MCLE Article and Self-Assessment Test
Children of Fortune
High-earning entertainers may be able to avoid the use of the statutory guidelines when calculating child support payments.
By Thomas Paine Dunlap and Lawrence E. Leone
Thomas Paine Dunlap is a partner of the family law firm of Trope and Trope. He was appellate counsel for the petitioner, Emilio Estevez, in Estevez v. Superior Court. Lawrence E. Leone is a certified family law specialist practicing in West Los Angeles.
Among the priorities of successful entertainers, protecting their privacy is paramount. This interest, however, must be balanced with the governmental interest to ensure that parents provide for their children. Consider, then, a scenario in which a high-profile entertainer is the admitted parent of a child outside of wedlock. The relationship between the parents ends when the child is less than two years old and, after a few weeks of discussions, the entertainer offers to pay, tax free, $11,000 a month for child support. The offer is rejected, and the next day counsel for the custodial parent gives notice of an ex parte motion to initiate immediate discovery in aid of an order to show cause for temporary support.1
The order to show cause application (which accompanies the paternity suit filed by the custodial parent) seeks temporary support of $50,000 a month ($600,000 per year) in "guideline" child support-a statutory formula. (In addition, the custodial parent seeks $100,000 in attorneys' fees, on account, and $25,000 in accounting fees, on account.) The pleadings reference a "mandated" state formula and suggest that the child's "needs" include the ability to have original art displayed in the child's environment for educational and cultural purposes. In support of the custodial parent's contention that the entertainer earns at least $10 million a year, a copy of the entertainer's last tax return, complete with home address, is attached to the pleadings. The pleadings also allege that more than 20 depositions will be necessary to elicit facts necessary to prove the entertainer's life style and income.
At the ex parte hearing there are six television cameras and preparations for a posthearing news conference. Each of the reporters covering the hearing is holding a copy of the pleadings and the entertainer's tax return. That night, the entertainer's tax return is the lead story on a television tabloid program and the entertainer's income is part of Jay Leno's Tonight Show monologue.
For the high-earning celebrity, this scenario is a nightmare. It also is preventable. Counsel can assist the court in resolving the tension between a custodial parent's need for information necessary to ensure an adequate child support award and a high earner's right and desire to preclude invasive, and ultimately unnecessary, disclosure of his or her financial affairs. Counsel can further protect the high-earner client by taking steps to avoid the "unjust or inappropriate" application of the statutory formula for child support.
Under Family Code Section 4055, child support in California is determined by an algebraic formula that is based upon the net monthly disposable income of the parties. While euphemistically termed a "guideline," the formula, according to the legislature, is "intended to be presumptively correct in all cases, and only under special circumstances should child support orders fall below the child support mandated by the guideline formula."2 As the income of the noncustodial parent rises, the child support determined by the guideline formula does too, consistent with the principle that children are entitled to be supported in a style and condition consonant with the position of their parents in society.3
Child support will increase even if it indirectly benefits the custodial parent. For example, the increased support may allow better housing for the custodial parent than he or she could otherwise afford.4 As the earnings of a noncustodial parent become extraordinarily high, however, the statutory formula will begin to yield a level of child support that exceeds even the most luxurious needs of a child. When Emilio Estevez, a well-known actor, was the subject of support proceedings in the early 1990s, the mother of his two children alleged that his annual income was approximately $3.6 million. The statutory formula for two children based on that level of income would have resulted in a child support award of $35,000 per month. Even the children's mother conceded on appeal that such an award "would be absurd."5
To avoid unjustified, astronomical support awards, the legislature created a statutory escape clause: the guideline formula's presumption of correctness is a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof. The correctness of the formula amount may be rebutted by a showing that the application of the formula would be "unjust or inappropriate" because the support-paying parent "has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the children."6 To rebut the statute and seek protection as a "high earner," two factors must be shown:
- The payor parent has an extraordinarily high income.
- The guideline child support amount will exceed the needs of the child.
Implicit in the invocation of the escape clause is a preliminary finding of the amount of guideline support: only when the amount is known can it be argued that it exceeds the reasonable needs of the child. This preliminary finding in turn requires a disclosure of the payor parent's income, which is exactly what all high-visibility celebrities want to avoid. The escape clause also creates a problem of circular logic: the determination of whether a parent possesses an extraordinarily high income for purposes of the computation of child support turns upon whether that income, when fed into the child support formula, produces an amount that exceeds a child's needs-and a child's needs traditionally have been determined by the parent's ability to meet them.
The escape clause also creates a conflict between the noncustodial high earner's desire for privacy and the custodial parent's right to pursue discovery for the purpose of applying the legislative formula.7 The noncustodial, high-earning parent-most frequently the father-often attempts to avoid disclosing the financial details of his life by conceding both paternity (in the nonmarital custody case) and an ability to pay for all of his child's "reasonable" needs. Meanwhile, the custodial parent will contend that such a stipulation does not eliminate the necessity of wide-ranging discovery on her part to prove the father's total income and life style, since the child's needs can only be determined in relation to the more affluent parent's life style.8
The Family Code itself seems to support the custodial parent's claim that he or she is entitled to know the noncustodial parent's actual income-whether or not the noncustodial parent offers to stipulate to an ability to pay any reasonable child support award. Family Code Section 4056(a) provides that if a court orders an amount of support that differs from the statutory formula, the court is mandated to state, in writing or on the record, the amount of support "that would have been ordered under the guideline formula."9 To make this required finding, it would indeed seem that the court must first know the income of the high-earning parent.
Estevez and the White Rule
The statutory language, at first glance, appears to provide little privacy protection for celebrities-and the tabloids, with access to public court records, are as interested in the celebrities' financial information as disillusioned ex-wives and girlfriends. However, three cases-all decided by the Second District of the California Court of Appeal-have determined that under appropriate circumstances the high-earning parent need not disclose details of his or her income or submit to more than perfunctory discovery. Moreover, if complete disclosure is inappropriate, the trial court may not be required to make the seemingly mandated findings about formula support levels. Under those circumstances, the details of a celebrity parent's income and financial affairs would not be exposed to the world.
The first of this trilogy of cases was Estevez v. Superior Court, which was decided in 1994-only two years after the enactment of the mandatory child support guideline formula.10 Emilio Estevez had been providing child support to the mother of his two children in the form of cash and benefits that included a housekeeper, vacations, food, transportation, private school, the use of tennis club facilities, and lodging in a four-bedroom house in Malibu owned by his parents.
The children's mother, Carey Salley, was "not dissatisfied" with this total package of support benefits. She was unhappy, however, with Estevez having control over the benefits. She wanted to receive cash so that she could rent a home of her choice, structure her own finances, and pursue a career. She brought an order to show cause to modify support, seeking to have support determined pursuant to the newly enacted mandatory support guideline formula as applied to Estevez's income. To determine his income, Salley served Estevez with a request for production and inspection of documents that included records of his bank accounts, loans made by him or monies owed to him, employment and fringe benefits, stock brokerage accounts, monthly expenses, and debts and liabilities.
In response, Estevez offered a unilateral stipulation that during each of the preceding three years he had a gross income of "not less than" $1.4 million per year and that his current year's income was commensurate with his prior income. He also asserted that he could pay any reasonable amount for the support of his two minor children. Estevez reasoned that he was an extraordinarily high-income earner within the meaning of the child support statute and that any amount of child support calculated in accordance with the statutory formula would far exceed the reasonable needs of the children.
Relying upon White v. Marciano,11 a case decided under the pre-guideline Agnos Child Support Standards Act, Estevez asserted that the production of the documents requested by Salley was not necessary for a determination of the reasonable needs of the children and was therefore not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, was unduly burdensome, and unreasonably interfered with his right of privacy under Article I of the California Constitution. (In the White case, the father, Maurice Marciano, one of the brothers who founded Guess Jeans, had stipulated that he had an annual income of $1 million, that he lived a life style commensurate with that income, and that he could pay any reasonable amount of child support.)
Salley conceded that Estevez had an extraordinarily high income but contended that before the court could depart from the mandatory formula, the court must first calculate the amount of support called for by the formula-a calculation that required knowledge of the high earner's actual net monthly disposable income, not an arbitrary "not less than" figure.
In reaching its decision, the court of appeal in Estevez first interpreted White as allowing a trial court to preclude discovery of the net worth and life style of a noncustodial parent if there is no question as to that parent's ability to pay any reasonable support order.12 The Estevez court then determined that the sole question before it was whether the enactment of the mandatory child support guideline formula had abrogated the White rule.13 To answer that question, the Estevez court looked at the law existing when White was decided and found that a trial court at that time was required to determine the annual gross income and net disposable income of each parent-the same requirement seemingly required by the more recent law setting forth the mandatory child support formula.14 In addition, at the time White was decided, parties to a support proceeding were required to submit copies of their income tax returns to the court-a requirement that still exists under Family Code Section 3552.
Despite these legal requirements, and the White court's affirmation that the child of a wealthy parent is entitled to, and therefore "needs," support based on the wealthier parent's income and standard of living, the White court had concluded that a trial court was not required to consider detailed life style and net worth evidence in determining the needs of the child or the amount of support to be awarded.15 When the noncustodial parent's ability to pay any reasonable support order is not in question, according to White, detailed lifestyle evidence is "irrelevant to the issue of the amount of support to be paid and thus protected from discovery and inadmissible in determining the support order."16
Under former law, a trial court also was required to justify any award of child support below the minimum level established by the Agnos standard.17 This requirement is analogous to the current statutory requirement of findings.18 Thus, the Estevez court found that enactment of the mandatory support formula of Family Code Section 4055 did not materially change the statutory law as it existed at the time of White. Moreover, the Estevez court found nothing in the legislative history of the new statutory child support scheme to indicate an intent to abrogate the White rule. In fact, the Estevez court determined that the legislature apparently intended to adopt the White rule when it provided that the presumption of correctness of the guideline formula could be rebutted by a showing that the payor parent had an extraordinarily high income and that the amount determined by the formula would exceed the children's needs.19
Estevez adopted the rationale of White that the exercise of 1) calculating the amount of support called for by the formula, 2) considering the needs of the children, and 3) after those two steps are completed, making a determination whether the presumption has been rebutted, is "unnecessary…unduly burdensome and oppressive" because the information is "irrelevant to the issue of the amount of child support" when the extraordinarily high-income earner has stipulated that he or she can and will pay any reasonable amount of child support.20 Estevez finessed the issue of the statutorily required findings as well as the determination of the reasonable needs of the child by noting that if the payor parent challenged the amount of child support as unreasonable, then the payor parent would be required to disclose the financial information needed to apply the guideline formula. Further, the findings requirements of Family Code Section 4056 could be satisfied by the trial court's making such assumptions as would be the least beneficial to the high earner concerning his or her net disposable income, federal tax-filing status, and deductions from gross income.21
Estevez left unresolved several important issues, including:
- The extent of the noncustodial parent's discovery rights when (unlike in Estevez) there is a substantial discrepancy between the custodial parent's contentions as to the child's needs and the guideline sum.
- The standards for determining when the court can apply assumptions regarding the high earner's income, deductions, and tax-filing status.
- Clarification on the resolution of conflicts between the right to discovery and the right to privacy when there is a large discrepancy between the payor parent's proposed stipulated income and the custodial parent's contentions that the proposed stipulated income is too low.
McGinley's Support and Income Approximations
In 1996, the Second District had another opportunity to address high-earner child support in the second case in the trilogy, McGinley v. Herman.22 Unlike Estevez, in which the noncustodial parent had stipulated to substantial earnings that would have generated a guideline amount with which the mother was "not dissatisfied," the noncustodial parent in McGinley, Los Angeles real estate agent Stan Herman, claimed to have "living expenses" of $31,457 and an average cash flow deficit of $42,532 a month. The custodial parent, however, presented evidence showing that Herman's annual income was approximately $1.4 million, with $116,256 "cash available for support" each month. That level of income would have resulted in a guideline support award of $14,617 per month.
The trial court found Herman to be an extraordinarily high earner-a finding that could only have been based on an acceptance of the mother's evidence. Nevertheless, the trial court awarded a child support package of only $2,900 per month for the parties' 18-month-old toddler, consisting of $1,750 in cash, $400 for child care expenses, and $750 as a contribution to a fund for the child's higher education.23 The court of appeal reversed, explaining that the support order for $2,900 per month did not relate in any meaningful way to the father's standard of living and therefore constituted an abuse of discretion.
The McGinley court agreed with Estevez that notwithstanding the apparently mandatory language of Family Code Section 4056, a "determination of the guidelines amount may not be necessary in the case of an extraordinarily high earner."24 However, as McGinley explains, the trial court must at least approximate at what point the support amount calculated under the formula would exceed the child's needs-and thus at what point the income of the party paying support becomes extraordinarily high.25 Without making that initial approximation, a trial court runs the risk of making a child support award for an extraordinarily high-income earner that is less than an earner with a nonextraordinarily high income might be required to pay.26
McGinley approved the use of assumptions least favorable to the support-paying parent, as first suggested in Estevez. Further, McGinley clarified that when there is a dispute as to the actual amount of child support, a court is required to make at least an "approximation" of net disposable income.27 However, McGinley did not provide any guidance to the trial courts or practitioners as to the types of information required to make such an approximation.
Johnson and Least Beneficial Assumptions
That issue arose two years later in the third case in the trilogy, Johnson v. Superior Court.28 In this paternity action, Larry Johnson, a New York Knicks basketball player, conceded that his annual income was at least $1 million and that he had the ability to pay any amount of support the court determined to be reasonable. He resisted discovery efforts to obtain his contract, records of his earnings and fringe benefits, tax returns, living expenses, travel expenses, bank records, real property holdings, and insurance records, asserting that under Estevez he was not required to reveal information regarding his income and life style.
The mother contended that the discovery was necessary because she "had information" indicating that Johnson's annual income was closer to $12 million.29 Not unreasonably, she asserted that the difference between $12 million and $1 million in income would be significant in determining the child's reasonable needs.30 The trial court, relying on Estevez, precluded discovery into Johnson's income but allowed discovery with respect to Johnson's living expenses and the living expenses of his other children, his nonbusiness travel expenses, his real property ownership records, and his insurance coverage records.
Johnson sought relief from the court of appeal, which agreed with him that detailed discovery into his life style should have been precluded.31 Turning, like its predecessors, to the pre-guideline case of White, the Johnson court noted that:
[A child's support should be measured by the standard of living] attainable by the income available to the parents rather than by evidence of the manner in which the parents' income is expended and the parents' resulting lifestyle. It matters not whether the…noncustodial parent miserly hoarded his $1 million per year income and lived the life of a pauper or whether he lived the life of a prince spending every cent of the available income.32
While professing to agree with the central holding in Estevez, the Johnson court took issue with the Estevez court's determination that financial information is irrelevant to the needs of a child with a noncustodial parent that is an extraordinarily high-income earner.33 The Johnson court, consistent with its determination that a child's support should be measured by the standard of living attainable by the parent's income, regardless of what the parents actually spend, held that discovery into Johnson's "lifestyle" should have been precluded.34 This leads to the conclusion that income is the only relevant factor in a child support determination.
The Johnson court concurred with the mother that the difference between a $12 million annual income and a $1 million annual income might well have an impact upon a trial court's determination regarding a child's needs. By doing so, the Johnson court effectively recognized that there are differences between the rich and the very rich "and that this discrepancy can affect the child's needs."35 The Johnson court distinguished Estevez because the actual amount of child support had not been at issue in Estevez. Thus, the Estevez decision did not have to address "the tension between the extraordinarily high earner's desire for protection from discovery and the necessity that the trial court be presented with sufficient information upon which to intelligently assess the child's needs."36
Estevez does suggest a mechanism for resolving this tension by permitting the use of least beneficial assumptions regarding the payor's income. However, while Estevez mentions the use of least beneficial assumptions as a possible approach in a case in which the actual amount of child support was not disputed, Johnson goes a step further. The Johnson court held that making least beneficial assumptions is mandatory when there is a dispute.37 But how is a trial court to make the least beneficial assumptions about the income of an extraordinarily high-income earner? The mother of Larry Johnson's child asserted that Johnson's income was in the range of $12 million, but she lacked evidence to prove her assertions. The Johnson court held that if she had possessed "sufficient information to form the basis of a reasonable assumption," there would have been no need for discovery, because the trial court could have based its least favorable assumption regarding Johnson's income on that information.
But what constitutes "sufficient" information? What if a custodial parent merely suspects, or has heard rumors, that the noncustodical parent's income is substantially higher than he or she has alleged? This is an extremely important question, given that income alone-as opposed to the life style of the parents-is the determining factor in child support calculations. Can hearsay form a reasonable basis to make an assumption as to income? Probably not. But at least some forms of hearsay-perhaps newspaper reports of recent endorsement contracts, for example-arguably can form a basis for allowing sufficient limited discovery, which in turn can provide a foundation upon which the court can make assumptions about income.
Johnson states that "detailed" discovery is unnecessary and unfair when the extraordinarily high-income earner, following White and Estevez, has asserted that he or she can pay reasonable support.38 Thus, limited discovery-aimed only at establishing information from which the least beneficial assumptions about the noncustodial parent's income can be inferred-can be permitted without running afoul of White and Estevez.
As the Johnson court explained:
[I]f assumptions unfavorable to Johnson may reasonably be made in the absence of any discovery, no discovery should be granted. If the information available is insufficient to make such assumptions, some form of discovery is appropriate.39
If "some form" of limited discovery is necessary or allowed under this ruling, what is its scope? The custodial parent's legitimate need to obtain information upon which to base reasonable assumptions about income must be balanced against the high earner's desire to be protected against unduly burdensome or invasive discovery. The Johnson court, nevertheless, did not attempt to establish a bright-line test: "We trust that…the parties with the assistance of the court will be able to fashion an appropriate approach to discovery."40
Strategies for Restricting Disclosure
Despite the absence of a bright-line test, an extraordinarily high-income earner can take some strategic steps to protect against detailed disclosure. Celebrities need not hear the details of their tax returns on late-night television.
- The celebrity should take the initiative. A high-earner noncustodial parent should assert that he or she can pay any reasonable support under White and Estevez.
- Before providing tax returns or any other financial document in the course of a legal proceeding, the celebrity should seek the other party's assent to a detailed confidentiality agreement.
- If the custodial parent is requesting detailed discovery, and the meet-and-confer conference has failed to produce an agreement, the high earner should seek a protective order to limit or terminate discovery.41 The high earner must file a noticed motion for a protective order.
The motion should include a declaration showing a "reasonable and good faith attempt" to resolve the disputed issues informally42 as well as evidence in support of the fundamental contention that the moving party is an extraordinarily high earner. The celebrity's goal is to establish "good cause" for the court to make whatever order justice requires to protect against oppression and undue burdens. The application should detail why it is important to protect specific confidential information and should request an order precluding or restricting discovery and prohibiting disclosure to third persons of the information that is produced. An order limiting public access to the information by placing the items that are produced under seal-to be opened only on court order43-also should be a part of the application. The court has wide discretion to excuse production or to set terms and conditions under which items must be produced. Thus, if the celebrity makes a showing of good cause, the court may deny discovery altogether.
Applicants may request an in camera inspection of "sensitive" material. If a claim of privilege based on a trade secret is asserted, it is an abuse of the court's discretion to order disclosure of the trade secret without first reviewing the relevant documents in camera to determine their value to the case and whether sensitive matter should be excised before disclosure.44 Counsel may argue that assertion of the constitutional right of privacy warrants the same protection.
- Even when income tax returns are discoverable, they can be protected. A party to a child or family support proceeding may not refuse to "submit copies of the party's state and federal income tax returns to the court, whether individual or joint."45 However, "submit" does not mean file with the court. Tax returns that a court finds not to be relevant to the disposition of a case must be returned to the party who submitted them.46
Counsel for the high earner must protect the confidentiality of a client's tax returns with vigor because once returns are filed with the moving and responding papers, they become a public record and lose the shield of confidentiality for all purposes. The parties can be ordered to exchange the returns, with a prohibition against disclosing the returns or any information contained in them to anyone other than forensic experts who are themselves bound by orders against disclosure. The request for a protective order should include personal tax returns, corporate or partnership returns, and all underlying records and data upon which the returns are based, such as checkbooks, journals, ledgers, and accountant work papers.
- The high earner should consider filing a declaration that states the "bottom line" of the tax return-the unadjusted gross income-rather than producing the return itself. This approach will arguably satisfy the McGinley and Johnson requirement of providing sufficient information upon which a court can base its least favorable assumptions as to the supporting parent's income. If there are questions concerning the accuracy of the returns, they could be resolved in camera without the risk that the high earner's private tax return will be attached to a pleading and thus become a public document.
Alternatively, the high earner could offer redacted pages of the tax return, showing gross income and adjusted gross. Again, the purpose is to establish a prima facie showing of income upon which a court can base its least favorable assumptions.
Both approaches arguably shift the burden to the custodial parent to present credible evidence that the high earner's income is substantially higher than the high earner has proposed to stipulate, which would justify the custodial parent's claimed need for more detailed discovery to resolve the discrepancy. If the custodial parent cannot meet this burden, then the court, under Johnson, simply makes the least favorable assumptions regarding income based on tax information provided by the high earner, and the issue then shifts to the child's reasonable needs, without further reference to income or discovery.
- It is essential for celebrities' counsel to discern the views of judicial officers presiding over their cases on what constitutes extraordinarily high income and what evidence will be allowed or required to establish least favorable assumptions. The harsh reality is that the level of income necessary to establish an individual as an extraordinarily high-income earner varies widely among counties and courtrooms. It may be surprising that in many jurisdictions outside of Los Angeles, an extraordinarily high-income earner is a person who earns approximately $300,000 a year. A highly informal poll of judicial officers within Los Angeles County indicates that a finding of extraordinarily high income can range from $500,000 a year to $1.5 million a year. Counsel might attempt to establish an objective criterion for extraordinary high income by presenting the court with statistics-either through judicial notice or expert testimony-that demonstrate in what income group the client should be placed in comparison to all other income earners in the United States or in Southern California.
- A celebrity should consider requesting an early assessment of the child's financial needs independent of the celebrity's income-a move that may produce a definite strategic advantage. For example, in terms of limiting discovery, the court may be persuaded that the child's reasonable needs constitute $12,000 a month ($144,000 annually) which, for purposes of formula guideline support, is commensurate with a $2.2 million annual income. The high earner may then admit that he or she has the ability to pay that sum and request that all financial discovery be terminated. To pursue such a course, the high earner must present competent and persuasive evidence regarding the child's reasonable financial needs. The goal is to show that application of the formula would be "unjust or inappropriate" because it would yield a sum that substantially exceeds the reasonable needs of the child.
- The high earner could choose a cost-effective baseline approach by requesting the court to take judicial notice of a government publication containing statistical data on child support. An example is the U.S. Department of Agriculture 1998 Annual Report, "Expenditures on Children by Families"47-a technical report that was designed to provide assistance to states in developing child support guidelines and foster care payments. The report presents the most recent estimates for two-parent and single-parent families. Although the material is not applicable to the needs of a high earner's child for items such as housing or education, the report breaks down other expenditures for children such as food, transportation, clothing, healthcare, child care, and other miscellaneous items. The report demonstrates that housing costs make up roughly 41 percent of total expenditures for children and seems to indicate that while housing costs will increase with income, many other categories will not, such as transportation, food, and healthcare. With this information in hand, the high earner can argue that a baseline of reasonable needs-regardless of the parents' economic status-can be established in some categories of child support expenditures, with adjustments made in others.
The measure of exactly what a child needs will of course vary with the age of the child and the circumstances of each case. Even if the court is inclined to consider the statistical data in a government publication adjusted for a case involving a high earner, counsel should anticipate and acknowledge more income-specific needs of a child, such as private school tuition or child care; tutors; private lessons for music, art, or sports; summer camps; and the like.
Notwithstanding the apparent statutory requirement that high-earning celebrities must make a full disclosure of their income and the court must make specific findings concerning celebrities' income on the record, counsel can protect their clients' privacy by taking affirmative steps to provide opposing parties and the court with sufficient information-and only sufficient information-to make a reasonable assumption regarding income. Counsel also can effectively protect the confidentiality of the limited documents that are produced to form the basis of the assumptions. Once the assumptions are determined, counsel can take affirmative steps to avoid application of the mandatory child support guidelines by establishing that the actual reasonable needs of the child can be met by a generous support order that is far less than would be required as a result of the mandatory child support guidelines.
1 Without a prior court order, deposition notices cannot be served until 20 days after service of the summons. Code Civ. Proc. §§2025(b)(2). A 10-day waiting period is imposed for interrogatories and inspection of documents. Code Civ. Proc. §§§§2030(b) and 2031(b).
2 Fam. Code §§§§4050, 4053(k), 4057(a).
3 Kyne v. Kyne, 70 Cal. App. 2d 80, 83 (1945). Of course, an increase in the custodial parent's income will also have an impact on the child support determination-but in the typical case involving an extraordinarily high-income earner, this impact will be negligible.
4 In re Marriage of Catalano, 204 Cal. App. 3d 543, 552 (1988). A custodial parent whose life style has been elevated by child support from an extraordinarily high-income earner will experience a sharp decline in his or her standard of living when child support terminates. Even when the parents were married and the custodial parent is receiving spousal support in addition to child support, the termination of child support is not a change of circumstances justifying an increase in spousal support. In re Marriage of Lautsbaugh, 72 Cal. App. 4th 1131 (1999).
5 Estevez v. Superior Court, 22 Cal. App. 4th 423, 430, fn. 6 (1994).
6 Fam. Code §§4057(b)(3).
7 This problem often arises in nonmarital situations. In marital dissolution cases, issues of spousal support and property division usually will provide the basis for more wide-ranging discovery and render the privacy issues partially moot. However, these issues can be equally applicable in postjudgment child-support proceedings arising out of marital dissolution cases.
8 Catalano, 204 Cal. App. 3d at 552.
9 Fam. Code §§4056(a).
10 Fam. Code §§§§4050-69 (originally enacted as Civ. Code §§4720 and 4721). Estevez v. Superior Court, 22 Cal. App. 4th 423, 425 (1994).
11 White v. Marciano, 190 Cal. App. 3d 1026 (1987).
12 Estevez, 22 Cal. App. 4th at 424-25. The Estevez court also defined the White rule in terms of discovery regarding "net worth and lifestyle," not "income." Id. at 429. Later cases discussed infra-including McGinley v. Herman, 50 Cal. App. 4th 936 (1996, and Johnson v. Superior Court, 66 Cal. App. 4th 68 (1998)-have blurred, if not reversed, this distinction.
13 Estevez, 22 Cal. App. 4th at 424-25.
15 White, 190 Cal. App. 3d at 1032.
17 Former Civ. Code §§4724(d); Estevez, 22 Cal. App. 4th at 430.
18 Fam. Code §§4056.
19 Estevez, 22 Cal. App. 4th at 431.
22 McGinley v. Herman, 50 Cal. App. 4th 936 (1996).
23 The court did not address the basis for the order for contributions to a higher education fund. There seems to be no statutory or case authority for such an order, and the father apparently did not raise the issue on appeal.
24 McGinley, 50 Cal. App. 4th at 944 (emphasis added).
25 Id. at 945.
27 Id. at 946.
28 Johnson v. Superior Court, 66 Cal. App. 4th 68 (1998). Justice William A. Masterson was the author of both the Johnson and McGinley opinions. Justice Miriam A. Vogel also sat on the McGinley and Johnson panels.
29 Id. at 71.
30 Although the statutory provision for rebutting the guideline formula refers to a child's "needs," Estevez, McGinley, and Johnson all discuss a child's "reasonable needs."
31 Johnson, 66 Cal. App. 4th at 75-76.
32 Id. at 72 (emphasis added).
33 Id. at 74.
34 Id. at 75-76.
35 Id. at 74.
37 Id. at 74-75.
38 Id. at 75.
39 Id. at 76.
40 Id. at 75.
41 Code Civ. Proc. §§2031(e). The motion must be made "promptly" and before expiration of the 20-day period within which to respond to discovery. Code Civ. Proc. §§2031(k). The high earner may find it necessary to simultaneously request an ex parte order staying discovery until the court rules on the motion for protective order.
42 Code Civ. Proc. §§2031(e).
44 Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Superior Ct. (Paine Webber Real Estate Sec.), 233 Cal. App. 3d 1138, 1141, n.1 (1991).
45 Fam. Code §3552(a). The code is silent concerning how many prior years' tax returns are discoverable.
46 Fam. Code §3552(c).
47 U.S. Department of Agriculture 1998 Annual Report, Expenditures on Children by Families, Misc. Pub. No. 1528-1998 (Mar. 1999).
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