A California Appellate Court has ruled that Trial Court did not err by failing to impute income to Mother who was participating in CalWORKs program when it ordered child support modification. Furthermore, the Appellate Court has ruled that Trial Court did not run afoul of the Elkins Commission by refusing to let Father cross-examine Mother at the hearing because neither party requested oral testimony. In the case of Mendoza v. Ramos, Mother and Father had four children together. Trial Court established Father’s paternity of Children in 2001. In 2003, Mother and Father stipulated to a custody order that gave each 50% timeshare. In July of 2005, Trial Court ordered Father to pay $297 per month for child support.
In February of 2001, Father filed a motion to modify that order, claiming that Children spent most of their time with him and wished to do so in the future. He asked Trial Court to make a zero order. In support of his request, Father asserted that Mother had voluntarily stopped working to return to school and asked Trial Court to attribute earning capacity to her instead of relying on her current income. In response, Mother opposed a zero order and imputation of earning capacity, and contended that Father was seeking zero order because he was years behind in his child support payments and wanted to be rid of that obligation. Mother declared her only income came from A.F.D.C., her children wanted to be in her custody, and she was participating in CalWORKs program through which she would become Licensed Vocational Nurse in June of 2007.
At the hearing on September 4, 2008, the parties were sworn but gave no testimony, choosing to rely on pleadings and arguments of counsel. Mother’s attorney stated that Mother lost her job when employer moved out of state, was unable to find a new job, and decided to enter CalWORKs program, which provides counseling and educational training in lieu of full-time employment. Counsel also claimed that Father had voluntarily reduced his income by becoming self-employed and that Mother was forced to ask for A.F.D.C. when Father failed to pay child support.
When the hearing concluded, Trial Court declined to impute income to Mother because she was in CalWORKs program, and ordered Father to pay child support of $873 per month beginning September 1, 2008. Claiming that Trial Court erred by refusing to impute income to Mother and by issuing order without having heard testimony or cross-examination, Father appealed, but California Appellate Court has now affirmed Trial Court’s rulings. The Appellate Court has ruled that (1) Trial Court did not err by declining to impute income to Mother because (a) Father had failed to show that Mother had skills or opportunity to earn amount of income he wanted Trial Court to impute to her and (b) per Barron (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 293, imputing income to a parent in CalWORKs program is against public policy; and (2) Trial Court did not err by failing to allow cross-examination because neither party requested oral testimony and Father did not ask Trial Court for opportunity to cross-examine Mother.