LAKERS’ GUARD STEVE NASH PLAYS DEFENSE AGAINST CHILD SUPPORT

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When future NBA hall of famer Steve Nash first signed on with the Los Angeles Lakers he talked about hittin’ a few jumpers, maybe winning a championship, and how his family would benefit by him being so close to his children.  Now, however, the superstar guard finds himself in a full court press to keep those same children in Arizona and out of California.

That’s because Nash’s ex-wife, Alejandra Amarilla, has spiced things up by attempting to move the couple’s children to California in order to get a child support order from her ex.  This in turn appears to have prompted her aging point guard ex to dig in for what promises to be an expensive legal battle for the two.

Mom says she just wants to move the kids to California so they can spend more time with their father.  And she’s hired one of L.A.s biggest divorce lawyers to prove it – and maybe to do a little battle in both the California and Arizona family law courts.  Dad, on the other hand, believes it’s all just a scheme to get child support and not necessarily what’s in the best interests for the kids.

The couple announced their split in 2010, five years after they were married.  Previously, an Arizona family law judge ruled that Amarilla is not entitled to child support in Arizona, however, she might be able to seek it in California, should she move there.

So maybe there are better schools in California, as mom has stated.  And maybe the former Mrs. Steve Nash and the former couple’s children will enjoy living in California for six months and…if things haven’t settled by then…mom can file in California’s family law court.  And the child support case will be back on, only this time it’ll be California style.  And little Stevie will probably be on the financial hook for a heckuva lot more than if he’d just settled things with the former missus back in Arizona.

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NO ERR TO BASE SUPPORT ORDERS ON REASONABLY REDUCED WORK SCHEDULE BASED ON CHILD’S BEST INTERESTS

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An important case has recently been handed down by California’s appellate courts that stated that the trial court in a family law matter did not err by basing its support orders on Wife’s 80% work schedule where that percentage constituted objectively reasonable work regimen and was in Child’s best interests.  The facts of In re Marriage of Lim and Carrasco are as follows:

The couple was married in 2003, and later they had two children.  During the marriage, Husband was a college professor and Wife was a partner in a law firm.  They separated in 2011 and Husband filed for divorce later that year.  Husband dismissed his petition three (3) days later, and they attempted to reconcile.  Having failed their reconciliation, one month later Wife filed for divorce.

Husband filed an ex parte request seeking custody of the children, child support, visitation, and temporary spousal support.  In his supporting declaration, Husband stated that his flexible work schedule allowed him more time to care for the two children, while Wife’s burden of billable hours required her to work longer hours.

In her responsive declaration, Wife agreed to pay guideline child support based on her recently adopted 80% work schedule.  At the conclusion of the hearing, the family law trial court found that Wife’s reduced working schedule would still involve “working a substantial amount of the time” and that the 80% schedule would be in the children’s best interests.

Accordingly, the trial court determined that child support should be based on Wife’s actual income under that schedule.  In findings and order after hearing, the trial court further found that child support and spousal support should be calculated per Wife’s reduced schedule income.  Husband claimed the trial court should have calculated support based on Wife’s full-time earning capacity and erred by deviating from the guideline, and he appealed.  But CA-6 affirmed the trial court’s decision.

CHILD SUPPORT ORDER SURVIVES DISSOLUTION OF TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

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Another important case was recently decided by the California Appellate courts which declared that the trial court’s jurisdiction to make child support orders survives the dissolution of a temporary restraining order.  The facts behind Moore v. Bedard (DCSS) (2013) (Cal.App.4th) are as follows:

Wife requested domestic violence restraining orders to protect her from her Husband who was the father of their three (3) children.  Her request for DVPO’s also asked for child custody, visitation, and child support orders that would modify orders previously entered.  A TRO was entered but never served.  When the matter came on for hearing the parties stipulated to orders that dissolved the temporary restraining order.  The stipulation also resolved child support issues and other monetary issues.

Three years later, the Riverside County DCSS filed a substitution of payee form designating it as the payee of child support.  In 2010 and early 2011, various enforcement actions, including a bank levy, were undertaken and several hearings were held.  Two years after that, Husband filed a request for a hearing to modify child support.  There, the trial court found there were no restraining orders in place and dismissed the case.  Regarding child support, the court referred the parties to DCSS, and it ordered the entire action to be dismissed.

DCSS then moved to vacate the order dismissing the action, noting Husband had taken the position that there was no valid support order because the entire action had been dismissed.  At the hearing, the trial court concluded that it had lost jurisdiction 5 years earlier when the requested restraining order was not issued.  The trial court “voided” the parties’ stipulation and the orders entered the previous year.  The trial court ruled it had lost jurisdiction to make a child support order because it did not issue a restraining order.

Nevertheless, the trial court set aside the order of dismissal on the ground DCSS was not represented at the hearing.  DCSS appealed and it was reversed.  The appellate court ruled it to be an error to dismiss the action for a lack of jurisdiction.  The court had jurisdiction to make child support orders, and such jurisdiction survived the “dissolution” of the TRO.

STATE SEEKS CHILD SUPPORT FROM SPERM DONOR

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So you’re a Topeka man and you’re feeling quite virile, and so you answer a Craigslist ad from a lesbian couple seeking a sperm donor.  No problem, right?  You’ve got the juice, you make a little donation, take a couple bucks home for your trouble, and you’re back to your own life, searching through more Craigslist ads.  And that’s when it hits you, and the trouble really begins.

Believe it or not, this all happened to a gentleman named William Marotta.  And he’s now battling the state of Kansas for his troubles.

According to the Ventura County Star, Marotta, a Topeka, Kansas man, donated sperm to a lesbian couple after answering an online ad.  He now finds himself fighting the state’s efforts to suddenly force him to pay child support for the now 3-year-old girl, arguing that he and the women signed an agreement that waived all of his parental rights.

No doctors were used for the artificial insemination, thus, Kansas argues that because Marotta didn’t work through a clinic or doctor, as required by state law, he can be held responsible for the approximately $6,000 that the child’s biological mom received through public assistance – as well as future child support.  At least ten (10) other states have similar requirements in their laws, including California.

In this case, after answering the Craigslist ad in 2009, Marotta and the lesbian couple exchanged e mails.  They then met, and all three signed an agreement relieving Marotta of any financial or paternal responsibility.  However, the Kansas Department For Children and Families argues that the agreement isn’t valid because no doctor was used.  Instead, Marotta agreed to drop off containers with his sperm at the couple’s home.

The women handled the artificial insemination themselves using a syringe, and then one of them became pregnant.  Later that year they broke up, and Mom ended up receiving public assistance from the state.  And now Marotta is left holding the bag, literally, as Kansas seeks reimbursement for the benefits and to hold Marotta liable for future child support payments.

Although the agreement the lesbian couple signed with Marotta said the women would “hold him harmless” financially, and that they would not list a father on the birth certificate, he appears to still be on the hook legally.  That’s because the state of Kansas law appears to consider a sperm donor not to be the father only when the donor provides sperm to a licensed physician for artificial insemination of a woman who is not the donor’s wife.  This law is said to encourage donors and prospective mothers to work with a doctor instead of an empty jar and syringe.

MATERIAL CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES FOR CHILD SUPPORT REDUCTION

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An interesting case came down last year regarding the modification of child support.  In the case of Marriage of Bodo (2011) 198 CA4th 373, 129, CR3d 298, a California Appellate Court held that requiring a “substantial change of circumstances” as a condition of modifying an agreed-to child support order is equivalent to requiring a “material change of circumstances;” and a trial court that found no substantial change in parties’ financial circumstances did not apply an improper legal standard.

The facts of the case were as follows:  As part of a judicially supervised settlement of their marital dissolution, the parties stipulated that Husband’s income was $33,333 per month and that he would pay $7,000 monthly for the support of the couple’s four children, along with private school tuition through high school.  Two years later, Husband moved to reduce child support, arguing that his income was reduced and he had to borrow funds to pay support.

The trial court found that support under the parties’ agreement could not be reduced without a “substantial change in circumstances,” and that, although a substantial change in Husband’s time-share (from 20 to 38.5 percent) warranted some reduction, there was no substantial change in Husband’s overall income.

Therefore, the trial court reduced the support amount to $6,178 and made orders regarding more than $79,000 in arrearages.  Husband appealed, claiming that the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard instead of determining whether a “material change of circumstances” had occurred to modify an “above guideline” support amount.  Husband also claimed that the court should have considered the financial effects of a change in time-share in evaluating whether his financial circumstances had changed.

The court of appeal affirmed the judgment.  It held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion.  The appellate court found that courts have variously referred to the need to show a “change of circumstances,” a “material change of circumstances,” or a “substantial change of circumstances” as a basis to modify support.

The appellate court concluded that a “material change of circumstances” is the same as a “substantial change of circumstances” for the purpose of modifying child support.  It held that the trial court did not apply the wrong legal standard in evaluating the merits of Husband’s motion to modify support.  It also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding no overall change in Husband’s income, even though some underlying facts had changed.  Lastly, the appellate court found that the trial court had correctly taken into account the change in Husband’s time-share in reducing child support per month.

NO JAIL FOR RODMAN OVER DELINQUENT CHILD SUPPORT

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Former NBA rebounding champion Dennis Rodman was sentenced in California family law court last Tuesday to 104 hours of community service on four counts of contempt for failing to pay child support.  According to the Ventura County Star, the flamboyant former basketball star was also placed on three years of formal probation, while staying out of jail in the process.

“My suggestion is to use your talents as a motivator, as a fine, fine athlete and as a fine person to assist others in need,” Orange County Court Commissioner Barry Michaelson told the retired basketball player.

The sentencing brought to an end one of the disputes in the long running case, which began when Rodman’s now-ex-wife filed for divorce in 2004.  But Rodman still faces additional contempt charges and allegedly owes back child support in the amount of $860,000.  In court, the former basketball player said he’d do whatever community service was required near his home in Florida, which could possibly include working with children.  Rodman also said he did not begrudge his ex-wife.

“It’s all about the kids,” the 51-year-old said of the ex couple’s two children after the hearing.  “It does suck the fact that it had come to this.”

Rodman was found guilty of the four counts of contempt last year for child support owed from 2009 to 2010.  Rodman’s attorney said the four charges stemmed from a period of time when he was expected to pay $50,000 a month in child support.  That amount has since been reduced to $4,500 for both child support and spousal support.

After Tuesday’s hearing in family court in Orange County, Michelle Rodman’s attorney said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling and an award of $32,500 in attorney’s fees.  Witnesses say the ex-wife’s attorney was “real pleased” with this latest ruling, and who could blame him.

CHILD SUPPORT DEBTORS COULD LOSE ALL INCOME

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Beware!!!  The U.S. Federal Government has once again gone on the attack.  This time it has set its crosshairs on the backs of deadbeat, disabled dads all across the country.

Government policy has changed to now allow states to seize every penny of federal benefits from men who owe back child support.  The previous law only allowed states to siphon sixty-five (65) percent of the benefits received per paper check.  Now, it is estimated that 275,000 men could be left penniless due to the change.

A major concern centers around the Treasury Department’s decision to pay all benefits electronically beginning next year, including disability, Social Security and veterans’ benefits.  A separate Treasury Department rule grants states the power to freeze the bank accounts of men and women who collect federal benefits and owe child support.  With the seizure of the remaining thirty-five (35) percent of benefits, thousands of poor men could lose their only source of income.

In many of the cases, the bills are decades old and the children involved have reached adulthood.  A great majority of the debt owed is based on interest and fees that accrued while the men were unable to pay because they were disabled, institutionalized, or in prison.  What’s worse, most of the money will not even go toward the children of the men with child support debts.  It will go to the government.  States have been enabled to keep the money as a form of repayment for welfare previously given to those children.

The Draconian change shows how a politically desirable goal such as cracking down on deadbeat dads can result in counterproductive effects in practice.  Disabled fathers will now be in foreclosure and unable to pay their bills due to states’ aggressive efforts to collect back child support.  Fathers will now have the very real fear that they will face going to jail due to no ability to pay back the debts.

Who says debtor prisons are a thing of the past.

Some attorneys are advising their clients to collect their benefits while they can per paper check.  This will allow them at least some cash to pay their bills.  However, that option will terminate next March due to the Treasury Department depositing benefits directly into bank accounts or load them onto prepaid debit cards.  Either way, the state child support agencies will have access to all of it.

As a result of the practice, government agencies are expected to save $1 billion over the next ten (10) years.  Yet the dilemma will still remain:  Do we prevent states from collecting child support debts versus the risk of impoverishing thousands of people by depriving them of their only source of income?

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