California Court Discusses Continuing Jurisdiction in Child Support Actions

In many divorce actions in which parents have joint custody, the courts will deem it necessary to order one parent to pay the other support. As child support obligations are largely income-based, in cases in which a parent’s income fluctuates, it may be difficult to determine an appropriate amount, and the support order may need to be adjusted over time. As discussed in a recent California ruling, the court that issues a support order will generally retain the authority to modify the order as long as it is in effect. If you have questions about child support, it is in your best interest to speak to a Bay Area child support attorney as soon as possible.

The Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the parties were briefly married before separating and divorcing; they had one child during their marriage.  In the judgment of dissolution, the court ordered the father to pay child support. In 2015, the mother requested a modification, claiming the father had misstated his finances. After a 2017 trial, the court reduced the father’s support obligation and ordered him to make annual Ostler-Smith payments.

Allegedly, in 2019, the father requested a determination of arrears, claiming he overpaid support since 2015. At a hearing, the court assured the mother she could conduct discovery on the Ostler-Smith calculations and present evidence at a future hearing, as the court retained jurisdiction over that issue. Nevertheless, the mother served discovery requests seeking the father’s financial records. The father opposed producing the documents.

Reportedly, at a subsequent hearing, the court granted the mother’s motion to compel, finding the requested financial records relevant to determining Ostler-Smith arrears. The father moved to reconsider, arguing a protective order from another case barred using his financial records here. The court denied reconsideration, finding the protective order did not restrict discovery in this family law case. The father appealed.

Continuing Jurisdiction in Child Support Actions

On appeal, the court affirmed the order compelling discovery. While it found the father had not waived his right to object to discovery based on the protective order in the other case, it rejected the argument on the merits, ruling that the other court’s protective order could not divest the family court of jurisdiction over the child support issues in the subject case.

The court further held the family court had expressly retained jurisdiction to determine Ostler-Smith arrears and permitted the mother to conduct discovery on that issue. The court rejected the father’s claim that there was no pending child support motion, finding the trial court’s statements clearly endorsed the mother’s pursuit of financial discovery related to calculating arrears. As the court retained jurisdiction over this issue, it had the authority to compel the requested discovery.

Speak to a Skilled California Child Support Attorney

Child support orders are not necessarily static but may need to be adjusted over time due to changes in the parties’ income or needs. If you have questions about your rights or obligations with regard to child support, it is wise to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The skilled child support attorneys of Bay Area Family Law Center can inform you of your options and help you to seek the best legal result possible in your case. You can reach us via our online form or by calling us at 925-258-2020 to set up a meeting.

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