Thursday, September 26, 2019
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A woman who obtained an annulment of her marriage to a man she says is a philanderer is still his wife, the First District Court of Appeal has declared, pointing to the parties’ cohabitation after the alleged fraudulent inducement was discovered.
Justice Peter J. Siggins of Div. Three wrote the opinion, filed Tuesday, declaring the marriage of Michael Mitchell and Carolyn Goodwin-Mitchell remains in effect. The matter was remanded for proceedings on Goodwin-Mitchell’s alternative petition for dissolution of the marriage.
Goodwin-Mitchell insisted that Mitchell fraudulently induced her to marry him in order to gain United States citizenship and concealed from her his intent to commit adultery. Crediting her allegations, Alameda Superior Court Judge Lupe C. Garcia granted her an annulment.
Siggins said it is unnecessary to determine if clear and convincing evidence supports the allegations because it is evident that, under Family Code §2210(d), an annulment was not available.
Statute Is Clear
“Michael contends the court erred when it granted Carolyn’s petition for annulment because the couple continued to cohabit long after Carolyn discovered his infidelity. We must agree. Section 2210, subdivision (d) is clear on this point. ‘A marriage is voidable and may be adjudged a nullity if [¶]...[¶] the consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless the party whose consent was obtained by fraud afterwards, and with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other as his or her spouse.’ (Italics added.)”
“Here, Carolyn discovered Michael’s communications with DeAndra in February or March of 2017. She taped Michael’s sexual encounter with Kim in March. Nonetheless, the parties continued to live together and to have sexual relations for another eight months. On this record, the court could not issue a judgment of nullity under section 2210, subdivision (d).”
Matter for Legislature
“Even were we to believe the statute is outmoded and to disagree with the policies that presumably underlie it, our decision is mandated by the clear statutory language. Such policy determinations and changes to California’s existing statutory law are matters for the Legislature, not the courts.”
Sec. 2210 was previously Civil Code §82, enacted in 1872. It stated as a cause for annulment:
“That the consent of either party was obtained by fraud, unless such party afterward, with full knowledge of the facts constituting the fraud, freely cohabited with the other as husband or wife.”
The case is Goodwin-Mitchell v. Mitchell, 2019 S.O.S. 2795.
Both parties were in pro per. Goodwin-Mitchell did not file a reply brief and, as a result, her request for oral argument was denied.
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