Beverly Hills Mom’s Support from ‘Best Friend’ Didn’t Count as Income in Child Support Case

suburban houseWhen you and your child’s other parent go to court on the issue of child support, the case will focus on several things, with one of the key items being your income and the other parent’s income. If you have a wealthy benefactor who is paying your expenses, your ex may try to use this against you in the child support dispute. In the case of one mother who received extensive financial support from a platonic friend, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that the benefits the mother received were permissibly construed as non-income and not factored into calculating child support. The case is a very helpful one for recipient parents who receive financial help from people other than relatives or romantic partners.

In this case, the child was born in 2006, and the father, who was never married to the mother, admitted paternity a year later. The courts granted the two parents joint legal custody, and, by 2010, they shared equal physical custody.

At the parents’ trial regarding child support, the court learned many things about the parents. The father was an investment manager who testified that he made roughly $400,000 per year with around $130,000 in expenses. The mother had a situation that many people might possibly describe as “enviable.” Although she testified that she had around $400,000 per year in expenses, she did not work; in fact, she had not worked for more than half a decade. She lived in a $10,000-per-month rental house in Beverly Hills, but she did not pay any rent. She did not pay for household upkeep, vehicles, food, or even the child’s part-time nanny. All of these expenses were paid by a man who considered the mother as his “best friend.” The man and the mother weren’t romantically involved, and he occupied one room on the Beverly Hills property for the roughly 50% of the time that he was around. On top of those items, the man also gave the mother cash every month (roughly $12,000 on average, which was deposited directly into her bank account) and the use of one of his credit cards, with the request that she keep credit card spending under $10,000 per month (which she generally but not always followed).

The mother argued that the trial court should assess child support according to the guidelines, with her income at $0 and the father’s at $400,000. The father countered by arguing that the court should credit the friend’s expenditures on the mother and the child as income to the mother and set the child support amount at $0. Although courts have, in the past, credited as income to a parent gifts from another person, the judge did not do so in this case. The court followed the guidelines and set child support at $2,505 per month.

The father appealed, but the appeals court refused to overturn the decision. Much of the benefit the mother received through her friend was in the form of indirect financial benefits, like rent-free housing, free use of the friend’s cars, free food, and so forth. Several appellate court decisions have, in the past, concluded that these types of indirect benefits do not count as income to a beneficiary parent.

As for the cash payments, the appeals court noted that the evidence in this case pointed to a fluctuating amount of money, paid by a person with no legal relationship to the mother, for a period of time not identified at the trial. Given the lack of certainty of these payments and the lack of certainty as to their future continuation, the trial judge was within his legal bounds to rule the payments weren’t income.

In child support cases, each case’s facts are unique. This wife lived an “opulent lifestyle” for which she didn’t pay, but she was able to win her child support case because she made a compelling argument that the financial benefits she received didn’t meet the legal standard for income. To achieve a favorable outcome, you need skilled counsel representing and advocating for you. The experienced San Diego child support attorneys at Doppelt & Forney have been helping clients throughout Southern California, including in San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista, for many years and are here to put our resources and abilities to work for you. 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:

What Happens in Your California Child Support Case When Your Child Moves in With Your Parents, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 3, 2017

Dealing With Child Support in California When the Supporting Parent Has Very High Net Worth, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 27, 2016