Demurrer Sustained: Child Support Mishandling Claim Dismissed

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 29, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Child support battles are usually emotional, but a child support claim that devolves into negligent infliction of emotional distress claims and demurrer pleadings stands out from the child support crowd.

L.K.'s son was born in 1988. The father, P.G. (Father), was obligated to pay child support until the child's 18th birthday in 2006.

In 2007, the Los Angeles Child Support Services Department (CSSD) filed a motion to determine child support arrears. The attorney declaration attached to the motion stated that an audit conducted by the CSSD had determined that Father owed $43,104.02 in child support arrears as of August 3, 2007.

On July 10, 2008, L.K. filed a "Request for Complaint Resolution" with the Los Angeles Local Child Support Agency (LCSA), contending that her account had been mishandled and that she was "owed more money." After a hearing, an administrative law judge found that LCSA collected from Father, and disbursed to L.K., child support arrears in the amount of $47,161.56.

The LCSA contended that interest accounted for the difference between the $43,104.02 in arrears previously determined by the court and the $47,161.56 that was actually collected. LCSA closed L.K.'s account in 2008 because all arrears had been paid in full. The CSSD dismissed L.K.'s complaint.

L.K. had two options to appeal the dismissal: a written request for rehearing or judicial review. Instead of pursuing either, she filed suit against the CSSD and its director, Steven Golightly, alleging claims for negligence, negligent supervision, and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and seeking "at least" $10 million in damages.

Demurrers and amended complaints began flying between CSSD and L.K., until a trial court sustained CSSD's demurrer without leave to amend and dismissed L.K.'s case. L.K. appealed. Noting that L.K. filed a tort action instead of a petition for judicial review, a California appellate court affirmed the dismissal.

Would L.K. have fared better if she had used the proper appellate channels instead of filing a $10 million negligent infliction of emotional distress claim?

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