Family Law Corner: Can Caan Be Forced to Work?

By Ariel Sosna and Sarah Van Voorhis, Van Voorhis & Sosna

James Caan (The Godfather and Elf) is claiming that his soon-to-be ex-wife Linda Stokes is trying to make him sleep with the fishes… figuratively. Caan insists that Stokes’ child support claims are going to drive him to an early grave and prevent him from retiring.

James CaanThis year, Caan and Stokes are attempting to divorce for the third time. Their eighteen-year marriage produced two children, one still under eighteen and the other in college. They have no prenuptial agreement. They are in court fighting over Stokes’ support requests, which Caan claims are forcing him to take terrible roles that destroy his reputation and health.

A film called “Sicilian Vampire” is cited by Caan as a terrible movie he was forced to make to ensure he is earning enough to pay Stokes. The film’s opening had fifty people present at the New York premiere. Caan’s pleadings claim that making these kinds of movies will destroy his reputation. At the same time, Caan is also arguing that he should be allowed to retire. He is 75 years old, recently spent time in the hospital for an infection, and claims to have other ailments.

Family Code §4058 describes income that will be considered for child support, and the list includes retirement income. In contrast, the Court of Appeal held in In re Marriage of Reynolds (1988) 63 Cal.App.4th 1373 that one cannot be compelled to work after age 65 in order to support a spouse. However, the Reynolds holding was limited to spousal support. Under Family Code §4053, “[A] parent’s first and principal obligation is to support his or her minor children according to the parent’s circumstances and station in life.” While no decision states whether a parent can be required to work past age 65, statute and case law suggest parents can be held to this standard. Caan might be successful in arguing he should be able to retire for spousal support purposes, but this same argument might not succeed for child support.

Caan also argues that the court should use his income from residuals and income from acting jobs of his choosing to determine support. Stokes argues that he should take all work he can get or be imputed income. The Court may impute income to Caan if Stokes can show he has jobs available to him for which he is qualified and able to take, but has not taken. In Re Marriage of Regency (1988) 214 Cal.App.3d 1367. Perhaps Caan should argue to the court that there are offers he can (and should) refuse if he wants to prevent further tarnishing his reputation, legacy and earning capacity going forward.

About the authors
Sarah Van Voorhis, a Certified Family Law Specialist, and Ariel Sosna are founding partners of
Van Voorhis & Sosna. Follow them on Twitter at @VanVoorhisSosna.