Court Examines Burdens of Proof in California Child Support Matters

Raising a child is expensive, and few people can afford to do it alone. As such, in many cases where parents share custody, the Courts will order one parent to pay the other child support. Child support obligations are typically based, in part, on each party’s actual income, but in some cases, the Courts will find it appropriate to use a party’s imputed income instead. Recently, a California court discussed each party’s burden of proof in establishing their income in child support matters. If you need assistance with a child support issue, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable San Diego child support attorney to discuss your rights. 

Procedural Background of the Case

Reportedly, the mother and the father married in 2010 and had two children during their marriage. Both parties worked and provided financial support for the family. In 2015, the father filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. They entered into a marital settlement agreement that provided that the parties would share equal time with the children and custody rights. It also imposed a monthly child support obligation of over $800 on the father, which was derived from the parties’ income and the statutory guidelines.

It is alleged that the Court entered a stipulation judgment of dissolution and ordered the father to pay the child support amount indicated in the agreement. In 2018, the mother lost her job, and the Court doubled the father’s child support obligation. Then, in 2019, the father moved to modify his child support obligation to nothing, stating that he lost his job and did not have another source of income. The Court imputed income to the father in the amount of his severance pay and reduced his child support obligation to approximately $1,000 per month. The father filed a second motion to reduce his support obligation to nothing. Following a hearing, the Court determined that it was in the children’s best interest to use the father’s earning capacity to calculate his support obligation. The father then appealed, arguing that the Trial Court improperly placed the burden of establishing his imputed income on him.

Burdens of Proof in Child Support Matters

The Court affirmed the Trial Court ruling. In doing so, it explained that a Court might, at its discretion, impute income to a parent that is different from their actual income but corresponds to their earning capacity. It elaborated that earning capacity is the income a party is reasonably capable of earning based on their skills, education, health, age, and employment history.

In cases in which a party moves to modify support based on imputed income, which party carries the burden of proof as to establish the ability and opportunity to earn income varies depending on whether the payee or payor seeks a modification. In the subject case, the Court found that the burden properly rested with the father and that he failed to meet his burden. Thus, it affirmed the Trial Court ruling.

Talk to a Dedicated San Diego Family Law Attorney

While the Courts take a party’s income into consideration in determining child support obligations, a party cannot avoid paying support by refusing to meet their earning potential. If you are faced with a child support dispute, and you are interested in learning more about your rights, it is smart to meet with an attorney. The dedicated San Diego lawyers of Doppelt and Forney APLC can assess the facts of your case and discuss legal strategies and legal arguments designed to help you to seek a favorable outcome. You can reach us by calling us at 800-769-4748 or using our online form to set up a free and confidential conference.

Contact Information