Evidence of Income in Child Support Cases
In order to determine the amount of child support that a parent has to pay, courts take into consideration the gross income received by the parent. What is gross income is a factual question and is determined on the basis of admissible evidence.
There is various evidence that can be used as proof of income necessary for the computation of child support, so long as they pass the test of admissibility. In order to be admissible, evidence has to be relevant and not excluded by the rules of evidence, i.e., it must have been properly obtained.
Among the evidence considered for purposes of determining a party’s gross income are tax returns. Courts have previously held that gross income, as stated under penalty of perjury, on recent tax returns are presumptively correct or assumed to be true. If the party’s family law attorney wishes to overcome this presumption, then they have the burden of overcoming this presumption by presenting competent and admissible evidence to the contrary.
Other Forms of Evidence
Other types of evidence that are given consideration by the courts to prove the parent’s income include income and expense declarations, pay stubs, and testimonies of both experts and the parties themselves.
Evidence of the parent’s lifestyle, however, is not considered as evidence of income.
Income Considered for Child Support
In determining parental income for child support, gross income, or all income received by the party is considered. Courts, therefore, look far beyond the paycheck that a party receives from work.
Documentary evidence such as tax returns, pay statements, financial statements must all be produced when required by the court and certified as true under penalty of perjury.
Gross Income For Child Support
Gross income refers to all income received by the party, and may include:
- salaries and wages;
- interest income;
- income from a trust or annuity;
- benefits paid as a result of a worker’s compensation case;
- unemployment insurance;
- disability insurance benefits;
- social security benefits; and
- alimony received from an unrelated case to the parent who seeks child support.
- Recurring monetary gifts from a person’s parents; and
- Unexercised stock options
Exclusions From Gross Income For Child Support
There are certain exceptions to this all-encompassing broad definition of gross income for purposes of determining the amount of child support obligation that a party owes.
Under California Family Code 4058, gross income is income from any source except:
- Child support payments that are actually received; and
- Public assistance programs where the party’s eligibility for the program is based on need.
Despite the social security benefits included in the list above as being included in gross income, the qualifier for public assistance received that excludes it from gross income for purposes of determining child support is that the party was eligible to receive such public assistance on the basis of need.
Extraordinarily High Earner
California courts use the California Child Support Guidelines in determining the amount of child support. Courts, however, may sometimes deviate from this guideline; for instance, in cases where the parent has an extraordinarily high income and the guideline amount would exceed the needs of the child.
A parent who admits to being an extraordinarily high earner with the ability to pay any amount of child support may not refuse to reveal his or her actual income when the appropriate amount of support is in dispute. Sufficient information must be presented to properly assess the needs of the child.
But while the extraordinarily high earner may not refuse to reveal his actual income, he is not, however, required to provide detailed information and documentation of income, expenses, and assets when he stipulates to pay any reasonable amount of support ordered, so long as the other party does not dispute the said amount. If the parties do not agree on the amount of support, and the income of the high earner is disputed, the court must make the least beneficial income assumptions against the high earner, which can only be made after the court has obtained adequate information about the high earner’s income.