In reversal of a Trial Court, a California Court of Appeals has ruled that California Family Code Section 4062 permits an award of childcare costs to a parent who is currently employed with marketable skills, but seeks to improve those skills through education in order to become self-supporting and not need public assistance. In the case of Greiner v. Keller, Trial Court entered a judgment in 2015, that, among other things, awarded sole legal and physical custody of Mother and Father’s minor Child to Mother, and required Father to pay one-half of reasonable childcare costs for Child.
In May of 2018, Mother sought an order, per Family Code Section 4062, forcing Father to pay one-half of reasonable childcare costs incurred while Mother attended classes and participated in computer courses at the public library, all aimed at becoming a paralegal. In her supporting declaration, Mother stated that she was laid off from a government job in 2011, after which she was able to find only “temporary or part-time positions as a notary and office assistant, mostly in law offices.” Mother believed that acquiring additional skills would help her get full-time employment and she would no longer need public assistance for housing and food.
In opposition, Father argued that Family Code Section 4062 did not authorize an award of childcare costs where a parent had existing job skills that enabled him or her to secure employment. Father pointed out that Mother’s current employer was not requiring her to pursue additional training; it was her personal choice to do so.
After a hearing, Trial Court found that Mother’s request “exceeded the requirements of section 4062” which does not apply where a parent has existing skills and was able to gain employment. Accordingly, Trial Court denied Mother’s request.
Mother appealed, and now, the California Court of Appeals has reversed Trial Court’s decision. Deciding this issue for the first time, the Appellate Court has ruled that (1) the plain language of Family Code Section 4062 permits Trial Court to make an order for shared childcare costs related to a parent’s employment or for reasonably necessary education or training for employment skills; (2) the statute does not limit its scope to parents who do not have existing skills sufficient to enable them to find employment; (3) the case of Khera & Sameer (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 1467, on which Trial Court relied, is inapposite because it involved a request for elective education by a parent who could be self-supporting but chose not to work; and (4) this case “exemplifies why the Legislature enacted section 4062.” Therefore, the Appellate Court reverses Trial Court’s denial of Mother’s request and sends the case back to Trial Court with directions to reconsider it on its merits, including a determination of whether Mother’s educational efforts were reasonably necessary, Mother had actually incurred childcare costs, and the amount and appropriate apportionment of those costs.