Siegel v. Siegel (In re Siegel), A140559

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtMiller, J.
Citation239 Cal.App.4th 944,191 Cal.Rptr.3d 330
PartiesIN RE MARRIAGE OF Irwin and Linda SIEGEL. Irwin J. Siegel, Appellant, v. Linda S. Siegel, Respondent.
Docket NumberA140559
Decision Date28 July 2015

239 Cal.App.4th 944
191 Cal.Rptr.3d 330


Irwin J. Siegel, Appellant
Linda S. Siegel, Respondent.


Court of Appeal, First District, Division 2, California.

Filed July 28, 2015

Attorney for appellant, Garrett C. Daily.

Attorneys respondent, Wallace C. Doolittle, James P. Downs.


Miller, J.

239 Cal.App.4th 946

Appellant Irwin J. Siegel (Irwin) and respondent Linda S. Siegel (Linda) were divorced in 1987.1 They are now in their early 80's. Their marital termination agreement, which merged into a judgment, required Irwin to establish a life insurance trust for Linda, subject to certain terms. In 2013, Linda filed a request for order to disclose insurance information, asking for a court order requiring Irwin to provide “proof” that the insurance policy

239 Cal.App.4th 947

was in existence. Irwin filed a responsive declaration consenting to disclose information about his existing life insurance for Linda's benefit, attached some documents, and did not appear at the hearing. At the hearing, the family court judge construed the request for order to disclose insurance information as a motion to enforce the marital termination agreement, and issued an order after the hearing which, among other things, required Irwin to establish a $126,916 trust with Linda as the beneficiary. Irwin now appeals, arguing that he was denied due process because the trial court's orders exceeded the relief requested by Linda in the request for orders and he had inadequate notice of the relief, and that the family court impermissibly modified a judgment that was nonmodifiable on its terms. We agree that the trial court erred by issuing an order that far exceeded the relief requested by Linda, and reverse.


The underlying facts are not in dispute, and we summarize them briefly.

Irwin and Linda were married in 1957. As of June 4, 1987, their marital status was terminated, and a judgment of dissolution was entered. They later entered into a marital termination agreement (MTA) that was approved by the family court and incorporated into a further judgment on reserved issues, filed December 2, 1987 (Judgment).

The Judgment and MTA required Irwin to pay Linda $2,200 per month spousal support, until such time as Linda died or remarried.2 A provision was made for

191 Cal.Rptr.3d 332

support in the event that Irwin predeceased her:

“4.01 Support [¶] ... [¶]


“C. Upon the death of husband, should husband predecease wife, any remaining spousal support obligation of husband to wife shall be satisfied as follows:

“1. Husband shall forthwith establish an insurance trust for the benefit of wife.

“2. Husband shall, during his life and for so long as he is insurable at reasonable cost, maintain a policy of insurance on his life in a [sic] amount not less than $250,000.

239 Cal.App.4th 948

“3. Husband shall designate said insurance trust as the beneficiary of at least $250,000.00 of insurance on his life.

“4. Said insurance trust shall provide that the trust shall, during wife's life, pay monthly to wife in lieu of the spousal support payments she would have received had not husband predeceased her, an amount equal to the income of said trust, up to a maximum of $2,200.00 per month. The principal of said trust may be invaded if necessary to make said payments.

“5. Upon wife's death, the corpus of the trust shall be disbursed pursuant to the terms of husband's will.

“Husband and wife understand that the aforementioned provisions concerning spousal support cannot be changed or modified by the court, regardless of the financial or other circumstances of either party.”

On August 7, 2013, Linda filed a mandatory Judicial Council form FL–300 request for order, checking the box at the top of the form marked “Other” and seeking what she described on the form as an “Order to Disclose Insurance Information.” In the section entitled “Request for Order and Supporting Declaration,” Linda checked box 8 for “Other Relief” and specified: “Husband was ordered to establish an insurance trust for the benefit of the wife in the amount of at least $250,000. Husband has not ever and will not provide proof that this policy is or ever was in existance [sic]. Wife has asked repeatedly for this proof and now prays that the court will insist on that proof .” (Italics added; & some capitalization omitted.) Linda also checked box 10, where the petitioner was supposed to list the “FACTS IN SUPPORT of orders requested,” and restated verbatim what she had typed next to the “relief” sought in box 8. Linda attached three pages from the MTA, including the provisions from section 4.01 (“Support”) quoted above.

The order setting the hearing on the Request for Orders was signed by Judge Stephen M. Pulido on August 7, 2013. Box 4 was checked, with the following form language: “You are ordered to appear in court at the date and time listed in item 2 [October 9, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.] to give any legal reason why the orders requested should not be granted.” (Emphasis added.) The form order also stated in boldface text that if the recipient wished to respond to the request for order, he must file a responsive declaration to request for order (form FL–320) and serve it on the opposing party.

Irwin, representing himself, filed a response on September 24, 2013, on the appropriate Judicial Council form. He checked box 8(c) (“Other Relief”), which was next to the preprinted text “I consent to the following order,” and

239 Cal.App.4th 949

typed in “For an order that petitioner disclose information about his existing life insurance for respondent.”3 (Some capitalization omitted.) Irwin provided the following

191 Cal.Rptr.3d 333

“Supporting Information” called for by box 9 (some capitalization omitted):

“On May 8, 2012, Petitioner provided respondent information and documentation of his existing life insurance for respondent's benefit, as attached hereto and marked as Exhibits “A” and “B.” In addition, Petitioner provides the pertinent portion of his will providing for a trust for respondent's benefit, attached hereto as exhibit “C.”

“Petitioner, who is now 79 years of age and fully retired, does not believe he is insurable at any reasonable cost for life insurance in addition to the existing coverage of $123,084 held for respondent.”

Irwin attached a letter to Linda written May 8, 2012 (exhibit A), enclosing her “usual monthly $2,200 spousal support payment,” and giving her an “update ... about my current life insurance situation.” The letter continued: “My life insurance is furnished by the Permanente Medical Group term life insurance policy. That policy coverage automatically is reduced as the physician/retiree ages. It is now at its final nonreducible level of $123,000—. I am no longer insurable and further additional life insurance is no longer available to me. This is all the life insurance I have.” [¶] “After my death the $123,000—death benefit will be held in a trust which will pay you $2,200—per month as long as you are alive and unmarried until the amount is used up.”

Irwin also attached exhibit B, a sheet entitled “Life Insurance Coverage for Irwin J. Siegel, M.D. Retirement at September 30, 1998,” which indicated that his “coverage” for October 1, 2004, and thereafter was $123,084. This sheet also reflected that his coverage has been reduced from retirement date at age 64 to age 70, and stayed steady at $123,084. The source of exhibit B was not clear.

Irwin attached exhibit C, which appeared to be a half page redacted from his will, and included a provision about a “life insurance trust.” It stated:

“5.1 TRUST FOR BENEFIT OF LINDA SUZANNE SIEGEL. My trustee shall hold, administer, and distribute any life insurance proceeds from my Permanente Medical Group term life policy as a result of my death in a

239 Cal.App.4th 950

separate trust as set forth in this section. For so long as my former spouse, LINDA SUZANNE SIEGEL, is living and unmarried, my trustee shall pay her the sum of $2,200 ... per month from such proceeds. Such payments shall continue until the death or remarriage of LINDA SUZANNE SIEGEL, or until the trust is exhausted, whichever occurs first.

Exhibit C also contained a provision that upon the death or remarriage of Linda, Irwin's trustee was to “distribute the remainder of the trust as set forth in Section 4, as if it were part of the residue of my estate.” Section 4 was not included in exhibit C.

The hearing on Linda's request for order was held on October 9, 2013, before Judge Tara M. Flanagan. Irwin did not appear; Linda appeared and represented herself.

The family court judge acknowledged at the outset that Linda's request for orders was for the disclosure of “financial insurance information,” and that Irwin “says...

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    ...Annette has presented a question of law based on undisputed facts, we exercise de novo review. (In re Marriage of Siegel (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 944, 953, 191 Cal.Rptr.3d 330 ; Estate of Wilson (2012) 211 Cal.App.4th 1284, 1290, 150 Cal.Rptr.3d 699 ["The applicability of a statutory standard......
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