Child Support Determinations in California Family-Law Cases

In any family law case involving a child, the Courts must issue rulings that are in the child’s best interest. The best interest standard applies not only to matters in which child custody is at issue but also in cases in which child support obligations are being established or modified. If a Court fails to adhere to the best interest standard when making a child support ruling, its ruling may be vacated, as demonstrated in a recent California case. If you need assistance with a child support matter, it is prudent to speak to a dedicated San Diego child support attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the father has two children and that he paid their mother child support. In 2015, the father and the mother entered into a stipulated judgment that established their parental obligations. Among other things, it defined his monthly child support obligation. In 2021, the Department of Child Support filed an action to modify the father’s support obligation on the grounds that his income had increased, and it had been three years since the last modification.

Reportedly, following a hearing, the Trial Court found that per the child support guidelines, the father’s child support obligation should increase by approximately $400 per month, but determined the father could not afford that amount. Subsequently, the Trial Court reduced the father’s child support obligation by $200 per month rather than increasing it. The Department of Child Support then appealed.

Child Support Determinations in California Family-Law Cases

On appeal, the Department of Child Support argued that the Trial Court erred in reducing the father’s child support obligation because it failed to demonstrate that the reduction was in the children’s best interest. Further, the Department of Child Support argued that the ruling was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court agreed and reversed the Trial Court ruling.

In doing so, it explained that California has child support guidelines and that the Courts could only deviate from the guidelines in certain circumstances. Additionally, if a Court issued an order deviating from the guidelines, it must set forth on the record or in writing what the support would be under the guidelines, as well as the reasons for its departure and the reasons the departure is in the child’s best interests.

The Court noted that the statutory findings are mandatory, and the failure to make them may constitute reversible error. As the Trial Court failed to make such findings in the subject case, the Court reversed its ruling and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

Talk to a Dedicated San Diego Family Law Attorney

Parents typically want what is best for their children, but they may not agree on what amount of child support is necessary to provide for their children’s needs. If you want to learn more about your rights and obligations with regard to child support, it is in your best interest to talk to an attorney. The dedicated San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC can inform you of your options and help you to pursue a just result. We regularly represent people in child support matters in San Diego and other cities in San Diego County. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 800-769-4748 to set up a meeting.

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