Under California law, parents are legally obligated to financially support their children. As such, in cases of shared custody, the courts will often set forth orders obligating one parent to pay child support to the other. Disputes often arise regarding each parent’s ability to pay, however, and in such instances, parties will often hire experts to support their opinion. A recent California ruling addressed the disclosure requirements for expert reports in child support actions, ultimately rejecting the father’s claim that a report should be excluded. If you need assistance with a child support action, it is smart to speak with a Bay Area child support attorney about your rights.
History of the Case
It is alleged that the mother and father shared custody of their minor son, pursuant to a paternity action, and that the father was obligated to pay child support to the mother. The father subsequently sought to reduce his child support obligation. The mother requested a vocational evaluation of the father. The vocational expert issued a report in which he relied on documents in the record since the father refused to participate in the evaluation. The father filed three motions in limine to preclude the vocational expert report, which the trial court considered and denied.
It is reported that the court held a hearing on the child support issue, during which the father testified about his limited ability to work due to a car accident and presented evidence from his sister in support of his assertion. The expert testified that the father had several job options, including the option of working as a legal assistant, which offered the highest earning opportunity. The court admitted the expert report into evidence. The mother testified about her income and expenses as well. Considering the expert’s testimony and the mother’s financial situation, the court increased the father’s child support obligation by approximately $275 per month. The father appealed.
The Need to Disclose Experts in Child Support Cases
On appeal, the father argued that the mother failed to disclose the expert witness as required by the law and, therefore, his testimony should have been excluded. The court explained that, pursuant to California law, all parties must exchange written information about their expert trial witnesses upon the demand of any party. Further, the law states that upon the objection of a party, the trial court must exclude from evidence the expert opinion of any witness offered by a party who has unreasonably failed to disclose the expert.
The court rejected the father’s argument, however, and found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the vocational expert’s testimony. The vocational expert was appointed almost a year before the hearing, giving the father ample time to be aware of the expert’s identity and the substance of his opinions. Further, the vocational expert extended an invitation to the father to participate in the evaluation, but the father declined. Despite the father’s refusal to cooperate, the expert provided detailed information about the evaluation process and provided said information to the father.
Based on these factors, the court concluded that the father had sufficient notice of the expert’s identity and the general substance of the expert’s opinions. Therefore, the trial court acted within its discretion in allowing the expert to testify during the child support modification hearing.
Meet with an Experienced California Child Support Attorney
When parents share custody of a child, it’s common for the courts to order one parent to provide child support to the other. If you’re involved in a dispute over child support, it is smart to talk to an attorney about your options. The experienced child support attorneys of Bay Area Family Law Center can assess the facts of your case and aid you in seeking the best legal outcome available. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 925-258-2020 to set up a conference.
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