The State of California's family law jurisprudence continues to fail the Punjabi/Indian (“Punjabi” or “Punjabi's”) community. The California law incorporates several protections for spouses trying to dissolve their marriage but these protections fall short when the law is applied to Punjabi families living in California; especially in the marital property division section such as the division of community property.
The most common complaint I hear from Punjabi female clients is that their spouse is hiding the assets and/or lying about their income. As it stands, the family code assumes that a marital community is only between the spouses; it fails to consider the marital community of spouses living in joint families.
It is very common for Punjabi families to live in a joint household—as much as three generations can live in the same household. The examples noted below are quite common for Punjabi women when going through dissolution matters or child support matters:
Example A: Families arrange for a marriage; community is formed between two spouses upon performing the religious ceremony. The Husband's father continues to buy assets on his name even though the husband and wife both work to support the community and the joint family. A house is bought on the husband's father's name and the son deposits the entire mortgage payment into his father's account. Upon dissolution, the asset is not disclosed because it is not “part of the community property” since the husband's father owns the house and “made mortgage” payments on them.
Example B: After the marriage, a business is opened and it expands during the marriage. The business is formed on the husband's father's name and he appears to be the owner of the entity. Subsequent assets are either bought on the company's name or the husband's father's name. Husband works in the same company—“his father's company”— and he is significantly underpaid for tax purposes. During the dissolution process, the husband claims that he does not own a business; his father owns the business; and he is only paid a fraction of the salary or earned income such as $2000 a month whereas other company employees are making $5000 for the same job. Income and Expense is filed based on these fraudulent wage records and the tax returns show the marginal income the husband claims on his wage records.
Example C: Similar facts of A and B along with the marriage from the husband's side was orchestrated for immigration benefits. Husband and his family carefully plan the financial records, purchase of assets, and expensive luxurious vehicles while claiming the marginal income on tax returns and income and expense declarations based on fraudulent wage statements.
These examples portray the reality for several Punjabi women whose spouses gets to cheat the IRS; Family Law Courts; and the California statutory schemes. It is also worth mentioning the “bragging rights” that comes with cheating the spouse out of her fair community share, alimony, and child support.
Although discovery efforts can aid in unearthing some of these fraudulent records, a simple denial stated on a pleading paper—that a record being asked simply does not exist—does not provide any real aid in these matters.
This gross miscarriage of justice is further—to an extent—is supported by the judicial process and judicial officers themselves. The current judicial system places a substantial emphasis on settling cases rather than affording a proper and judicious result to parties before the Courts.
This brief post barely scratches the surface of the issues noted above. A deep analysis must be undertaken to ensure that the California Family Codes can afford aid to joint families as well as single family framework. Furthermore, the discovery process should be broadened to provide for unearthing documents from joint families—such providing for easier joinder methods for members of joint families—and provide severe sanctions for falsifying pleadings and records submitted therein. Lastly, the “settlement” is better than justice emphasis should be reconsidered to afford proper and just results to parties before the Court.
If you or your loved one's are going through a similar situation, we encourage you to contact the Bakersfield Family Law Attorney for a free case assessment. If you wish to get legal advice on your matters, contact The Singh Law Office, a California law firm to get expert guidance on your legal issues.
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