George Vargas and Allyson Helgestad never married but from 2005 to 2009,
they lived together. During that time, they had two children. In October,
2009, they separated and Allyson filed a paternity action against George.
To settle the paternity action, they signed an agreement admitting George's
paternity, child custody to Allyson, visitation to George, and how much
child support George would pay to Allyson. In 2010, they reconciled and
George moved back in with Allyson and the children. He then began paying
rent and contributed to other household expenses, but he no longer paid
Allyson child support payments.
Sadly, the reconciliation did not last. Less than a year later, George
moved out, and Allyson filed a court order for the back child support
George did not pay when they were living together. George asked the trial
court judge to give him credit for the rent and household expenses he
paid in lieu of back child support. The trial court denied George's
request for four reasons:
George was not entitled to what is referred to as "Jackson credits"
because those type of cases all involved compete changes of child custody,
not reconciliation of the parties.
George should have requested a change in his child support obligation as
soon as he moved back in with Allyson.
Under the California Family Code, he would only be entitled to relief if
his agreement was temporary not permanent.
Since he had to pay for a place to live anyway, he wasn't entitled
to reimbursement for rent and/or household expenses when he moved back
in with Allyson.
George appealed and the Appellate Court reversed the trial court's decision:
Since the Jackson-type of cases were based on paying for the needs of the
child, not who had sole custody; therefore, those cases did apply.
California recognizes the importance of reconciliation in families, and
to make people file for court orders before reconciling, would not help
parties get back together.
The trial court mis-read the section of the Family Code relied upon, and
that section did not apply in this case.And,
Since George had to have a place to live anyway, he would have to prove
how much money he spent over and above what he needed to live to receive
credit for child support payments.
Normally, in California, once child support is owed, it is always owed.
It cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and it does not end by a statute
of limitations like most other debts. The "Jackson credit" cases
are a very complicated aspect of the law, and need the understanding of
a qualified family law specialist to use them.