It was recently reported that actor Jeremy Renner (best known for his lead in 2008’s The Hurt Locker and as Hawkeye in the Avengers movies) is refusing to pay his half of their daughter Ava’s preschool tuition. Jeremy’s ex-wife, Sonnie Pacheco claims that she has asked for Jeremy to pay half of the $1,600 monthly tuition, but he has refused. She also claims he has fallen behind on his child support payments to the tune of $48,367. Now I have to admit I have never read Jeremy’s court orders, but I have a really good guess what order is he running afoul of.
In California, it is mandatory for the Court, when making child support orders, to allocate the costs related to the children’s uninsured medical expenses (e.g. co-pays, deductibles) and for the cost of child care so that a parent can work or go to school/training. These are referred to as “mandatory add-ons” since the court is required to make them part of all child support orders. Typically the cost of these expenses is split equally between the parents, but the court has discretion to allocate the cost however is most appropriate in light of the parties income and expenses. So for example in Jeremy’s case above, if the court ordered that Jeremy and Sonnie were to split the cost of their daughter’s pre-school, then Jeremy would owe half of the $1,600 tuition or $800 each month.
The court may (meaning it is not mandatory) issue an order allocating educational or other special needs of the children and travel expenses for visitation. These are referred to as “permissive add-ons.” As with mandatory add-ons, these expenses are usually shared equally, but can be allocated however the court deems most appropriate. For example, if Dad lives in New York and Mom lives in San Diego, the court can order the parties to equally share the cost of their child’s plane ticket for visitation with the other parent.
The allocation of these “add-ons” are governed by Family Code §§4062 and 4063. Section 4062 addresses what add-ons must be ordered (mandatory) and what add-ons may be ordered (permissive). Once ordered, the payment, repayment, and reimbursement for the add-ons is addressed in Section 4063. Family Code §4063 is too long and detailed a code section to address in a single blog.
That is why you should read it and discuss it with an experienced family law attorney so you are sure to understand your rights and obligations.
Once ordered, child support add-ons are no different than regular child support. That is why the court orders for add-ons typically start with language such as, “As and for additional child support, the court order…” Just like regular child support, if the party fails to pay their share, it creates a child support arrearage. That arrearage can be enforced by contempt or through an enforcement motion. In an enforcement motion all child support arrears (including add-ons) collect interest at 10% per annum. That means a party has all of the enforcement mechanisms and protections for add-ons as they would if the other payor failed to make monthly child support cash payments.
It is imperative that you discuss your case with a qualified attorney because the issue of child support add-ons can be quite complex. For example, if your child goes to daycare during the other parent’s custodial time and that parent is not working or going to school, you have no obligation to pay for any part of that daycare expense. As another example, if the other parent took your child to see the doctor that was out of network and presented you with a bill for the portion not covered by insurance, you are not necessarily required to pay the amount allocated by a court order. You see, pursuant to Family Code §4063(f)(2), absent an emergency or other good reason, if a parent uses a medical professional not covered by your insurance plan, they are responsible for 100% of the cost.
Understanding your rights and obligations with regard to child support and child support add-ons can save you a lot of time, money, and grief. This is why you should seek the advice of a qualified family law attorney to discuss your case.
Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child support add-ons. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.