assignment from the Los Angeles Superior Court, said Tuesday:
“Andrew could have insisted on the inclusion of an express provision in the stipulated judgment requiring the return of the rental properties should Ildiko later seek child support, but he did not do so. The plain language of the stipulated judgment precludes us from implying such a condition as a matter of law.”
Other requirements Cathcart imposed on Stevens—such as paying half the child’s medical expenses indefinitely—were found to be an abuse of discretion.
Stevens met Cseto while he was in Budapest, and they were wed in 1993. He was 71.
In 1999, Cseto gave birth to a son, who is the recipient of the child support.
Stevens had two sons by a previous marriage, including Beverly Hills real estate attorney Glenn E. Stevens.
The father, during World War II, joined the underground in Hungry. Then a teenager, he forged documents that enabled Jews to flee.
He came to the United States in 1949. Starting as a busboy, Stevens became highly successful in business.
Lawyers on Appeal
Herb Fox, along with Darlene S. Wanger of Kaplan Wanger, represented Cseto. Thomas Paine Dunlap of Trope and Trope was Stevens’s lawyer.
Fox, a certified appellate law specialist, remarked:
“We are grateful that the Court of Appeal affirmed the family law court’s exercise of discretion to deny restitution to the father. The broader question—the extent to which an agreement to waive child support is enforceable as a contract between the parents (it cannot be enforced as to the child’s right to support)—remains open for another day.”
Dunlap did not respond to a request for comment.
The case is Marriage of Stevens, B266179.
Copyright 2017, Metropolitan News Company