Continuing Financial Reporting Requirements For Child Support
California considers a parent's primary responsibility to be the support of his or her children. Non-custodial parents are required to make support payments, but are not required to disclose changes to their standard of living.
California law places a strong priority on ensuring that children have adequate financial support following a divorce. Indeed, the law even goes so far as to specifically state that "a parent's first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent's circumstances and station in life."
Generally, California courts will order non-custodial parents to pay child support. This allows the children to enjoy a similar standard of living as they would have if the parents remained married.
If the non-custodial parent's income rises significantly, the custodial parent can request modification of the child support order. In order to know when to make this request, though, the custodial parent will have to be proactive in assessing the non-custodial parent's income. However, according to a recent ruling from the California Court of Appeal, the non-custodial parent's duty to inform the other parent of changes in income stops as soon as the final child support order is entered.
No Requirement To Disclose Changes In Income After Final Order
The recent case involved a couple who had married in 1983 and filed for divorce in 2000. During the divorce proceedings, the couple reached an agreement on child support and spousal support.
In 2007, the mother brought an action for modification of child support. Even though she and the children were enjoying a relatively high standard of living, she claimed that the father had seen a significant increase in assets and thus should be paying more in support. In particular, the father had earned approximately $100 million from the sale of his company.
In addition to requesting additional support, the mother asked the court to impose sanctions on the father for his failure to inform her of the changes in his income.
The trial court raised the child support and sanctioned the father. The Court of Appeal, however, agreed with the increase in the child support award, but disagreed with the sanctions. The appeals court reasoned that a non-custodial parent's legal duty to disclose changes in income stops as soon as a final child support order is entered.
Although the non-custodial parent does not have a legal duty to automatically disclose changes in income, he or she does have to comply with a written request for income disclosure. A custodial parent can make that request annually, without needing to show cause. An experienced California family law attorney can facilitate such requests.
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