When 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 most stereotypical child support cases, one parent makes a monthly payment to the other parent for the support of the child. So what happens if you have a court order that requires you to pay support to your ex-spouse, but then, some time later, the child stops living with your ex-spouse and thereafter lives with your parents? According to a recent ruling by the First District Court of Appeal, this situation may entitle you to pursue certain legal action regarding your child support, even if the child resided with a third party rather than in your own home.
The backstory was a complicated one. The parents married in 1978 and had the child in 1979, and the mother filed for divorce in 1981. The child, from 1981 to reaching age 18 in 1997, lived with the mother for two 10-month stretches. For the rest of the time, the child lived with the father’s parents.
Child support can be a complicated issue in any family. Even when the supporting parent is among the “1%,” the supporting parent may feel a need to seek a downward modification of his obligation when his income dips. That’s what a movie and commercial director claimed after his work-related income dropped by more than three-quarters. However, since the director also had more than $60 million in amassed assets, the Second District Court of Appeal concluded that the father had not demonstrated a material change in circumstances, and the trial court should have denied his request for a modification.
When 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.
The chances are that you are good at the job you do. Whether you are a plumber or a podiatrist, a kindergarten teacher or a chemical engineer, it is reasonably likely that there are things about your job and your industry that are well within your personal sphere of knowledge that would be outside that of the average “person on the street” who hasn’t done your job. The same is true for the law — all types of law. While family law matters may seem more manageable as a layperson than, say, patent law or international business transactions, thinking that there isn’t a cost to be paid when you forego counsel can very often be dangerous. In one recent case, a father managed, as a result of the way he mishandled his appeals case, to block the First District Court of Appeal from reviewing either his divorce judgment or his post-judgment child support case.
In a very instructive recent decision by the Fourth District Court of Appeal, the court concluded that California’s public policy in favor of the fulfillment of child support obligations could trump the contractual provisions of a trust agreement. In this specific case, that meant a trustee of a trust could be ordered to pay a woman’s back owed child support to the father of her children, even though the trust agreement had clear language forbidding the trustee from making payments to creditors of the mother, a named beneficiary in the trust. The decision offers a useful tool for parents seeking to analyze all avenues for collecting unpaid child support.
One way to resolve your divorce case is to agree to a stipulated judgment of dissolution. You should be very cautious about agreeing to a stipulated judgment without consulting counsel first, however, since doing so may involve your surrendering certain rights you might otherwise have. In a recent case originating in Orange County, that’s exactly what happened. In the Fourth District Court of Appeal‘s ruling, the husband could not pursue a termination of his spousal support, even though the statutes allow for cessation after a recipient spouse remarries, since he had contracted to continue paying even if his ex-wife remarried.
In most divorce cases involving children, the family court will order the amount of monthly child support to be paid to the supported spouse. That amount will remain in effect for as long as the court decides, or until one party can show a “change of circumstances” sufficient to modify the order. Under California law, there are no official guidelines governing when circumstances have changed enough to warrant a modification. The determination is typically made on a case-by-case basis and often rests on one’s ability to pay or one’s financial status. Child support is an extremely important issue in any divorce or separation case. An experienced San Diego family law attorney would be able to analyze your situation and determine the financial options for your family and you.
Courts often step in when a parent fails to make support payments or alleges that he or she is unable to meet the obligation. The California Family Code authorizes a court to require a parent who alleges that the parent’s default in a child or family support order is due to the parent’s unemployment to submit a list of at least five different places the parent has applied for employment. This is known as a “seek-work” order. In a recent California case, the ex-husband and father claimed that the court should not have issued a seek-work order and that the actual form was arbitrary. He also alleged that the family court abused its discretion by denying his request to modify the child support order.
The California Family Code devotes an entire section to the regulation of child support. Under the law, a parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life. Therefore, when a couple seeks to separate and divorce, the court will attempt to fashion a child support arrangement that suits the family’s circumstances. In order to do so, courts are required to consult and apply the Family Code’s Statewide Uniform Guideline. This is a crucial part of a divorce case that will ultimately dictate the parties’ financial interests going forward. To protect your family’s legal and financial rights, you are strongly encouraged to contact a local San Diego family law attorney as early in the case as possible.
Under the mandatory formula for calculating child support, courts will look at each parent’s “income from whatever source derived.” This includes a host of sources, including but not limited to “commissions, salaries, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, and workers’ compensation benefits,” among many other items. The statute clearly contemplates additional sources of income not identified therein. In fact, at least one California case has pointed out that the codified items are “by way of illustration only.”
A court order for child support in a divorce case or child custody dispute between two parents is a serious matter. The parent who is obligated to make the child support payments will be expected to adhere to the court order or else face possible legal action. When the support payment is not made, the amount due is considered “in arrears,” and courts may apply interest to the amount outstanding. California family law governs a parent’s obligation to pay and sets forth legal requirements for collection. If you are facing a divorce or another family law dispute involving children, it is extremely important to protect your rights. The best course of action is to reach out to an experienced San Diego family law lawyer as soon as possible.
Child support cases can vary a great deal from one family to the next, and in some situations, they can become quite complicated. In a recent California case, the parents were in a dispute over whether the father’s derivative Social Security benefits could be applied to the amount of child support payments that he failed to pay for several years. Here, the mother and the father had one child together. In 2003, a court ordered the father to pay $507 in monthly child support payments to the mother. Over the succeeding years, the payments were incrementally reduced. By 2011, the family court held a hearing and reduced the amount of monthly support to $8.50.