A California Court of Appeals has ruled that a Trial Court was not wrong by awarding child support which was less than the guideline support where Trial Court’s order took into account Father’s extremely high income, Child’s need for support commensurate with Father’s lifestyle, and Child’s best interests.
In the case of S.P. v. F.G., Mother, a star in Swedish reality television, became pregnant by Father, a “successful business man” with a net annual income of more than $4 million. Shortly before their Child was born, Father agreed to provide financial support for Child to the tune of $9,200 per month. In early 2015, Father increased that amount to $10,000 per month, and continued his additional payments for Child’s educational expenses, extracurricular activities, and medical expenses.
When Child was age 10, Mother filed a petition to establish Father’s legal relationship with Child. Mother followed up two years later with a request for a guideline child support order, along with a supporting declaration and an Income and Expense Declaration. Alternatively, Mother asked that the child support order be no less than $35,000 per month and to include Father paying for all of Child’s medical care, education, and extracurricular activities. In a subsequent Income and Expense declaration, Mother “claimed ‘proposed needs’ of $78,155 per month,” $69,420 of which was attributable to Child’s needs. Mother sought enough support to upgrade their housing from the 2,700 sq. foot house in Pacific Palisades that they now rented for $5,480 a month to a furnished home that was comparable to Father’s and rented for $34,000 per month complete with appropriate staff and amenities. Mother claimed that Child needed $4,725 a month for entertainment, gifts, and vacation, $3,100 a month for groceries and eating out, more than $3,000 per month for clothing and dry cleaning, plus many thousands more for a Mercedes-Benz and attendant expenses, utilities, and phone services. Mother also stated that 14-year-old Child needed $1,200 a month for cosmetology, massages, and spa treatments because Child was “extremely beautiful” and would undoubtedly “be a top model” in the future.
After due consideration, Trial Court issued an order calculating guideline support at $40,882 per month, but deviating downward from that figure. Trial Court specifically determined that some of the proposed needs submitted by M “appear to have no factual support or appear purposely inflated and facially unreasonable” (such as summer camp for Child, who did not attend summer camp). Trial Court also found no evidence to support Mother’s need for better housing or to indicate that Child’s needs were not currently being met. Trial Court determined that the payments that Father had been making for Child’s expenses were some indication of Child’s needs. Trial Court listed the amounts it considered reasonable for each of the various categories of expenses Mother had stated in her Income and Expense Declaration and concluded that a child support order of $14,840 per month would be reasonable and consistent with Child’s best interests. Trial Court also ordered Father to pay all of Child’s reasonably necessary medical expenses, cost of Child’s medical insurance, and as add-ons, private school tuition, school expenses, and costs of extracurricular activities. Trial Court stated that this order was an increase from Father’s prior payments, would supply Child with “a high/affluent standard of living,” and would meet Child’s reasonable needs. Trial Court concluded that guideline order would not be in Child’s best interests and would exceed Child’s needs, and that Father’s timeshare was zero. Claiming that Trial Court erred in ordering below guideline support based on Child’s historical expenses and not future expenses or Father’s wealth, Mother appealed.
The California Court of Appeals, however, has now affirmed Trial Court’s decision. The Appellate Court has ruled that (1) Trial Court did not make its order based on Child’s historical expenses, but also took into account Child’s reasonable current and anticipated needs; (2) Trial Court properly failed to limit Father’s responsibility for Child’s future expenses for tuition, school expenses, and costs of extra-curricular activities and took into consideration Mother’s claimed need for better housing; (3) sufficient evidence supported Trial Court’s deviation from guideline child support; (4) Trial Court was not wrong in declining to “rubber stamp” Mother’s proposed expenses and weeding out the reasonable from the factually unsupported; (5) Trial Court correctly made detailed explanation for its reasons for deviating from guideline child support; and (6) Trial Court did not err in finding that its order was in Child’s best interests.