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Greiner v. Keller Summary


Greiner v. Keller published June 14, 2019


Snippet:  Family Code section 4062 allows a court to consider a request for childcare costs related to reasonably necessary education for prospective employment to allow a custodial parent to become self-supporting without the need for public assistance.


The First Appellate District of California recently reversed a Sonoma County trial court’s denial of a mother’s request for childcare costs under Section 4602 of the Family Code, which she had sought to enable her to earn a paralegal certification and support her family without the aid of public assistance.


Factual Background


In Greiner v. Keller, the mother, Kimberlee Keller, had both legal and physical custody of the parties’ minor child. Keller was supporting herself with part-time and temporary employment as a notary and office assistant, supplemented by public assistance. Keller believed she was unable to secure permanent employment because she lacked a college education and updated skills.


With the goal of supporting herself without public assistance, she decided to pursue a paralegal certificate, the classes for which she could only attend in the evenings and on certain Saturdays because of her part-time employment during the day. She requested one-half of childcare costs from the child’s father, Mark Greiner, to cover these periods.


Greiner objected to the request, arguing that Keller’s current employer didn’t require further education and that she could secure employment with her current skill set. Accordingly, father argued, Section 4602, which provides that a trial court must award childcare costs related to a parent’s “employment or to reasonably necessary education or training for employment skills,” did not allow for an award of shared childcare costs in their situation.


Trial Court’s Decision


The trial court agreed, ruling that where one parent has “existing marketable skills that they are currently using to obtain employment or are capable of using even if they are being underutilized,” Section 4602 does not require the other parent to share the childcare costs for that parent to pursue further education.


Decision on Appeal


The First District reversed after looking to both the plain language of the statute and the Legislature’s intent.  First, the appellate court noted that the statute does not limit the term “employment” to include only current employment, though the Legislature could have had such qualification if it intended to do so. Moreover, the court found relevant the Legislature’s guiding principle that “[t]he financial needs of the children should be met through private financial resources as much as possible.”


Based on this reasoning, the court ruled that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it found that the mother’s request exceeded the scope of Section 4602 and remanded the case for the trial court to reconsider the request on its merits.



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