In California, child support is calculated using a formula known as the Statewide Uniform Guideline. This algebraic formula is heavily influenced by the parties’ income and physical custody of the children. Accordingly, there must be admissible evidence of the parent’s income on which to base the child support award. Fortunately, there are a variety of forms of admissible evidence that the court can use as a basis. The parent’s gross income on his or her recent tax returns are stated under the penalty of perjury and are presumed to be the correct statement of the parent’s income. Aside from this, the court may also consider the parent’s income and expense declaration and pay stubs, as well as the testimony of experts and the parents themselves.
Under no circumstances should the child support award be based on the so-called “lifestyle evidence” of the parent’s income. The mere fact that the parent has completed the purchase of a new home, or has an expensive car, is not sufficient as evidence.
Business Ownership & Loan Applications
When one of the parents owns a business, a party may rebut the presumption that the stated income on the recent tax returns is correct by a statement of income on the parent’s loan application.
Extraordinarily High Earner, Stipulation
When there is a stipulation to the appropriate amount of support and there is no dispute, there is no need for the high-earning parent to divulge the details regarding his or her income. However, when there is a dispute as to the amount of support, the parent who admits to being an extraordinarily high earner and has the ability to pay the amount of child support may not refuse to reveal his or her actual income. The reason for this is because both the court and the other parent are entitled to know the high earner’s actual income, regardless of his or her admission of their ability to pay any reasonable child support ordered.
Furthermore, if the parents dispute the amount of the high earner’s income and cannot agree on the amount of child support, the court must make the least beneficial income assumptions against the high earner. The court can only make these assumptions after it obtains adequate information about the high earner’s actual income. At the very least, there must be an approximation of the high earner’s net disposable income.
In permitting discovery directed at obtaining reliable information to enable the court to determine the appropriate amount of support, the court may take appropriate measures to protect the high earner’s legitimate privacy concerns regarding his or her finances.