The Penniless Attorney And His Obligation To Pay Child And Spousal Support

You know that paying child and spousal support is tough in California where even a high paid attorney complains about his support obligations. In the case of Marriage of Mosley, an attorney pleaded with the court to modify his monthly child and spousal support payments, claiming that he was financially destitute after making his payments.

After sorting out the interesting facts of this case, the Court of Appeal had to address two common issues: 1) how to apply bonus income to the support calculations; and 2) when to impute earning capacity to a party who insists on not working. I think you will find that the Court applied some common sense in rendering its decision.

The Initial Support Orders

Paul and Dawn Mosley were married for twenty years, lived in Orange County, and had five children. Both parties were licensed attorneys. Notably, Paul was a real estate lawyer during the recent real estate boom. Dawn, on the other hand, quit practicing law early on in the marriage to tend to their children. In 2002 the parties were divorced.

The parties’ 2002 Judgment of Dissolution ordered Paul to pay Dawn $6,810 per month and 21 % of all of his bonus income. The child support order was based on the fact that Paul earned $447,150 for the year 2001, which equated a gross monthly income of $32,175. Paul’s timeshare with the children was 32 percent (a factor considered by California’s guideline formula). No income was imputed to Dawn when support was calculated, since she was still unemployed and taking care of the minor children at the time the divorce was finalized.

Paul was also ordered to pay Dawn spousal support, in the amount of $4,100 per month, plus 15 percent of his bonus income. The spousal support order included a provision that the amount of support was insufficient to maintain the marital standard of living. The total amount of support (child and spousal combined), amounted to $10,910, plus 36% of all of Paul’s bonus income.

The Times, They are a Changing!

As Paul’s tax returns revealed, the practice of a real estate attorney was quite lucrative between 2000 and 2003. This chart shows Paul’s income (base salary and bonuses combined), for the listed years:

2000 – $529,652

2001 – $616,697

2002 – $689,215

2003 – $753,651

Unfortunately, the real estate market’s bubble burst. Paul found himself out of a job when his law firm phased out their real estate practice. In February, 2005, Paul took up a new job as in house counsel with a home builder. Paul’s new base salary was $205,000. However, his new compensation package provided that he could also earn a discretionary bonus of up to 150 percent of his base salary. In 2006 Paul filed an Order to Show Cause for modification of support, asserting that there was a material change of circumstances, warranting the court to modify the support orders.

Paul made several arguments in support of his request for modification of the support orders. He explained to the court that he was not capable of paying $10,910 monthly support as ordered, since his take home pay was often less than the amount he was ordered to pay. Paul declared that in the first two months of 2006, he paid Dawn more than the amount of his take home pay and borrowed all of his living expenses. In March, 2006 Paul received the remaining $85,000 of his 2005 bonus, most of which he used to reduce prior borrowings. He estimated that the remaining amount of his bonus would permit him to go two months longer before he would have to start borrowing again. Paul expected he would have to borrow 100 percent of his living expenses for the remaining six months of the year.

Paul also argued that the court should impute income to Dawn based on her earning capacity, since she had been given a Gavron warning (an advisement that she should make efforts to become self supporting), she was an attorney with impressive credentials, and based on her education and work history. Paul asserted that Dawn could earn at least $78,000 a year, and the court should impute those wages to her, in spite of the fact she was not working.

In opposition, Dawn argued that she could not afford a decrease in child or spousal support, since her monthly living expenses amounted to $10,000, and she was already living below the marital standard of living. Dawn also argued that the court should not impute wages to her, since she quit the practice of law several years ago, based on an agreement that she and Paul had entered into at the beginning of their marriage. Paul and Dawn had agreed that Dawn would stay home to take care of the kids, while Paul would go to work, and advance his career.

Finally, Dawn argued that the support orders should not be modified, since there was no showing that Paul’s income had actually decreased to the point where a modification was warranted. Dawn pointed out that Paul’s end of the year income for 2005 amounted to $448,392 (which included his base salary and bonus). Although his 2005 income was less than it had been in several years, it was greater than his base income of $447,150, as reflected in the 2002 judgment. Therefore, Dawn argued, there was no change of circumstances and Paul still had the ability to pay the court ordered support. The trial court denied Paul’s request for modification after determining that there was no change of circumstances warranting a reduction of support. In addition, the court refused to impute income to Dawn, reasoning that there was no showing that a job was available to her, and it was not in the best interest of the children for Dawn to work.

The Court of Appeal Weighs in

In a harshly worded decision, the Court of Appeal reversed and remanded the matter back to the trial court, ordering the court to recalculate child and spousal support, using Paul’s base salary, exclusive of his bonus income.

As the Court explained, “It exceeded the bounds of reason to require Paul to pay nearly 100 percent of his take home pay in support payments, on the assumption, based on only a one-year history with the home builder, that he would continue to receive a six-figure bonus each subsequent year. It placed him in a position of having to borrow for his living expenses, and thus resulted in a miscarriage of justice.” The court further reasoned that, “It would be an abuse of discretion for the court to leave Paul nearly penniless while he awaits the potential of a bonus each year, especially in light of the current plight of homebuilders.”

The Court of Appeal also held that the new order must include a different method for paying support based on Paul’s bonus income, citing In Re Marriage of Ostler and Smith (1990) 223 Cal.App.3rd 33, as follow: “No future bonus is guaranteed. It would therefore not be appropriate to base a support order on Husband’s bonus income and then require him to file motions to modify at such times as the bonus is reduced.” Instead, the Court suggested Paul pay Dawn a percentage of his bonus income, when he actually received it.

The Court of Appeal also directed the trial court to reconsider its ruling with respect to imputing income to Dawn, based on her earning capacity. While discussing Dawn’s earning capacity, the Court restated the law that a court may not impute earning capacity to a parent unless doing so is in the best interest of the children, citing In Re Marriage of Cheriton (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 269. The Court then held that the same principal applies to when a Court calculates spousal support, citing Family Code, Section 4320.

But the Court of Appeal held that the trial court failed to consider all of the evidence before it in evaluating the best interest of the children. The Court recalled Paul’s testimony that if Dawn contributed to the support of the children, he would not need to spend as much time at work trying to maximize his bonus and would be able to spend more time with the children himself.

Conclusion

It is important to note that where bonus income is at issue, the trial court has the discretion, to include bonus income to the paying parent’s gross monthly income. However, based on the Marriage of Mosley, we know that the trial court should not include bonus income in calculating the monthly payment, if there is not a sufficient track record to predict receipt of the bonus income for future years, and when the support payment will leave the party penniless.

An Expert Los Angeles Dui Attorney Can Make All The Difference

It can happen so innocently an extra beer or glasses of wine at dinner, and you’re suddenly over the legal blood alcohol limit (a limit that, it should be noted, has been creeping steadily downward thanks to harsher state laws).

Or perhaps you were within your BAC limit and the breathalyzer equipment wasn’t calibrated or maintained properly. There are numerous circumstances in which you could find yourself arrested for DUI in Orange County, Ventura, or Los Angeles. However, when you choose an experienced Los Angeles and Orange County DUI lawyer like Jon Bryant Artz, you have 40 years four full decades of expert DUI defense experience working on your behalf.

In spite of the new laws and harsher penalties associated with Orange County drunk driving stops and Los Angeles DUI arrests, DUI attorney Jon Bryant Artz continues to aggressively defend his clients and to win cases that other attorneys consider unwinnable. In fact, it is not uncommon for judges and jury members who have seen Mr. Artz in action to refer their own friends and family members to this Orange County DUI expert. That’s because they know from face to face experience that this attorney is not afraid to go to trial, and that he wins the vast majority of his DUI trials.

Remarkably, in the past three years, Los Angeles DUI attorney Jon Bryant Artz has won with all charges dismissed over 90 percent of the DUI cases he has brought to jury trial. That is because he is an expert in DUI defense who understands the intricacies not only of DUI Law but also of blood alcohol science and of the (highly fallible) detection methodologies that are used in breath, chemical, and blood tests for BAC.

Mr. Artz is well-known by judges and prosecutors in the California court system, which gives him a huge strategic advantage in the courtroom. Because prosecutors know his successful track record, they know that they are likely to lose a DUI case against an experienced trial attorney like Jon Artz. Thus they are willing to negotiate favorably on behalf of Mr. Artz clients, settling for a reduced sentence pre-trial, rather than go to trial and risk losing an expensive in the public arena. No prosecutor likes to have an unnecessary loss on their record, which gives expert DUI trial lawyers a tremendous advantage.

The penalties for drunk driving are so high these days, and with the new 10 year revocation of the license to drive, you need to have a highly experienced DUI lawyer on your side, one who is an expert in the courtroom. A well intentioned attorney without the specialized knowledge and experience that Orange County DUI lawyers like Jon Bryant Artz have to offer are often tempted to plead guilty upfront, since they are afraid to go to trial. A solid reputation for skillfully and aggressively defending clients, and a proven track record of success, make a huge difference in the California legal system.

If you have been accused of drunk driving in Los Angeles or are dealing with an Orange County DUI arrest, protect yourself with experienced legal representation. When you choose an expert Los Angeles DUI attorney like Jon Bryant Artz, you are protecting yourself both now and in the future. If you have three DUI convictions over a ten year period, you can lose your license to drive for a decade. If you accept an undeserved DUI conviction today, you will seriously regret it in the future. You need an attorney who recognizes just how important it is to fight for you and who is willing and able to do it aggressively and effectively.

Checking the Divorce List Twice

Divorcing isnt easy. Handling the various details required for marriage dissolution in California is enough to send a person into panic.

Going for marriage dissolution is a tough decision, made even more difficult if there are children involved. Its a time for second guessing, worrying about the welfare of the kids, and about the future. Then there are all the details that need to be attended to in order to get marriage dissolution in California. The stress levels couldnt be higher. In situations like this, discuss your fears with your Orange County divorce attorney. Thats what they are there for; to guide you through the labyrinth of confusion that arises when divorce proceedings take over what was once a normal life.

In order to get a handle on some of the stress, one of the better ways to get mentally organized is to make a checklist; a divorce checklist. While this might sound like the last thing on earth you would want to do with the roof falling in on your head, it offers you the chance to clearly focus on what needs to be done, what is done and what is pending, as well as puts into focus what documents or information you will need to round up.

The other positive thing gained by using a divorce checklist is that it tends to prevent any surprises further down the road if both of the spouses are on the same page during their dissolution proceedings. While this may be a very upsetting thing to do, it will pay off in the long run when all the sticky issues that need to be taken care of are out in the open and ready to be discussed with some degree of equanimity.

A divorce checklist should also have an asset and debt inventory section that covers various items that need to be shown to the court. That usually includes marital debts for the couple and an accurate record of all marital property. The property may include bank loans, bank accounts, student loans, pension plans and retirement plans, IRAs, bonds, stocks, sporting goods, the marital home, jewelry, and the vehicles both spouses drive. If there are any questions on how to classify property or divide your debts, speak to your Orange County divorce attorney for clarification.

One of the hardest things to sort out for a divorce proceeding is the value of assets, and in most instances, a reasonable guess will suffice keeping in mind that you may also need to be able to prove the actual value of the asset at a later date. The value of the asset should also include details about when the item was purchased and which person will take possession of it. Splitting the debts should also be done in a similar manner. In other words, who incurred the debt, how much is owed and who is going to take the responsibility to repay it.

There are other questions that will need to be dealt with over the course of the dissolution proceedings, and if you stay in constant contact with your Orange County divorce attorney, the journey to divorce wont be quite as devastating or confusing.

Locate The Best Divorce Attorney In Orange County

Most Orange County divorce attorneys have vast experience litigating cases with respect to residents. If you’re looking for the firm
to handle your case, it is advisable to perform thorough research through some of the thoroughly tested attorneys.

As the issues surrounding your marriage require safe legal backing, to think about to employ the best divorce expert. Matters like property, children, custody are sensitive and will be treated like so.

Specializations of Oc divorce attorney

Unlike civil, property and industrial law, family law involves a substantial level of emotion. The situation becomes complicated when there is emotional or physical abuse and also the couple doesn’t want to separate yet. Similarly, if they cannot agree on the way to divide property, who takes care of children, an incredibly qualified attorney is necessary. The truth is, typically each spouse requires a lawyer that belongs to them to advice and represent them in the courtroom. Therefore, Orange County family law attorneys are given the job of a huge responsibility.

They deal with matters of divorce, supporting your children, alimony, property division, mediation and paternity.

Significance about settling for the best attorney

As you look for a family group attorney, you need somebody or law firm that you can trust using your most personal details. For instance , financial, emotional and in many cases sexual matters. Evidently, they’re crucially intimate issues. Hence the person you hire needs to have a robust character and repute. Choose a seasoned Orange County family law attorney. Hand them over a portfolio of impressive track record both interior and exterior court. When the matter is around an impending divorce, you need a lawyer with strong cross examination attributes to effectively grill witnesses. In this way, you’ll be assured of fair justice. Otherwise, having less a skilled attorney could make you overlook an important property or right.

Desirable qualities

Within your search for an Oc divorce attorney, there are some specific qualities that needs to be desired. He should make himself open to you directly. If he is busy, at the very least let him answer your telephone calls and emails. If he keeps giving excuses and
postponing your meetings, even tho it’s a sign of a raw deal. Inside the same breath, you need to treat your case with the importance it deserves. That you possess a representative does not mean you need to maintain hands off. Ensure you give suitable communication.

Follow up on the proceedings appropriately and present just as much information out of the box needed. Similarly, he should communicate to you personally regarding the budget and strategy that you’ll take. Doing this in advance of proceedings is important to plot your finances. Agree with a fixed level of legal fees you will purchase his services. It is not uncommon for the dishonest Oc family attorney to shortchange a customer once a case may be won.