California Court Discusses Hearsay Evidence in Child Support Actions

California law demands that parents provide financial support for their children. This obligation arises in the context of a divorce, legal separation or paternity case. In San Diego, child support orders may be through the San Diego Family Law Court or the San Diego DCSS Court. Both orders are legal and must be obeyed.  Parents often disagree as to what constitutes an appropriate amount of support or what they feasibly can pay, though, and in some instances, it may become necessary to retain an expert to provide insight on disputed issues. In a recent California ruling, the Court discussed the admissibility of expert reports in child support actions, ultimately rejecting the father’s assertion that a report should be barred as hearsay.  This is a very complicated procedure and legal advice is advisable if you have expert witnesses for their qualification and presentations with their reports and evidence admissibility.  If you need assistance with a child support matter, it is in your best interest to speak with a San Diego child support attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that, in a paternity action, the father filed a motion to reduce his child support payments to the mother. At that time, the father had custody of the couple’s son approximately 1/3 of the time. The mother responded by requesting a vocational evaluation of the father. An expert was appointed to evaluate the father’s earning capacity, but the father refused to participate in the evaluation. The father filed three motions in limine to preclude the vocational expert’s report from being admitted into evidence. The Trial Court considered but ultimately denied the motions.

Allegedly, at the hearing on the issue of the father’s earning capacity, he testified about his limited ability to work due to a car accident and presented an offer of proof from his sister. The mother testified regarding her income as well. The vocational expert testified that the father was qualified for several job types, and his highest-earning capacity would be in the legal field. The Trial Court admitted the expert report into evidence. The Trial Court determined that the father owed child support in the amount of $464 per month based on the expert’s testimony and considering the mother’s income and expenses, which represented an increase of approximately $270 per month. The father appealed.

Hearsay Evidence in Child Support Actions

On appeal, the father argued, among other things, that the vocational expert’s testimony contained hearsay evidence regarding the father’s employers, income, and education, violating the rules established by California case law. The Court disagreed with this assertion, however, and stated that expert witnesses are allowed to rely on hearsay in forming their opinions as long as they do not present case-specific hearsay as factual evidence.

In the subject case, the vocational expert explained the basis of his opinion by referring to the documents he relied on, which were already part of the Court record or had been admitted into evidence. Therefore, the Court found that the Trial Court did not err in admitting the expert’s testimony and report and denied the father’s appeal.

Talk to an Experienced California Child Support Attorney

In almost all cases with minor children in San Diego Courts, the Judge will order one parent to pay child support to the other. If you need assistance with a child support dispute, it is smart to talk to an attorney about your options. The experienced San Diego child support attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC can advise you of your rights and help you to seek an outcome that is in your child’s best interest. You can reach us through our online form or call us at 800-769-4748 to set up a free and confidential meeting.

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