A very interesting unpublished opinion was recently handed down by California’s Court of Appeals regarding spousal support.  The case of Irmo Camerlingo basically stands for the proposition that when one party expressly waives spousal support in a final judgment of dissolution that party cannot later attempt to modify the agreement to provide for support.

It’s important to remember, however, that Camerlingo was not published, meaning it should not be cited or relied upon except as permitted under Rules 8.1115 (a) and (b) of the California Rules of Court.  It should strictly be used for case study to show how recurring family law disputes were resolved in trial and appellate courts.

Camerlingo involved a Husband and Wife who were married for 25 years before divorcing.  The terms of their Marriage Settlement Agreement expressly waived spousal support for either party.  Husband and Wife later fashioned a new stipulation whereby Husband agreed to provide support for Wife.  Wife later filed an OSC to modify the stipulated agreement.

In its wisdom, the California Court of Appeals ruled that collateral estoppel bars Wife from enforcing the stipulation as a support order.  The doctrine of collateral estoppel precludes re-litigation of issues previously adjudicated.

The appellate court concluded that spouses are permitted to waive support and the trial court’s jurisdiction terminates unless there has been an express reservation concerning spousal support.  The parties may not confer jurisdiction on a court.  The family court’s jurisdictional finding was final under these circumstances.