The Year in Review: Child Support - Modification

As printed in the State Bar of California Family Law News publication, below is a summary of a pivotal case regarding Modification of child support.

Mendoza v. Ramos (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 680

"Imputation of income to a parent participating in the CalWORKS program would violate public policy.

The unmarried parents of four children stipulated to custody orders and were subject to child support orders. Claiming that the custodial time-share had changed, the father moved to modify the custody and support orders in February 2007. In opposition, the mother produced a financial declaration that showed her sole income consisted of public assistance funds from the then AFDC (and later CalWORKS) program.

The father's modification motion asserted that income should be imputed to the mother because she was voluntarily undergoing a course of education, which he claimed was not in the children's best interest. The mother claimed that it was the father who had voluntarily lowered his earnings by becoming self-employed, that his child support arrears had contributed to the mother's need to accept public assistance, and that she had not voluntarily quit her job but had lost it when her employer left the state. She further claimed that the CalWORKS program in which she was participating required counseling and educational programming in lieu of full time employment. A trial court increased the father's child support payments and declined to impute income to the mother. The father appealed.

The appellate court affirmed, reasoning that, not only had the father failed to introduce any evidence that the mother had the ability to earn even minimum wage, but her need to rely on public assistance demonstrated that the opposite was true. The appellate court further found that 'imputation of income to a parent on CalWORKS would be contrary to public policy.' It went on to state that an unemployed parent in compliance with his or her CalWORKS plan is effectively seeking employment."

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