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A Parent Who Stipulates to Being Able to Pay Any Reasonable Child Support Order May be Ordered by the Divorce Court to Pay Above the Child’s Demonstrated Necessities

Mother, who had child custody of couple’s minor children requested a modification of the child support order. Father had a net worth of more than $1,000,000, with a monthly income of $22,500 after taxes and through his divorce lawyer, stipulated that he had the ability to pay any reasonable increase in child support payments. The divorce court modified the child support order from $325 per child monthly to $900 per child monthly based on mother’s demonstrated need and financially inferior position. Additionally, father was ordered to pay private school tuition of $2,400 for their eldest child who had epilepsy. The divorce court denied mother’s divorce lawyer’s request to increase spousal support but did award mother $7,500 in attorneys fees.

On mother’s divorce lawyer’s appeal, the Court found that the divorce court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to modify spousal support based on a finding that it was non-modifiable. The divorce court explained that a spousal support order is modifiable, unless made non-modifiable by the parties and here the parties had in fact made spousal support non-modifiable.  Additionally, agreeing with mother’s divorce lawyer, the court held that it was not an abuse of discretion for the divorce court to modify the child support order to $900 per child based on the children’s stated needs. Further, the appellate court explained that the father’s obligation to support the children does not end “with furnishing the mere necessities of life if he is able to afford more.” The court further held that the divorce court did not abuse its discretion by ordering father to pay for their eldest son’s private school tuition, based on his need for a more conducive environment to his disability. Finally, the court determined it was not an abuse of discretion by the divorce court to order father to pay mother’s attorneys fees. Therefore, where a parent stipulates to their ability to pay any reasonable child support order, there is no abuse of discretion to order that the party pay the other party’s attorney’s fees, if the divorce court finds demonstrated need.

In re Marriage of Aylesworth (1980) 106 Cal. App. 3d 869