Actress Olivia Wilde’s split from Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis continues to play out on the public stage. In legal documents filed in early April, Wilde requested that a California judge order Sudeikis to pay more than $500,000 in retroactive child support and legal fees.
According to Wilde’s request, she had sent multiple requests to Sudeikis for child support payments after the couple split custody of their two children in 2022. They now share custody equally. However, while the couple has so far paid for school tuition jointly, Wilde claims that she has been bearing the entire cost of basic needs like food, clothes, transportation, and childcare ever since.
Under California law, this would be acceptable if both parents earned the same amount or if Wilde earned more. However, she alleges that Sudeikis has a significantly higher net worth and income than she does. If so, he is obligated to financially provide for their children even when they are with Wilde, despite her estimated net worth of $10 million.
According to a source quoted in The Independent, Wilde is just trying to hold her ex accountable for abiding by his own wishes. “Jason took it upon himself to initiate the [child custody] proceedings in the first place to ensure that the kids would be properly cared for by both parents based on the court deciding what is fair financially going forward.”
This refers to the fact that Sudeikis was the one who initiated the child custody dispute in the first place. The couple had diverging ideas about where their children should live. Sudeikis requested full custody to keep them in New York with him, while Wilde planned to move from Los Angeles to London with them this summer. Sudeikis’ custody summons was served to Wilde while she was on stage at CinemaCon in April 2022. While the custody matter has been settled, Wilde has chosen to take the next step and demand child support as well.
Child support is not always required under California law, explaining why it had not already been ordered. However, failing to address both at once can lead to complicated situations like Wilde and Sudeikis’ retroactive support battle. Here’s how child support is determined and awarded in California and when retroactive orders may be issued.
California Child Support Orders: Are They Mandatory?
According to state law, child support orders are not always required in co-parenting situations. Both parents are obligated to financially maintain their children according to their means, but these orders aren’t necessary in many cases.
For instance, married couples are rarely subject to support orders unless they have legally separated. Similarly, unmarried couples who share children are not automatically subject to court orders just because they aren’t married. As long as both parents contribute in a way that satisfies them, there is no need for an order.
However, if co-parents disagree on how much they should contribute, a support order may be necessary. If either parent requests one, the court will step in and order payments based on the state’s strict guidelines. Additionally, these orders are almost always issued after divorces alongside custody orders to ensure the children receive the care they need.
How California Determines Child Support
The California child support guidelines are actually a series of calculations that accounts for factors like:
- Both parents’ income and assets
- Their tax statuses
- Their time with the children
- How many children are being supported
The number generated by these calculations is used in most orders. While judges have the discretion to alter the amount, this is reserved for situations where the standard amount would be a hardship to either party, such as if the child in question has special needs that require more financial help.
These orders typically go into effect on the date they are issued. However, in certain circumstances, they may also be issued retroactively, requiring the paying parent to make additional payments for months previous.
When Are Retroactive Support Orders Necessary?
Retroactive child support is different from being “in arrears” on an order. Being in arrears means the paying party has missed one or more payments on a pre-existing order. In contrast, a retroactive order extends back into the past as well as into the future. The paying party is not late on the retroactive payments because they were not yet ordered.
A retroactive order is usually issued when no temporary support order was granted at the beginning of a dispute. This is most common in situations like those surrounding Wilde and Sudeikis’ kids and other cases where money was not originally part of the scope of the dispute. In that case, the court can order retroactive payments dating back to when the custody dispute was first filed.
You should note that California limits retroactive support to just the past three years. If your dispute may drag on longer than that, you will only be able to receive retroactive payments for the preceding 36 months, regardless of how long it took to resolve your dispute.
Avoiding Unnecessary Retroactive Support Orders
Situations that lead to retroactive orders like the Olivia Wilde child support request are in no one’s best interest. It puts additional financial pressure on both parties: the recipient faces financial stress before the order is issued, and the payor faces it afterward. In most cases, it’s better to resolve these issues before retroactive orders are necessary. If you are involved in a child custody or support dispute, the experts at Kaspar & Lugay, LLP, can help you resolve it. Our skilled attorneys can help you determine what type of support is necessary and avoid or pursue retroactive orders according to California law. Consult our Marin County family law firm to discuss your needs.