Who “Won” is Irrelevant Here.
Often, the Court’s retelling of the facts gives us more than an inkling of the ending.
Here, the statement of facts begins:
”Jon and Sarah have both had acting careers, though their career paths diverged widely. As a costar in the TV show Two and a Half Men, Jon’s career soared. In contrast, Sarah’s career stalled; it appears her last acting job was in 2005.”
If after reading this poignant beginning, you guessed that the Court of Appeal would uphold the award of attorney’s fees in favor of Sarah, you guessed right. In re Marriage of Jon and Sarah Trigger Cryer, Case No. B222906 (Second District, Div. 2 August 29, 2011) (certified for publication).
On appeal, the Court reviewed whether the family court abused its discretion by declining to order a more severe reduction of child support and whether it erred by denying a request for accounting or trust for child support funds (it did not). Because the Court also found that the ordered attorney’s fees awards were proper, we post.
The outcome regarding attorney’s fees was largely ordained by the standard of review: “[a]n award of fees and costs in a dissolution or related family law proceeding is a matter left to the trial court’s sound discretion, and absent ‘a clear showing of abuse, its determination will not be disturbed on appeal.’”
Two points (well, maybe one) are worth comment.
First, Jon Cryer actually won a motion below – but the trial court awarded fees against him in that proceeding. The Court of Appeal reminds us that, for some purposes, “the issue of who ‘won’ the motion is irrelevant. Although an order modifying a support order may include an award of attorney fees to the prevailing party (see section 3652), such an award is proper only if a section 2030 needs-based award is not warranted.” Thus, for some purposes – to wit, whether a needs-based award is warranted – being the prevailing party is irrelevant.
The second point, which may not be worth reporting on (but which caught our eye), is that Sarah Trigger Cryer argued that the child support obligation of $10,000 per month only constituted around 3 percent of her ex’s income at the time. Jon also submitted an income and expense declaration listing average monthly income of $474,861, based on a three-year average cash flow, but Sarah claimed that Jon’s monthly income as of 2009 was actually $791,666.
BLAWG BONUS: Jon Cryer is a graduate of The Bronx High School of Science.