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Appeals, Writs, and Complex Motions Practice

Marriage of Schopfer

Decided in 2010 in a published decision at 186 Cal.App.4th 524, this case involved a teenager who continued to live with her step-father (Mr. Sargeant's client) after the child's mother died. Her biological father then stopped paying child support, and the stepfather filed a motion seeking custody and support. The father in response filed a pleading indicating he was requesting an order for "guideline child support," which the trial judge later ordered. On appeal, the father argued that, under statute and caselaw, the lower court lacked authority to order that child support be paid to a third party (the stepfather) absent an express agreement. The Court of Appeal rejected the argument, accepting that the father's request for guideline support was sufficient, by itself, to constitute the required express agreement. Further, the court concluded that the guideline child support order made during a child's minority, which remained in effect after the child's 18th birthday because she was a full-time high school student, need not be modified simply because she was attending a boarding school when she turned 18, and thus neither party had custody of the by-then emancipated child. "As long as, based on the facts of the case, it is possible to reasonably assign physical “responsibility” for an adult child, the guideline formula remains applicable, even though neither parent (or any other person) has 'custody' of the child."