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Want to Appeal a California Divorce Decision? You Need a Transcript – Ziyad v. Ziyad

Here’s some advice for anyone considering or facing a divorce:  request that a court reporter attend any and all hearings and get transcripts of them. Without a record of the evidence presented and the reasons for a judge’s ruling on a particular issue, it is exceedingly difficult to appeal the decision.

gavel-2-1409592-mWife filed for divorce from Husband in August 2008, and a court dissolved the marriage roughly 16 months later. The former spouses continued to litigate a number of issues related to the divorce, however, including child custody, support and visitation. A trial court originally ordered Husband to pay more than $1,250 per month in child support. The court found that Husband had custody of the children about four percent of the time and that he had monthly earnings of about $4,250, while Wife had no monthly income. The court apparently imputed this income to Husband based on what he said was the amount of his monthly expenses. That appears to be because he didn’t provide any information about how much money he was actually bringing in at the time.

In May 2014, a trial court granted Husband’s request to reduce the child support payments, lowering the payments to $1,150. Although Husband said he was making $400 per month, the court noted that he didn’t change his living expenses amount. Instead he wrote “N/A” in a form asking for his monthly expenses. The court further noted that Husband’s custody of the kids had increased to about 10 percent per month and that Wife had since raised her net disposable income to about $2,300 per month.

Affirming the decision on appeal, the First District said the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion by declining to further reduce the support award. “In conducting our review for an abuse of discretion, we determine whether the court’s factual determinations are supported by substantial evidence and whether the court acted reasonably in exercising its discretion,” the Court said.

In this case, the Court noted that there was no transcript of the proceedings in the trial court because Husband elected to proceed without a court reporter. Without that record, the appeals court said it couldn’t determine how the lower court reviewed and weighed the evidence. “Inasmuch as the appeal is taken on the clerk’s transcript only, the judgment or order is not subject to evidentiary challenge or review; it is presumed the evidence supports the judgment and the court’s findings,” the Court said.

Similarly, the Court said it had no way of considering Husband’s argument that the lower court had violated his civil rights in its conduct of the hearing because there was no record of the hearing. The court affirmed the new child custody award.

The transcript requirement may seem like a minor issue, but it can make or break a California divorce case.  If you’re considering seeking a divorce in California, contact San Jose family law 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.

Related blog posts:

Modifying California Child Support Orders – In re Marriage of Webber and Chen

Child Support and Health Care Costs – In re Marriage of Bareket and Marcus

The ‘Clean Hands’ Requirement in California Child Support Cases – In re Marriage of Boswell