California Court’s Use of ‘Wrong Criteria’ Gives New Life to Mother’s Request for Child Support Increase

gavelWhen you are going through a family law case, there are certain steps the court must take to resolve the issue, depending on which type of claim is involved. If your case involves a request for a modification of child support, for example, the court must identify whether or not there has been a material change in circumstances, regardless of the level of need the children may have. In one recent case originating in Los Angeles County, the Second District Court of Appeal overturned a trial court’s refusal to modify child support because, in that case, the lower court never completed the “material change in circumstances” analysis, which was required.

John Uriostegui and Angel Maffei were a couple who were married for just less than four years from 2004 to 2008. In 2006, they had twin sons. In late 2011, the couple agreed to a stipulation that said that the father would pay $6,200 per month for child support, or $3,100 per child. In March 2014, the mother returned to court. asking for a modification in the father’s child support obligation. She argued to the trial court that a material change of circumstances had taken place, namely that the father’s income had nearly doubled from $680,000 in 2010 to $1.3 million in 2013.

The father argued that a material change in circumstances actually had not taken place, since his 2013 income was an anomaly and was not indicative of his earnings in future years. The trial court rejected the mother’s request. Due to the father’s very large income, the trial court stated that its focus was the needs of the children, rather than the fluctuations in the father’s annual income. The court concluded that no change had occurred regarding the children’s needs, so the existing amount of child support should stay in place.

The mother appealed, and, in this case, she won. In order to resolve the mother’s request, the trial court was obligated to investigate and decide whether or not the father had experienced an increase in income (and, if so, how large an increase). The “overriding issue is whether a change has affected either party’s financial status.” The trial court in this case instead focused not on the change in circumstances but on whether or not Uriostegui’s situation warranted deviating from the child support guidelines. Since the trial court focused on this deviation issue, instead of whether or not the husband had experienced a sufficient financial change to trigger the “material change of circumstances” standard, that meant the court did not use the correct test in determining whether or not the mother was entitled to a modification. When that happens, the party appealing the trial court’s decision (who was the mother in this case) is entitled to a reversal of that ruling.

The skilled San Diego child support attorneys at Doppelt & Forney have been assisting clients throughout Southern California, including in San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista, for many years with their child support and other family law issues. For a free consultation, reach out to Doppelt & Forney through our website or call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

More blog posts:

Wording of Stipulated Divorce Judgment Didn’t Allow California Husband to Alter Child and Spousal Support Obligations, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 13, 2016

California Court Denies Father’s Request to Modify Child Support Award, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 5, 2016