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Tentative Ruling
Judge Thomas Anderle
Department 3 SB-Anacapa
1100 Anacapa Street P.O. Box 21107 Santa Barbara, CA 93121-1107


Skye Boucaut and Jacob Lipski Royall

Case No: 17FL00536
Hearing Date: Tue Jan 09, 2018 10:30

Nature of Proceedings: Req. for Order Child Support; Req. for Order: Child Custody/Visitation

Two Requests for Order: Child Support; Child Custody; Visitation


Tracey Cruz, counsel for Petitioner;

Matt Moore counsel for Respondent.


At the outset, the Court found the documentation submitted very extensive and at times contradictory and inconsistent; thus the Court has set out a substantial summary of the respective positions taken by the parties.

1. Custody evaluator’s retainer. Mother’s request that the Court order each of them to advance $6,000 to Dr. Iverson, subject to reallocation at trial, is GRANTED. The sum shall be paid no later than February 9, 2018.

2. Scope of evaluation. Father’s request that the Court order the scope of the evaluation be expanded to include his request to move with the child to San Diego is GRANTED.

3. Child support. Child support is $1,258/mo effective August 1, 2017, with father to receive credit for any sums of money actually paid; there are no offsets of any kind authorized at this time; father’s request for travel expenses to be offset is denied without prejudice; he may renew it at trial. See the “Court’s Conclusions” below for more analysis.

4. Spousal Support. The Court acknowledges mother’s RFO re spousal support is set for 2/13/18; the Court has no present opinion about that issue.

5. Case Management Conference. This case was filed in 3/2017; it was a 5 year 4 month marriage with one child; the date of separation was 1/2017. There are experienced lawyers on this case. The Court has read the very extensive documentation about the underlying issues and has only been asked to make temporary decisions about the issues. Final decisions will obviously be delayed by the time it will take to perform the 3111 evaluation. The Court wants to maintain a close overview of that timing. Thus, another Case Management Conference is set for 2/13/18 to monitor the prompt payment by both parties of the Evaluator’s retainer.


Mother’s RFO

Filed on 7/12/17; it is 59 pages long; the Court has read it all but summarizes here; she requested that many issues be resolved; one of them was her request that the cost of the 3111 evaluation be divided equally; there is a $12,000 retainer needed; her extensive RFO, that included significant issues, was set for hearing on 7/25/17.

Father’s Response to Mother’s RFO

He filed his response on 7/17/18; it was 42 pages long and the Court will only summarize; the vast portion of the response related to issues other than the retainer; the other issues were resolved without Court intervention; as for the cost of the evaluation, father did say that he hopes they can figure out a way to pay for a custody evaluation; he is confident that it will help them make the decision that is in their child’s best interest; until then, he asked that the Court reinstate his visitation time of three full days and three overnights per week.

Father’s RFO to set Temporary Child Support

It was filed 7/24/17; is 29 pages long; the Court summarizes; he testifies that he has been paying informal child support since separation, but the uncertainty about his child support obligation is a major source of friction between mother and father; resolution will help them to co-parent cooperatively; mother has made it abundantly clear that her wealthy family is supporting her lifestyle; mother believes he should be paying more than he is; but he is providing as much financial support as he can; does not have more money to give her; had to borrow nearly $10,000 over the past six months, and the business has borrowed about $90,000 in the past nine months to stay afloat; financial situation will turn around; will be able to provide more for Charlotte; but for now, he asks the Court to set child support based on their actual current financial circumstances; requests that the Court order Guideline child support as set forth in his attached Declaration under Local Rule 1418.

Father’s suggested DissoMaster assigned mother income of $3,548/mo and child support suggested was $697/mo; there was no request for an offset for travel expenses.

Minute Order of 7/25/17

The Court’s minute order of 7/25/17, when mother’s RFO was to come on, reflects that counsel appeared and said the parties signed a stipulation resolving all issues; subsequently counsel signed a stipulation that said the hearing currently set for August 15, 2017, remains on the Court’s calendar; mother and father agree that the stipulation temporarily resolves the custody and timeshare issues pending Dr. Iverson’s evaluation; the only remaining issue that the Court will decide at the August 15, 2017, hearing, is the allocation of the evaluation fees between mother and father.

Stipulation filed 8/5/17

The parties signed and filed a stipulation that said father’s RFO re Child Support, as well as mother’s RFO re the cost of the Custody Evaluation, both currently scheduled for August 15, 2017, may be continued to September 12, 2017. The hearing was subsequently continued again to 10/3 and then again to 12/12 (parties further agreed that until permanent support is ordered, either through agreement of the parties or order of the Court, father shall pay temporary child support directly to mother; father will receive credit for any sums paid to mother directly in accordance with the agreement) and then continued to 1/9/18.

Mediation Report

A mediation report was filed on 9/12; mediation was incomplete. The parties needed time to consider each other's proposals.

Father’s Supplemental Declaration

Filed 12/14/17; father testifies that he filed a RFO to establish child support on July 24, 2017; it was continued numerous times while they attempted to resolve the matter informally; have not been able to do so; a few things have changed since July 24; he is now filing an updated Income and Expense Declaration; will file an updated DissoMaster Calculation after mother produces a current Income and Expense Declaration; will provide the Court with the most current information from which to make a child support order; he is seeking, as additional affirmative relief, a child support add-on to offset his extraordinarily high visitation expenses; makes this request 16 court days before the hearing to permit mother the statutory period in which to respond to the request.

Father testifies that since May, at mother’s insistence, he has exercised visitation in Santa Barbara instead of at his own home in San Diego; mother and he agreed to a custody evaluation and both understood that the location of visits would be taken up by the custody evaluator, so he believed the financial strain of renting a room in Santa Barbara would be temporary; despite his pleas, mother refuses to allow him to conduct visitation in San Diego; she has not provided any cogent reason why he should not exercise visits there; he rents an additional room in Santa Barbara for the exclusive purpose of exercising visitation here; drives up from San Diego on Sunday mornings, exercises visitation from Sunday morning through Wednesday evening, and returns to San Diego Wednesday evening; must be in San Diego at least three working days per week (Thursday-Saturday) to keep business profitable; cost of this visitation arrangement is high; gas expenses alone are $3,632 per month; room he rents for visitation purposes is $850 per month; it will go up in January; since July 2017, he has paid out an average of $1,213 per month in visitation costs.

Father testifies that the financial strain could be resolved by allowing visits to occur in San Diego and having mother and himself share transportation; mother won’t have it; this concern is better addressed in upcoming custody evaluation; he needs some financial relief; mother’s parents are propping her up in Santa Barbara; she was working at $20 per hour back in July, but he does not know if she is working now; was not financially realistic for them to live in Santa Barbara during marriage; is even less realistic now.

The question of whether to move Charlotte to Australia, as mother requests, or to San Diego, as he requests, is not before the Court now; will call on a custody evaluator for a recommendation on that point; evaluator will likely help resolve the location of visits; so long as mother refuses to allow him to conduct visits in San Diego, she should share the financial burden of conducting them in Santa Barbara; asks the Court to order an offset of one half of visitation-expenses from the child support.

Father’s Response to Mother’s RFO on the Issue of the Retainer

Filed 12/26/17; the document is 29 pages long; the Court can only summarize; father testifies that mother requested a custody evaluation to determine the child's best interest with regard to her proposed move to Australia; they agreed to an evaluation but he requests that the scope of the evaluation be expanded to include his request to move the child to San Diego; also requests that mother advance the cost of the evaluation subject to allocation at trial.

Father testifies that they are currently exercising joint physical custody by stipulation whereby the child spends most of the day Sunday through Wednesday, and two overnights, in his care; mother proposed a stipulated custody evaluation in June and he responded that he embraced the idea, but could not afford to pay for an evaluation; still cannot; believes mother can; until recently, mother has claimed to possess a massive $250,000 war chest of her parent’s money in order to litigate these proceedings; her nonchalance in communications with him about returning to Court for resolution indicate that she is not wanting for litigation resources; on the other hand, he does not have a pot of cash from which to pay attorneys’ fees; his attorney agreed to represent him for a reduced rate under the Santa Barbara County Bar Association’s Modest Means program; lawyer recently advised him that he no longer qualifies for modest means representation, and that his hourly rate will increase to his customary rate of $330 on January 1; will make it exceedingly difficult for father to maintain representation in these proceedings, especially if he is required to pay Dr. Iverson on top of his own legal fees; he asks that the Court order mother to advance the evaluator’s fees subject to apportionment at trial.

Father testifies that he trusts that the custody evaluator will make a thoughtful determination about Charlotte’s care going forward and he understands that the process, though expensive, could save attorneys’ fees for both of them; he agrees that he should contribute to the cost to the extent he is able; asks the Court to order mother to advance the cost of the evaluation subject to allocation at the time of trial.

Gary Gray’s [mother’s forensic accountant] Declaration

Filed 12/27/17; he opines father’s has between $6,515 and $6,739 per month in cash available for support.

Father’s I&E

Filed 12/14/17; estimates mother’s income earning ability to be $5,440/mo; as to his income, over the last 12 months, average wages $1,935/mo; $350/mo informal income; $2,016/mo self-employment income/mo; informal and formal loans from business and his brother to cover his expenses and his attorneys’ fees; $345 health insurance premiums; $195 cash and all other assets a negative $95,000 debt; living expenses $2,438/mo; modest installment debt listed; paid his attorney $11,440 and owes less than $1,000; he does not cover Charlotte on medical insurance policy [mother has made other arrangements]; travel expenses to exercise visitation listed at 1,513/mo.

Mother’s I&E

Filed 12/29/17; estimates father’s income at $7,200/mo; she has been unemployed since 10/14/16; $137 cash; all other assets have no tangible value; lives with mother who has income of $900/mo; living expenses $6,790/mo [$3,000/mo “paid by others”]; $13,000 in installment debt; paid her attorney $25,000; paid by a loan from her father; owes $9,000; father has time share with child from 10am on Sunday to 6pm on Monday and 8am on Tuesday to 6pm on Wednesday; reports that father was providing some support and rent money until July 2017, at which point he drastically reduced his financial assistance to her; until she has orders for support, her parents are providing her some assistance, and she is paying bills with credit cards.

DissoMaster calculations submitted

The DissoMasters submitted by the respective parties are identical except father takes $1,513 per month deduction as a “child support add on” [means mother’s child support is offset by $756/mo]; father’s requested child support order is $499/mo; mother’s requested child support order is $1,258/mo.

Mother’s Reply to Father’s Response on her RFO re: Dr. Iverson’s retainer

Filed on 1/2/18; testifies that she submitted a RFO for Child Custody and Visitation on July 12, 2017; asked for sole physical and legal custody of their daughter, Charlotte; asked for permission to move with Charlotte to her home country of Australia, subject to reasonable visitation with her father; requested a 3111 custody evaluation; asked for the costs of the evaluation to be shared equally between them, each to advance one-half of the evaluation expense; Dr. Iverson’s retainer is $12,000; asking the Court to order each of them to advance $6,000 to Dr. Iverson, subject to reallocation at trial.

Also testifies that at the same time she submitted her RFO, father brought an ex parte request for a custodial schedule; before either of respective hearings were heard, they arrived at an agreement as to every custody issue but one; agreement is contained in July 27, 2017, Order. There was only one issue that they could not agree on and which is before this Court: the question of how the evaluation costs to Dr Iverson should be apportioned.

Mother testifies that father is in a financially superior position; he is able to share the costs of the evaluation; he owns a painting company; company has not yet been forensically assessed; he claims to have borrowed $90,000 against the company in the past nine months; company has 43 employees and provides a steady income stream; the Declaration of Gary Gray, CPA, agrees with father’s December, 2017, financial information which indicate his total monthly income stream from the business is $6,739 per month; amount is suitably robust that it can be used to pay part of Dr. Iverson’s retainer.

Mother testifies she has been out of work since October 14, 2017, when her fulltime temporary position ended; since then she has looked for but has not yet found employment; she is not generating any income.

Father’s Reply to Mother’s Response to his RFO to Set Child support

Filed 1/2/18; he testifies that out of respect for the Court’s time, he is not submitting a separate Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Reply; reminds the Court that, in her opposition, mother proffered no authority to support a denial of his request to offset child support by the cost of visitation in Santa Barbara thereby conceding the request has legal merit; the decrease in his informal support to mother was the result of running out of money; it coincides precisely with his increase in visitation expenses, which is the main point at issue in this request; has been forthcoming with his business books and income from the outset of these proceedings; mother has a forensic accountant.

Father testifies that his business is a hands-on service business and it needs a strong sales and service manager to stay in the black; partner is good with logistics and operation, but he is not the strong sales leader the business needs; can do some of his work remotely, but most of his work requires his physical presence where the business is located in San Diego; visitation was eventually sorted out; mother and he agreed he would have Charlotte four days and two nights per week; renting a room in Santa Barbara not only reduced his lodging costs, it allowed him to prepare meals at home to further reduce costs; provided a stable and consistent environment for Charlotte; allowed him to get his visitation expenses down to about $282 per week ($1,213 per month).

He testifies that mother has yet to articulate a reason to stay with Charlotte in Santa Barbara while her best potential for employment is in Los Angeles and his home and work are in San Diego; recognizes that it is his duty to support his family; has a limited supply of income each month, and for so long as mother insists that visits occur in Santa Barbara, he is paying out over $1,500 per month in order to see his child; requests that the Court recognize this fact and order child support accordingly.

Court’s Conclusions

As for the payment of the retainer for Dr. Iverson’s services, it is clear that both parties are seeking a move-away decision in this case. That will result in a very important assignment for the evaluator, which will have a very consequential effect. Based upon the fact that each party will need to borrow money to fund the evaluation and the fact that each side has a material stake in the recommendation, it makes sense that each party pay one-half of the cost; subject to reallocation at trial. Additionally, that eliminates the possible claim that the evaluator “sided” with the party paying the bill.

As for the child support “offset” requested by father, the Court finds that father’s travel expenses appear overstated; there is no breakout of the particular costs; no accounting submitted; the Court concludes there is vastly insufficient evidence to provide an “offset” without more information. One question is whether father’s “home” is in San Diego or Santa Barbara. He appears to spend equal time in both locations. Additionally, there is a serious issue of whether father’s time-share could be better arranged to eliminate some of the major expense. The Court concludes that it needs to address the reason for the time-share agreement in place before making a decision as to whether mother must pay one-half of the very high travel expense. Father blames mother for the problem but the Court concludes that it has insufficient evidence on that point. The Court also notes that father’s election to request such an offset was only recently presented; he originally asked the Court to impute income to mother; then withdrew that election and instead seeks a travel expense offset; such an alternating approach, in addition to the other issues presented, leads the Court to conclude that the claim should be rejected, without prejudice, until trial when all the material facts are in hand.

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