I live in California ( I guess its a community property state?) and if a civil judgement against me for "mental distress" and "libel" is entered, can the plaintiff have my husband's wages garnished? If so, can they be garnished if we file for divorce? What about bank accounts in his name, can that be garnished if they are not in my name?
If you file for divorce so that his income is no longer separate property, or sign a post nuptuial agreement saying the same thing, they may not be able to levy on it.
The chances of anyone getting such a judgment against you, unless you are very wealthy, are very slim indeed. And it would take years. I wouldn't panic just yet.
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You've posted before. "Mental distress" and "libel" judgement are very, very, very rare. Better idea than your question - just win the lawsuit. There is no pre-judgment garnishment or attachment for either mental distress or defamation, including libel.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
If he committed a civil action that would be deemed a breach of his fiduciary duties then the family law court has the discretion to award him the civil judgment as his sole and separate property. BUT you really need help on this as getting this done to protect yourself would require either a judgment issued by the court or your ex would agree to this, which I doubt will happen. So, you need to present this to a court to get a favorable judgment AND this needs to be worded correctly and carefully in any judgment submitted to the court for your final dissolution judgment. This really isn't a DIY matter.
As others have said, the first line of defense is to defend the case. Defamation is a complicated area of law. Depending on the specifics you may be able to attack the case with an anti-SLAPP motion.
Assuming you lose, if the defamation etc. took place while you were married then your husband's wages are subject to garnishment, as are your own. Regardless of when the tort(s) went down all of your separate property and all the community property is liable for the judgment. Your husband's separate property is not, assuming he did not participate in the alleged conduct.
Changing around title on property, putting community money into an account in his name, or entering into a sham divorce or bogus marital settlement agreement loading you up with debt and him with assets may all be seen as fraudulent transfers, i.e. putting assets beyond the reach of your creditors. Such transactions can be set aside, lead to claims for damages, and may prevent a bankruptcy discharge. In other words: not a great idea.
You should hire counsel to evaluate defending the case.
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