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Ford v. Castillo

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 4, 2014

ANTWANYE ERIC FORD, APPELLANT,
v.
RITA CASTILLO, APPELLEE

Argued September 25, 2013

Appeal from Order of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (DRB-3227-03). (Hon. Danya A. Dayson, Trial Judge).

Johnny M. Riddick for appellant.

Rita Castillo, Pro se.

Before GLICKMAN and BECKWITH, Associate Judges, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 963

Beckwith, Associate Judge

Appellant Antwanye Eric Ford contends that the trial court erred in calculating his adjusted gross income (AGI) under the D.C. Child Support Guideline, D.C. Code § 16-916.01 (2012 Repl.),[1] by not subtracting certain expenses that he must pay under a separation agreement that had been " incorporated and merged" with the parties. divorce decree. We agree that the trial court should have subtracted those expenses in calculating his AGI. We therefore reverse and remand for a recalculation of Mr. Ford's child support obligation.

I. Background

Mr. Ford and appellee Rita Castillo married on October 4, 1997, and divorced, in an uncontested divorce, on January 20, 2004. The parties have one child together, born on March 6, 1998. As part of the divorce, the parties, both acting pro se, drafted a separation agreement providing for custody, access, education, and support. It stipulated that Mr. Ford would have the child for the first half of the week and Ms. Castillo would have the child for the second half of the week. Mr. Ford would bear the entire cost of the child's private school tuition, which, after financial aid and other grants, totaled $8,650 per school year. Mr. Ford would pay for the child's health insurance; each parent would pay one half of the child's unreimbursed medical

Page 964

costs, school aftercare, and airfare to the Dominican Republic (for twice-annual visits with Ms. Castillo's family); and each would contribute $125 quarterly for clothing and $125 annually for Christmas gifts. Mr. Ford earned approximately $50,000 per year at the time of the agreement, and Ms. Castillo earned approximately $47,000. This separation agreement was " incorporated and merged" with the Judgment of Absolute Divorce issued by the trial court on January 20, 2004.

In April 2011, the parties agreed that the child would reside with Ms. Castillo during the school year. The following month, Ms. Castillo filed a petition seeking child support under the D.C. Child Support Guideline. Both parties' incomes had increased substantially since 2004. At the time of Ms. Castillo's petition, Mr. Ford was earning $237,920 per year and Ms. Castillo was earning $90,000 per year. Ms. Castillo alleged in her petition that the new custody arrangement and Mr. Ford's increased earnings warranted a modification in child support under D.C. Code § 46-204 (a).

In a series of hearings, the parties disputed whether Mr. Ford's obligations under the Judgment of Absolute Divorce should figure into the monthly support calculation. The cost of private school tuition, in part because of Mr. Ford's greater earnings, had increased to $22,151 per year. The trial court told the parties on April 4, 2012, that it would not credit Mr. Ford's expenses for tuition, nor his other required expenses, in calculating his AGI because they were " a discrete obligation separate and apart from child support." In a May 30, 2012, written order, the court stated that " [Mr. Ford's] obligation to pay tuition exists independently of his obligation to pay child support." And in a July 9, 2012, written order, the trial court reiterated that Mr. Ford's expenses in paying the child's " private school tuition, his annual travel to the Dominican Republic, one half of his ...


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