Child Support Less Than Guideline Can Be Ordered Despite Father’s High Income

A California Court of Appeals has ruled that a Trial Court was not wrong by awarding child support which was less than the guideline support where Trial Courts order took into account Fathers extremely high income, Childs need for support commensurate with Fathers lifestyle, and Childs best interests.

In the case of S.P. v. F.G., Mother, a star in Swedish reality television, became pregnant by Father, a successful business man with a net annual income of more than $4 million. Shortly before their Child was born, Father agreed to provide financial support for Child to the tune of $9,200 per month. In early 2015, Father increased that amount to $10,000 per month, and continued his additional payments for Childs educational expenses, extracurricular activities, and medical expenses.

When Child was age 10, Mother filed a petition to establish Fathers legal relationship with Child. Mother followed up two years later with a request for a guideline child support order, along with a supporting declaration and an Income and Expense Declaration. Alternatively, Mother asked that the child support order be no less than $35,000 per month and to include Father paying for all of Childs medical care, education, and extracurricular activities. In a subsequent Income and Expense declaration, Mother claimed proposed needs of $78,155 per month, $69,420 of which was attributable to Childs needs. Mother sought enough support to upgrade their housing from the 2,700 sq. foot house in Pacific Palisades that they now rented for $5,480 a month to a furnished home that was comparable to Fathers and rented for $34,000 per month complete with appropriate staff and amenities. Mother claimed that Child needed $4,725 a month for entertainment, gifts, and vacation, $3,100 a month for groceries and eating out, more than $3,000 per month for clothing and dry cleaning, plus many thousands more for a Mercedes-Benz and attendant expenses, utilities, and phone services. Mother also stated that 14-year-old Child needed $1,200 a month for cosmetology, massages, and spa treatments because Child was extremely beautiful and would undoubtedly be a top model in the future.

After due consideration, Trial Court issued an order calculating guideline support at $40,882 per month, but deviating downward from that figure. Trial Court specifically determined that some of the proposed needs submitted by M appear to have no factual support or appear purposely inflated and facially unreasonable (such as summer camp for Child, who did not attend summer camp). Trial Court also found no evidence to support Mothers need for better housing or to indicate that Childs needs were not currently being met. Trial Court determined that the payments that Father had been making for Childs expenses were some indication of Childs needs. Trial Court listed the amounts it considered reasonable for each of the various categories of expenses Mother had stated in her Income and Expense Declaration and concluded that a child support order of $14,840 per month would be reasonable and consistent with Childs best interests. Trial Court also ordered Father to pay all of Childs reasonably necessary medical expenses, cost of Childs medical insurance, and as add-ons, private school tuition, school expenses, and costs of extracurricular activities. Trial Court stated that this order was an increase from Fathers prior payments, would supply Child with a high/affluent standard of living, and would meet Childs reasonable needs. Trial Court concluded that guideline order would not be in Childs best interests and would exceed Childs needs, and that Fathers timeshare was zero. Claiming that Trial Court erred in ordering below guideline support based on Childs historical expenses and not future expenses or Fathers wealth, Mother appealed.

The California Court of Appeals, however, has now affirmed Trial Courts decision. The Appellate Court has ruled that (1) Trial Court did not make its order based on Childs historical expenses, but also took into account Childs reasonable current and anticipated needs; (2) Trial Court properly failed to limit Fathers responsibility for Childs future expenses for tuition, school expenses, and costs of extra-curricular activities and took into consideration Mothers claimed need for better housing; (3) sufficient evidence supported Trial Courts deviation from guideline child support; (4) Trial Court was not wrong in declining to rubber stamp Mothers proposed expenses and weeding out the reasonable from the factually unsupported; (5) Trial Court correctly made detailed explanation for its reasons for deviating from guideline child support; and (6) Trial Court did not err in finding that its order was in Childs best interests.

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