With all of the wrangling between parents that sometimes happens in family law cases, it can be tough at moments to remember that child support is intended to provide for a couple’s children rather than to assess blame between the parents. Generally, parents are expected to provide basic support for their children until each child reaches the age of 18. That obligation may very well stand after one or both parents dies, as California’s Fifth District Court of Appeals recently explained.
Mother and Father were never married but had a son in 2006. Two years later, a court granted full custody over the boy to Mother and ordered Father to pay $240 in monthly child support. The court also ordered the parents to split all of Son’s unreimbursed medical costs. Less than a year later, Father sought to have the child support payments modified based on a change in circumstances. He had reached the fourth and final stage of a graduated parenting and visitation plan and was also seeking more unsupervised time with the child.
Father later refiled, asking the court to terminate his child support obligation and to instead order Mother to pay child support to Father. He said he had no income at the time, while Mother was bringing in $8,000 per month. The litigation was extended several times, during which Husband’s child support obligation was temporarily reduced to zero, and Mother eventually died due to illness. Following Mother’s death, Father added the trustee for a trust established to hold Mother’s assets as a defendant in the child support case. The trial court denied his request, however, that it retroactively order Mother to pay child support via funds in the trust.