Sorting through the aftermath of music legend Frankie Valli's messy divorce, the California Supreme Court sang a tune Thursday that suggests that in some cases big girls may have to cry a little when it comes to splitting the spoils of marriage.
In a decision that dealt with a murky area of California divorce law, the state Supreme Court unanimously found that Valli's ex-wife, Randy, is not entitled to the full amount of a life insurance policy taken out on her famous ex-husband, best known for his singing days with the Four Seasons.
The case centered on Frankie Valli's decision in 2003, shortly before separating from his wife, to buy a $3.75 million life insurance policy, naming Randy Valli as the sole beneficiary. When the couple divorced after more than 20 years of marriage, Randy Valli argued that the $400,000 value of the policy at the time was all hers -- while lawyers for the singer argued the policy was community property under California divorce laws, paid for with their joint money, and should be split evenly with the rest of their marriage assets.
The Supreme Court took the case to resolve the question of whether such an insurance policy can be considered a wife's separate property in divorce proceedings, or is tied up as community property. In this high-profile instance, the justices concluded it is community property, reversing an appeals court decision.
"(Frankie Valli) never expressly declared in writing that he gave up his community interest in the policy bought with community funds," wrote Justice Joyce Kennard, who recently retired from the court.
Valli was backed in the case by a group of family law professors, including former UC Berkeley law school dean Herma Hill Kay.
Randy Valli didn't need the state high court justices' help in securing her financial future: She was pulling in $500,000 a month from her now 80-year-old ex-husband, according to the celebrity website TMZ, citing court documents in their divorce proceedings.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz