Law school classes on any subject are not restricted to any particular state. We learn law "across the board".
In addition, we are trained to be able to research the law inany state or country, for that matter.
I earned a post doctoral degree in Taxation and if I can decipher and make sense out of the Internal Revenue Code, I believe I can make sense out of anything.
Your question does not involve as much tax law as you think. However, if, after reading my Answer, you prefer another expert, I have no problem with that at all.
With reference to your question:
1. When the IRS grants "Innocent Spouse status" to one of the spouses, it is only for Federal income tax returns purposes. It does not extend to other taxing authorities, including State, local and California Franchise Tax.
2. With respect to the Divorce Decree which made your former husband totally liable for tax obligations to the California Franchise Tax Board - This is a problem I encounter almost every day because Judges in divorce cases consistently fail to explain to the parties that the Court has jurisdiction only over the litigants - the Husband and the Wife - nobody else. Therefore, neither the Judge, nor any Court Order or Decree can impose an obligation on another entity, including the FTB to obey the Court. Here, although the Divorce Decree imposed on your former husband the tax liability, the Court did not have jurisdiction, or authority over any other entity, including the California Franchise Tax Board, to order them to look only to your former husband for payment of the tax liability. That is why the California Franchise Tax Board is chasing you for payment. The choose the party which is most accessible.
Your recourse against your former husband for not paying the tax obligation would be to file a Petition for Contempt against him and ask the Judge to give him jail time until he complies.
In the meantime, if you have not already done so, you should contact the FTB in writing, voicing your objection to the liability. Inform them that the Statute of Limitations has expired and they cannot collect any tax - of which you had no knowledge - which is between 23 and 26 years old. Inform them further, that the IRS gave you "Innocent Spouse Status", not that they will be obligated to grant you this status, but it can't hurt. You should also insist on verification of the tax liability since you can legally throw out your Federal Tax Returns after 3 years, you do not have tax returns from 23-26 years ago.
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ANDREA, JD, LLM
MEMBER, NY & PA BAR
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