Divorce Court Bases Child Support on an Objectively Reasonable Work Regimen

Mother was a partner in a large law firm and was planning to work 80% of her earning capacity.  100% capacity would have required her to “bill” more than 2000 hours per year.  Father was a college professor and worked a flexible schedule.  Father’s annual income was approximately $100,000 and mother’s income, at 80%, would have been $264,914 annually.  The parties had two children under the age of five.

Generally, earning capacity in a divorce is measured by the work regimen that existed during the marriage.  Father’s divorce attorney sought to have the family law court impute income to mother at her 100% earning capacity.  The divorce court declined father’s divorce attorney’s request.  The divorce court found that it was in the children’s best interest for the mother to work 80% capacity as opposed to 100%.

The divorce court noted that established employment norms such as the standard 40 hour work week are not controlling but are relevant to the issue of earning capacity in a divorce.  The divorce court noted that the mother would have to “work” more than 40 hours a week in order to “bill” 80% of her earning capacity.  The divorce court also noted that it is common knowledge that employment at a large firm requires working a substantial number of hours.

The Appellate Court agreed with mother’s divorce lawyer and held that the divorce court did not abuse it’s discretion in basing child support on an 80% work regimen. 

In re Marriage of Lim & Carrasco (2013) 214 Cal.App. 4th 768