Are Voluntary Child Support Payments Credited Under California Law?
California law establishes a series of uniform guidelines that courts must follow when establishing a parent’s obligation to pay child support. A support obligation is not necessarily limited to direct cash payments from one parent to another. It may also include indirect payments, such as covering the costs of a child’s home or educational expenses.
Judge Grants “Housing Credit” After Father Forced to Move Out of Home Due to Domestic Violence Allegations
A recent California appeals court decision, AS v. RS, also makes it clear that when a parent voluntarily pays child support, even before the court has made a formal order, those payments may be credited towards their obligation. In this case, the mother and father have three minor children. The parents never legally married although they lived together. The mother also worked for the father’s company, where he was the chief executive officer.
In November 2020, the father terminated the mother’s employment. She then filed a request for a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO), accusing the father of abusing both her and the children. A judge issued a temporary restraining order, which required the father to move out of his house and into a hotel. The mother and the children remained in the house.
The mother then filed for divorce, alleging she and the father had entered into a “common law” marriage in Colorado. She also requested child support. The father, without any prompting from the court, started paying the mother $4,000 per month in child support.
A California court ultimately determined there was no common law marriage and dismissed the mother’s divorce petition. The mother withdrew her request for a DVRO and the father moved back into the house. A few months later, the mother filed a new petition for child custody and child support. As part of this new proceeding, the father asked the court to credit both the voluntary child support payments he had been making to the mother, as well as a “housing credit” for the money he spent on the upkeep of the house during the period he was forced to vacate the property.
The court ultimately resolved the outstanding custody and support issues. As relevant here, the judge credited the father for 100 percent of the “fair rental value” of the house while the mother and children lived there without him and 50 percent for the time they lived together. The court also credited the father for his voluntary support payments.
The mother appealed. She argued that crediting these payments violated California’s child support guidelines. The California Fourth District Court of Appeals disagreed. It held that “substantial evidence” supported the trial judge’s decision on these issues. Notably, the appeals court said the father paid child support in amounts consistent with the guidelines, and there was nothing in the law that prevented crediting housing payments as part of that support.
Contact a San Jose Child Support Lawyer Today
Child support is often a contentious issue, especially when the parents are fighting a much broader legal battle over the end of their relationship and who will have custody of their children. A qualified San Jose child support attorney can guide you through this process and help you obtain an outcome that is favorable to you and your family. Contact Foster Hsu, LLP, to schedule an initial consultation.