Motion to Set Aside Dissolution Judgment - California Family Law
In 1993, a chapter entitled Relief from Judgment was added to the Family Code. ( 2120-2129, added by Stats. 1993, ch. 219, 108, pp. 1615-1617.)
The statutory scheme authorizes an action or motion to set aside a dissolution judgment on specified grounds. ( 2122, 2125.)
In adopting this chapter, the Legislature found "the law governing the circumstances under which a judgment can be set aside, after the time for relief under Section 473 of the Code of Civil Procedure has passed, has been the subject of considerable confusion which has led to increased litigation and unpredictable and inconsistent decisions at the trial and appellate levels." ( 2120, subd. (d).)
To that end, the Legislature specified in section 2122 the time within which to bring an action or motion to set aside a dissolution judgment based on fraud, perjury and other grounds.
Section 2122 provides in relevant part:
"The grounds and time limits for a motion to set aside a judgment, or any part or parts thereof, are governed by this section and shall be one of the following:
(a) Actual fraud where the defrauded party was kept in ignorance or in some other manner, other than his or her own lack of care or attention, was fraudulently prevented from fully participating in the proceeding. An action or motion based on fraud shall be brought within one year after the date on which the complaining party either did discover, or should have discovered, the fraud.
(b) Perjury. An action or motion based on perjury in the preliminary or final declaration of disclosure or in the current income and expense statement shall be brought within one year after the date on which the complaining party either did discover, or should have discovered, the perjury."
setting aside a judgment even after the expiration of the six-month period under Code of Civil Procedure section 473, and intrinsic fraud, such as perjury, which was not a valid ground for relief. (In re Marriage of Varner (1997) 55 Cal. App. 4th 128, 138-140 [63 Cal. Rptr. 2d 894].)
" 'Extrinsic fraud occurs when a party is deprived of his opportunity to present his claim or defense to the court, where he was kept in ignorance or in some other manner fraudulently prevented from fully participating in the proceeding.
Examples of extrinsic fraud are: concealment of the existence of a community property asset, failure to give notice of the action to the other party, convincing the other party not to obtain counsel because the matter will not proceed (and it does proceed).
A party's representation of the value of an asset, favorable to himself, does not constitute extrinsic fraud. . . . 'Fraud is intrinsic and not a valid ground for setting aside a judgment when the party has been given notice of the action and has had an opportunity to present his case and to protect himself from any mistake or fraud of his adversary, but has unreasonably neglected to do so.
Such a claim of fraud goes to the merits of the prior proceeding which the moving party should have guarded against at the time. Where the defrauded party failed to take advantage of liberal discovery policies to fully investigate his or her claim, any fraud is intrinsic fraud. ' " (In re Marriage of Varner, supra, 55 Cal. App. 4th at p. 140, italics added.)
The statutory scheme creates an exception to res judicata, based on the recognition that "the public policy of assuring finality of judgments must be balanced against the public interest in ensuring proper division of marital property, in ensuring sufficient support awards, and in deterring misconduct." ( 2120, subd. (c).)