By 2010, Southern California home building executive James E. Lockington lost 99 percent of his $14,500 monthly income, short sold his house to prevent foreclosure, loaded his credit cards with debt and moved into his sister's house to avoid becoming homeless, but Superior Court Judge Ronald P. Kreber didn't give, well, a hoot.
Despite Lockington's dire condition--his monthly income fell to just $300, Kreber refused to allow him to modify his court-ordered $2,074 monthly child support payments to his ex-wife, Tricia, whose monthly income topped $7,500. Showing no sympathy, Tricia said her ex-husband should get multiple jobs at places like Starbucks or Target to continue to supply her the money. She also accused him of a pornography addiction, according to court records.
During an August 2010 hearing about Lockington's request, Kreber acknowledged the man's dire financial shape, but stated he thinks "the children are entitled to the same lifestyle that they had before."
He told the man to get a job a Starbucks and didn't care that he'd strenuously tried to get another high-paying job.
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Kreber added that he didn't think it would be "right" to calculate into the child support equation the fact that Lockington had lost his income.
Lockington appealed the ruling and, in a 15-page, Dec. 27 decision, a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana determined that Judge Kreber "abused his discretion" by relying on an "erroneous" understanding of the law.
"A trial court must evaluate a request to modify child support based on the parent's current financial circumstances, not the financial circumstances that existed during the marriage," wrote Justice Richard Aronson on behalf of a three-justice panel that included justices William Bedsworth and Kathleen O'Leary. "The court cannot require James to pay an amount in child support he clearly has no ability to pay."
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly