Marriage of Baltins
California Court of Appeal
260 Cal. Rptr. 403 (1989)
Aldis Baltins (plaintiff) and Deanna Baltins (defendant) were married. Aldis was allegedly physically abusive during the marriage. Deanna filed a petition for dissolution but later dismissed the petition. The parties separated and agreed to a marital settlement agreement. The original handwritten agreement awarded Deanna custody of their child and awarded her child support and short-term spousal support. The agreement divided the marital property, although not equally, as Deanna received only approximately 10 to 15 percent of the community property. Aldis had become a doctor during the marriage and repeatedly told Deanna that his medical practice was solely his property. Aldis also told Deanna that she was not an equal partner in the marriage. Evidence indicated that Aldis told Deanna that if she did not sign the marital agreement, he would declare bankruptcy, resulting in her getting nothing. Throughout this process, Deanna went through three attorneys for various reasons, including one attorney withdrawing because Deanna was insistent on signing an agreement that was not in her best interest. Aldis told Deanna that he would not work with attorneys but only her. Ultimately, Aldis filed a new petition for dissolution of the marriage, along with an amended but substantially similar marital settlement agreement. When Deanna signed the agreement, she was not represented by counsel. Deanna also signed a waiver, permitting the dissolution proceedings to be tried as uncontested. Deanna did not appear at the hearing. The court granted dissolution, incorporating the parties’ written agreement. Subsequently, Deanna filed a motion to set aside the judgment. Deanna’s friends and her three former attorneys testified as to her fragile emotional state during the divorce process. Testimony indicated that Deanna was depressed, cried often, and was emotionally unable to confront Aldis about the agreement’s shortcomings. The court granted the motion. Aldis appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Barry-Deal, J.)
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