Practical Solutions for Obtaining Ostler/Smith Orders Following Marriage of Hall

by Joseph P. Crawford and Stacey Jones


In 1990 the California Court of Appeal in Marriage of Ostler and Smith1 upheld a trial court that, rather than setting a fixed monthly amount of child support, ordered a base monthly amount of child support plus a flat percentage of the payor's bonus income. In the years following Ostler and Smith, ordering a percentage of future variable income as additional support became a commonly used tool for family law attorneys and judges to deal with cash bonuses and other types of compensation including stock options, restricted stock and Employee Stock Ownership Plans. It is easy to see why --- "Ostler/Smith orders" eliminate the risk that a payor will be ordered to pay child support on income the payor may never receive. Such orders also insure that the children receive a share of the variable income if it is, in fact, received by the payor. The method also reduces the need to have successive modification proceedings due to fluctuations in a payor's income.


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