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In re Marriage of Schopfer

May 18, 2010

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF BARBARA AND WILLIAM C. SCHOPFER.
WILLIAM C. SCHOPFER, APPELLANT,
v.
DANIEL BONEBRAKE, RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, Jerilyn L. Borack, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. 96FL01642).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Since the death of his ex-wife, William C. Schopfer (father) shared legal and physical custody of his daughter, Jennifer, with her stepfather, Daniel C. Bonebrake. Pursuant to a court order, father also paid to Bonebrake $900 each month for child support. Four months before Jennifer graduated from high school, however, father moved to reduce his child support obligation to zero. The trial court denied his motion.

On appeal, father makes the same three contentions he made in the trial court. First, he contends that he cannot be compelled to pay child support to a third party, absent an agreement. Second, he contends that he can no longer be required to pay child support for Jennifer because she is now 18 years old. Third, he contends that an order compelling him to pay child support for Jennifer is inequitable because she is in boarding school, the tuition for which is paid by her mother's estate, and thus Bonebrake is no longer paying Jennifer's expenses.

Finding none of father's claims to have merit, we affirm the order of the trial court.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In December 2006, the court awarded joint legal and physical custody of Jennifer to father and Bonebrake. The parties nevertheless acknowledged that Jennifer was living with Bonebrake.

In July 2007, the court ordered father to pay to Bonebrake $900 per month in child support. In August 2007, at the recommendation of Jennifer's therapist and drug counselor, Bonebrake enrolled Jennifer in boarding school in Oregon.

In July 2008, father filed an order to show cause, seeking to modify the prior order for child support to zero. Relying on Plumas County Dept. of Child Support Services v. Rodriguez (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 1021 (Rodriguez), he argued "there is no statutory authority for the court to award child support to a non-parent custodian." He also argued that because Jennifer was now 18 years old and in boarding school, the tuition for which was paid out of her mother's estate, an order compelling him to pay child support to Bonebrake was inequitable. Bonebrake opposed father's request, arguing that until Jennifer graduated from high school, father had a duty to support her.

At the hearing on father's motion, the court requested additional briefing on a recently published case, Edwards v. Edwards (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 136. In his amended points and authorities, father relied on Edwards to argue that because Jennifer was 18 years old, neither he nor Bonebrake was "primarily physically responsible" for her for any period of time. Thus, father argued, guideline child support was inapplicable. Bonebrake argued that Edwards was distinguishable because, unlike the adult child in Edwards who was in college, Jennifer had not yet graduated from high school.

In September 2008, the court heard argument on father's motion. The court then ruled as follows: "The court finds that the facts in the present case can be distinguished from the Rodriguez case. [Father] agreed to pay guideline support in responsive pleadings filed on 05/30/07 and orders made in 06/01/07. The court finds that the child's attendance at boarding school does not impact [father]'s ongoing obligation." Father appeals from that order.

DISCUSSION

Father contends the trial court erred in denying his request for modification of the prior order for support. "We review orders granting or denying a request for modification of a child support order for abuse of discretion. [Citations.] The trial court's exercise of its discretion must be 'informed and considered' [citations], and the trial court may not 'ignore or contravene the purposes of the law.' [Citation.] [ΒΆ] To the extent [father] challenges the trial court's factual findings, we review the findings for substantial evidence, considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the party who prevailed in the ...


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