Thursday, April 26, 2007

Appellate ruling, part 3

I am posting a summary of the appellate decision that was just published in my case. There were four legal issues from Comm. Joseph's family court orders that I was appealing.

1. Comm. Joseph ordered that I be taxed on my income as if I had invested in bonds instead of stocks.
George first objects to the court's imputation of a 3 percent rate of return on his stock market portfolio. ... George's argument that the imputation is invalid because the court has no authority to direct his investment strategy also is unavailing. The trial court has broad discretionary authority to impute income and need not defer to the parent's choice of investment. ... We therefore find no error in the court's failure to note "special circumstances" justifying the imputation of a 3 percent rate of return. In sum, we find no abuse of discretion in the court's imputation of income.
2. Comm. Joseph ordered that because I am not spending $3000 per month on a mortgage, then I should give 30% of that to my ex-wife.
George’s mortgage-free housing is not an employee benefit, nor is there evidence that it resulted from an effort to funnel income into a form that would not be recognized in the dissomaster calculation. We therefore conclude the court abused its discretion in including the purported rental value of George’s residence as non-taxable income. We reverse the December 20 child support order and remand to the court to determine the proper guideline amount.
3. California child support guidelines say that I should spend 60% of my after-tax income on my kids, but Comm. Joseph ordered that I spend an additional $500 per month on stay-at-home mom activities like dance classes.
Jill included a detailed list of the girls' activities over several months and the attendant expenses. ... After hearing George’s arguments on the subject, the court included a discretionary add-on of $500 in the child support order: "And that takes care of diminished ability to provide for things as varied as private school, tap dance, gymnastics, dance, dance teams, and other stay-at-home mom activities. I valued that roughly at $500 a month as being the obligation in order to maintain a standard that was previously enjoyed, half of which will be father’s obligation." We find no abuse of discretion. Section 4062 provides for discretionary add-ons to account for the specific needs of the children, including their educational needs. Moreover, the guidelines stress that the parents are mutually responsible for the support of the children, and that the children should be supported according to each parent's ability to pay and standard of living.
4. I objected to having to pay $6,500 in attorney fees twice, especially when a handwritten order from Judge Kelly said that I didn't have to.
Although the court at one point credited the $6,500 payment against the $20,000 order, it appears to have been a mistake. ... The order to pay an additional $6,500 in attorney’s fees is valid, is not contrary to the court’s prior orders, is not an abuse of discretion, and is affirmed.
Needless to say, I disagree with much of this.

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