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Marriage of Varner

Court of Appeals of California
63 Cal. Rptr. 2d 894 (1997)


Kim Varner (plaintiff) married Stephen Varner (defendant) when she was 15 years old and he was 24 years old. At the time that Kim filed for divorce, the parties had five children, and Kim was unemployed. A hearing on Kim's petition for divorce was held July 13, 1993. Prior to the hearing, Kim's attorney had withdrawn from representing her. Kim requested that the hearing be continued in order for her to secure new representation. The trial court denied Kim's request. At the hearing, Stephen, who was represented by counsel, testified that the business interests that he owned were essentially valueless. Counsel for Stephen advocated at the hearing that, based upon an otherwise equal division of community assets, if Kim kept the family home she would owe Stephen approximately $150,000 in order to equalize their division. Furthermore, if Kim would agree to an offered property settlement, she could keep the home, Stephen would keep his valueless businesses, and Kim would not be required to make any payment. The trial court stated that if the values testified to were accurate, that it would be in Kim's best interests to accept the deal. The hearing was continued for one week, at which time both Kim and Stephen signed the agreement that was entered, on July 20, 1993, as a stipulated judgment. On December 10, 1993, Kim became represented by new counsel, who filed a motion to set aside the judgment. Evidence presented at the trial court as to the motion to set aside the judgment included Kim's IQ testing score of 75 and substantial evidence that the business interests and properties that had been testified to by Stephen were actually appraised in a total excess of $3,000,000. The trial court denied Kim's motion to set aside the judgment, and Kim appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Ramirez, J.)

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