Jon Cryer, one of the stars of Two and a Half Men was recently involved in a child support modification with his ex-wife Sarah. The case is entitled In Re marriage of Cryer, 2011 Cal. App. Lexis 1132. The court held that when the television actor’s child was placed with him in the early stages of post-dissolution dependency matter, a family court did not abuse its discretion by declining to reduce the actor’s child support from $10,000 a month to $0.
The facts of the case are as follows, Jon and Sarah married in 2000 and had a child from that union. In 2004, the parties separated and with John’s assistance Sarah purchased a condominium. In January, 2006 the family court entered a judgment dissolving the parties’ marriage and Jon agreed to pay Sarah $10,000 a month in child support based on Sarah 65% timeshare with the parties’ child. Sarah subsequently married in 2007 and had a child with her new husband and that marriage was dissolved in 2009. Sarah’s younger son was injured in Sarah’s home and the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) removed both her children and commenced a dependency proceeding. The children were given to their respective fathers.
In one of the preceding Sarah asked that Jon Cryer pay her attorney fees for the dependency case, however that request was denied. In August Jon sought a reduction from or child support from $10,000.00, arguing Sarah only had short periods of monitored visitation with their son. Sarah opposed this request, arguing that Jon’s child support obligation was not burdensome because it constituted only about 3% of his income that the custody arrangement ordered by the juvenile court was temporary and subject to change and that without the child-support she would lose her house and car and be unable to pay her bills, all of which would harm the child.
Jon’s Income and Expense declaration showed approximately $327,000 of monthly income, nearly $7 million in liquid assets and approximately $29,000 in monthly expenses. Sarah’s Income & Expense declaration showed little income, practically no liquid assets and approximately $10,000 in monthly expenses, not including attorney fees. Sarah further declared that her only significant source of income was Jon’s child-support payments to her. In December, the Family Court reduced Jon’s child support from $10,000 to $8,000 a month, noting that Jon’s guideline child support under Family Code §4055 would be approximately $1,141 a month because of Sarah’s timeshare, however, the court found the guideline amount would be unjust and inappropriate under the circumstances, because Jon was an extraordinary high earner. It also found that Sarah’s custody arrangement was temporary and could be modified at anytime and that it was important for Sarah the child to have frequent contact and for the child to be able to return to the home that he shared with Sarah prior to the dependency action. In addition, the child-support the Family Court ordered Jon to pay $20,000 of Sarah’s attorney fees and costs. The appellate court found that the trial court was correct and that Jon’s case “presented anything but normal circumstances” and that the special circumstances exception of Family Code §4057(b)(5) gave the Family Court, “considerable discretion to approach unique cases on an ad hoc basis.” In addition, the appellate court concluded that the Family Court properly denied Jon’s request for an accounting on how Sarah used the child-support funds.
What this case shows is that the Family Court will look at what is in the best interests of the child, so that the child can have a similar situated experience with both parents, especially if it is not going to create an economic hardship. As stated, in the above case child support is only 3% of Jon Cryer’s income.
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