Child support awards are intended to ensure that divorcing parents provide for essentials like food, shelter, clothing and health care for their kids. As we’ve written about in previous blog posts, support orders may also cover other areas, such as education expenses. As the name suggests, child support is generally designed to support kids. Nevertheless, as the state’s Second District Court of Appeals recently explained, there are certain instances in which a parent may be required to continue supporting a child through adulthood.
Husband and Wife divorced in 2003 and later entered an agreement, under which Husband pledged to pay child support for the couple’s then 11-year-old daughter. The child had been diagnosed with autism and the agreement stated that Husband would pay nearly $1,750 in support until Daughter “dies, marries, is emancipated or until the parties are no longer legally obligated,” by court order. Husband filed a motion seeking to stop the child support payments eight years later, arguing that he was no longer obligated to make the payments because Daughter was now an adult.
A trial court found that Daughter qualified for adult child support under section 3910 of the California Family Code. The law states that “[t]he father and mother have an equal responsibility to maintain, to the extent of their ability, a child of whatever age who is incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means.” Here, the court observed that Daughter needed around-the-clock care and would continue to require such care for the rest of her life. Indeed, the court said the evidence showed that Daughter was not able to function without constant adult supervision. A psychologist testified that Daughter would never be able to live on her own or support herself financially.
The trial court ordered Husband to continue making the support payments and to make retroactive payments covering the period since he filed the motion seeking to stop his child support obligation. Affirming the decision on appeal, the Second District said the trial judge didn’t err in making the payments retroactive.
The Court said the Family Code clearly gave the trial court the right to order that child support payments be made retroactively. Moreover, the Court said the evidence showed that Daughter was eligible for adult child support based on her circumstances. “[T]he trial court concluded that [Daughter] would suffer a severe hardship if the order were not retroactive,” the Second District said. “The court also considered [Husband]’s ability to pay, relying on a forensic accountant to determine his earnings, findings which are not challenged on appeal.”
As a result, the Court upheld the retroactive child support award.
If you’re considering seeking a divorce in California, contact San Jose divorce lawyer John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished family law attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve child support and other issues on optimal terms. Call our office at (408)297-0700 to schedule a consultation.
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