Hastings Women’s Law Journal


Susan Isard


Stock options present difficult problems for family law judges attempting to value parents' wealth for the purpose of creating an equitable child support order. Because markets fluctuate and the value of options before they are exercised and sold is speculative, they do not fit neatly into child support systems. Consequently, appellate courts in several states have struggled with two issues: First, whether a noncustodial parent's stock options should rightly factor into his or her child support obligation. Second, if stock options are relevant, how they should be valued. As courts wrestle with these questions, there is another important non-financial consideration they should account for: The psychological toll that protracted litigation takes on the children at the center of the conflict. Of course children benefit when child support funds augment their custodial parent's household budget. But how much accuracy is too much? Is it really in the best interests of children to experience the ongoing conflict of parents returning to court as the value of their portfolios change? At what point is stability more important for children than accuracy in their support order?