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Reduction in Employment Income Alone May Not Constitute a Material Change in Circumstances for Child Support Where a Parent Has Other Income Producing Assets and the Ability to Pay

In this divorce, husband was a successful director and producer earning $350,000 per month and owned significant assets including real property, investments, and cash. Husband’s “high earner” status supported a deviation from guideline child support for his only child.  After divorce, husband’s Orange County divorce lawyer filed a request to reduce child support because husband’s monthly employment income fell “significantly.”  Wife’s Orange County divorce attorney argued that husband’s decrease in income from employment was insufficient to support a modification of child support because husband still had significant income producing assets.  The divorce court modified the child support and wife’s Orange County divorce lawyer appealed.

The Court of Appeal held that the divorce court erred in finding that husband’s Orange County divorce attorney had met his burden in showing a material change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a reduction in child support. First, a reduction in income alone is insufficient to support a modification where a parent has numerous other income producing assets.  Second, husband failed to present any evidence that husband’s reduction in employment income adversely affected his lifestyle or financial ability to pay.  Third, husband’s Orange County divorce lawyer failed to present any evidence that the child had a decreased need for support.  The evidence conversely demonstrated that the child would have been adversely affected by a reduction in child support.  Lastly, the Court of Appeal held the child had a right to share in his father’s standard of living, necessitating the higher amount of support.

In re Marriage of Usher (2016) 6 Cal. App. 5th 347