The other day I was researching a case on child support and was trying to determine what duty a parent had to disclose information regarding child support. As I found out, once a “final judgment” is entered on the issue of child support (for example, as the result of a trial) the supporting parent no longer has a duty to inform the other parent (or the Department of Child Support Services) of any change in their financial condition. This rule comes from the case Marriage of Sorge 202 Cal.App.4th 626 (2012) 134 Cal. Rptr. 3d 751.
As it turns out, Joseph Sorge earned a B.S. degree from M.I.T., and an M.D degree from Harvard, was a professor of molecular biology at The Scripps Research Institute, and founded a biotechnology company, Stratagene, which he took public and later sold to a large medical supply company, reportedly for $100 million dollars, which he did not disclose to the mother of his children because it happened after the divorce.
After their divorce, Maryanne, the ex-wife of Joseph, sought a modification of a child support order after she learned he’d sold his business for $100 million. Joseph challenged the modification on the grounds that he had invested millions in a start-up company and had significant losses. He wanted the trial court to base his support on the income he actually had, not imputed income. The court determined that it could use the high earning capacity Joseph could have had rather than his actual income in calculating child support. (thanks to Jeanne Hannah for her blog on this)
Joseph was paying, get this, $8,500 in child support per month and $12,000 per month in spousal support. Understandably, he opposed an increase in his already considerable payments and perhaps engaged in conduct designed to frustrate the process. It is often the case that a party normally not inclined to play fast and loose with the rules is more willing to do so in family law cases. I have observed that hardened manipulators, who have been doing so their entire life, usually do better than those who fall into it by circumstance.
On the other hand, the child has the right to benefit from the increased income of a parent. Parents know child support is based on income. If you purposefully hide assets to decrease your income available for child support, you probably deserve what you get.
As I continued to read up on this interesting case, I discovered that Mr. Sorge was the producer of “Divorce Corp.” a 2014 film chronicling the abusive practices found in family courts and the extraordinarily unjust results found therein. A film I have never seen yet previously supported because I myself am a critic of the nonsense that comes out of the family courts and advocate reform and education. I may have gone off half-cocked. This may be an example of how when you formulate views, you accept things that are consistent with those views uncritically.
Upon further examination, I began to question my previous position. I then ran across a blog by a Pasadena Attorney named Mark Baer, a long-time advocate of family law reform. Interestingly enough, Baer refused to support the movie and gave 58 reasons why he could not do so in his article “The Hidden Agenda Behind the Making of Divorce Corp.”. As I result, I now question my previous support of this movie that I have not seen (yet read quite a bit about).
The reason why I write about this is because this is exactly what family law judges face. Given limited information, and the need to make a decision, they can wind up on the wrong end of the struggle and siding with the perpetrator. Good judges continually are seeking information and revisit their decisions.