Dealing With Child Support in California When the Supporting Parent Has Very High Net Worth

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.

The parent assigned an obligation of support in this case was Kinka Usher. Trivia buffs might know Usher as the director of the 1999 superhero comedy Mystery Men, but Usher actually achieved his greatest success and wealth from directing commercials for major companies like Pepsi, Nike, Bridgestone Tires, Miller Lite Beer, Nissan, and Polaroid, as well as the “Got Milk?” series. From this, Usher amassed a total net worth exceeding $67 million.

In 2006, Usher both married and had a son. Usher and his wife separated in 2008. In addition to his substantial amount of amassed wealth, Usher was also continuing to earn roughly $4.25 million per year from his ongoing work. As part of the couple’s stipulated judgment of divorce, Usher agreed to pay $12,500 per month in child support, which climbed to $17,500 per month in 2010.

In 2014, however, the father asked for a reduction in his child support obligation. He argued that he had experienced a major change in circumstances, in that his income was no longer in excess of $4.25 million but was closer to $841,000. The father proposed reducing the child support obligation to $5,100. The mother opposed this reduction. At trial, she offered an economic expert who concluded that the father had $37 million in liquid assets and another $30 million in real estate and personal property. Even with a conservative investment strategy, the father’s wealth should be generating $260,000 per month, which would be in addition to the father’s $70,000 in income from work.

Despite the mother’s expert testimony, the trial court concluded that the father was entitled to a modification, reducing the father’s monthly payment to $9,800 per month. The mother appealed, and she won. The appeals court concluded that the father’s reduction in income was not the sort of material change in circumstances needed to allow the courts to modify the father’s child support payment. The trial court in this case concluded that the father had experienced the necessary material change based solely upon his reduction in work-related income. The appeals court’s opinion in this case makes it clear that California law doesn’t follow that standard. Previous rulings have established that the law does not allow for a modification based upon a reduction of work-related income when the supporting parent also has substantial non-income-producing assets that he shelters and from which he benefits. With $60 million in assets, this father’s experiencing a reduction of work-related income of $280,000 just wasn’t enough.

California child support cases are as unique as the families involved. Each case has its own complexities, and, the more money that is involved, the more complicated the case can potentially be. The diligent San Diego child support attorneys at Doppelt and Forney, APLC have been assisting clients throughout Southern California, including in San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista, for many years and have the skills and experience to help you with the legal twists and turns of your child support case. For a free consultation, reach out to Doppelt and Forney, APLC through our website or call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

More blog posts:

California Court’s Use of ‘Wrong Criteria’ Gives New Life to Mother’s Request for Child Support Increase, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 20, 2016

California Court Denies Father’s Request to Modify Child Support Award, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 5, 2016

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