In affirming a trial court's child support order, an appellate judge quoted from Aesop's Fables, paraphrased as "be careful what you wish for." The case, In re Marriage of Barth, involved a divorce with petitions filed in two states, Ohio and California, a trip to the Ohio Supreme Court, and a final order in California that was far less favorable to the appellant husband. Ultimately, questions of credibility regarding the husband's financial representations persuaded the appellate court to affirm the large child support order.
The parties, Jeffrey and Andrea Barth, were married in 1989. They had two children, and they lived in Ohio until 2004, when the husband took an auditing job in California and moved to Orange County. The wife and children stayed behind in Ohio for about five months, during which time she quit her job and sold the family home. Several weeks after they joined the husband in California, he confessed to extramarital affairs. The wife and children returned to Ohio within days. She filed a divorce petition in Ohio on August 24, 2004, and he filed one in California the following day.
The Ohio divorce case went through litigation for nearly three years. The husband denied that the Ohio courts had subject matter jurisdiction, as the wife no longer had the required period of residency in the state at the time she filed. The Ohio court eventually entered an order setting current and retroactive child support. The husband appealed all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, which ruled in March 2007 that the wife's brief stay in California ended her Ohio residency. It vacated all prior orders and dismissed the case.
Shortly before the Ohio court’s decision, the husband lost his job, reportedly because he was spending up to eleven days each month in Ohio with the children. He began self-employment, starting businesses in both California and Ohio and traveling between the two states more frequently. He filed an order to show cause (OSC) in Orange County to lift the stay, which had been in place while the Ohio case was resolved. He also submitted an in forma pauperis affidavit. The wife filed an OSC to establish child support, with subpoenas to obtain employment and bank records. A child support commissioner, in an April 2009 ruling, set retroactive child support for the period from 2004 to 2007. The commissioner accepted the husband’s evidence showing that his annual income after losing his job ranged from $32,000 to $60,000, and therefore did not impute income to the husband or set current child support.
The husband requested a review of the commissioner’s ruling by a judge, and this is where Aesop’s quote came into play. The judge found serious fault with the husband’s credibility, particularly with regard to financial disclosures. After finding that the husband’s cumulative income from 2004 through 2007 exceeded $1 million, and that he had failed to disclose multiple income sources, it imputed income of $10,000 per month to him for 2008 and 2009 and set current child support. The appellate court found no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s ruling, noting that the ruling followed California law and that adjudication of the case under California law was what the husband had been seeking since 2004.
Thomas Huguenor, a family law specialist certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization, has 35 years of experience guiding the people of San Diego through the family law process, including divorce and child support. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us online or at (858) 458-9500.
More Blog Posts:
Which Court Has Custody Of A Child Custody Case? San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, October 3, 2011
California Divorce Report: Jurisdiction Part II, San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, December 3, 2010
California Divorce Report: What is "Jurisdiction"? San Diego Divorce Attorney Blog, November 16, 2010