Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznare
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Friday, October 23, 2015

Emancipation of Children for the Purposes of Child Support Obligations

From The National Law Review:

Emancipation is the process by which a minor is legally freed from control by their parents or guardians, and the parents or guardians are legally freed from any and all responsibility toward the child. In family law, emancipation most often occurs in the context of child support obligations. A child who is emancipated does not receive child support. Therefore, a supporting spouse (the one making the child support payments) is likely to seek emancipation of a child, while a dependent spouse (the one receiving the child support payments) will likely oppose emancipation. Typically, emancipation is sought when the child reaches the age of majority, but it can also occur before or after this date.

As established by numerous court opinions in New Jersey, emancipation can occur upon the child’s marriage, the child’s introduction into military service, by a court order based on the child’s best interests or by the attainment of an appropriate age. Regarding what is the “appropriate age,” emancipation does not automatically occur upon a minor reaching the age of majority. In Alford v. Somerset County Welfare Board, a New Jersey Appellate Court stated that, “while the age of majority has been established in New Jersey by law, there is no age fixed in law when a child becomes emancipated.” Subsequent cases affirmed this idea. Furthermore, in Newburgh v. Arrigo and Filippone v. Lee, it was determined that reaching the age of majority establishes only a prima facie case but not conclusive proof of emancipation, and can be rebuttable based upon the circumstances of each case.

Newburgh and Filippone are the leading cases in New Jersey regarding emancipation. They not only state that reaching the age of majority simply establishes a prima facie case for emancipation that can be rebutted, but also elaborate on what factors can be used to rebut this presumption. Together, they affirm the fact that the issue of whether a child is emancipated at age eighteen, with correlative termination of the right to parental support, if fact-intensive, and can easily vary based upon the specific circumstances of each case. Together, they also establish the fundamental question asked when determining if a child should be emancipated or not – has the child moved beyond the “sphere of influence” exercised by the parent and obtained an independent status of his or her own?

Read more here.

October 23, 2015 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

For Men in Prison, Child Support Becomes a Crushing Debt

From The Washington Post:

Earl L. Harris did not owe child support when he was sent to prison in 1997 for selling marijuana. He now concedes that dealing drugs may have been a stupid move for a new father.

But Harris, then 19, had grown up poor and dropped out of school, and the only legitimate work available to young, black men like him, he says, was a temp job without benefits.

“Nobody was hiring,” he said. “I got into hustling because I wanted to support my baby.”

The state of Missouri sent Harris to the penitentiary in Boonville, 250 miles from his home and baby daughter. His girlfriend moved on, later marrying someone else. After just two months in prison, Harris started getting the letters.

Child support. You owe: $168.

They came once a month, piling up debt.

Child support. You owe: $168. Arrears: $336. Arrears: $504. Arrears: $672. Plus interest and other fees.

Of the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, about half are parents, and at least 1 in 5 has a child support obligation. For most, the debt will keep piling up throughout their imprisonment: By law or by practice, child support agencies in much of the country consider incarceration a form of “voluntary impoverishment.” Parents like Harris, the logic goes, have only themselves to blame for not earning a living.

Read more here. 

October 22, 2015 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Oklahoma Program Offers Amnesty for Overdue Child Support

From Times Record:

Oklahoma has active arrest warrants for more than 11,000 parents for failure to pay child support and interest totaling more than $397 million.

Those parents will be given an opportunity to work out payment schedules and have the warrants withdrawn under an Amnesty in August program announced Tuesday by the Child Support Services division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

“Amnesty in August is an opportunity for Oklahoma parents who have fallen behind on child support to come in and work with us to get back on track,” said Meg Cannon, spokeswoman for Child Support Services. “Parents who seek our assistance in August have an opportunity to develop a payment plan that will help them move forward with their obligations and hopefully create stronger connections with their children.”

The 11,684 delinquent parents owe a combined $397,680,850.55 in past due child support and interest, Cannon said.

Read more here.

August 2, 2015 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Child Support Laws and How They Actually Work

From Deseret News:

The public views court-ordered formulas calculating child support in the United States and England to be unfair, according to a study released Monday that researchers hope will be valuable information for policymakers dealing with family law issues.

Although child support laws in the two nations differ, the study, published by the Child and Family Blog, found that respondents from the U.S. and England have similar personal views on what is fair in calculating child support paid by noncustodial parents.

The research ultimately found that the public believes child support should be adjusted higher or lower based on the mother's income (assuming she is the custodial parent caring for the children). In some states, child support is based solely on the noncustodial parent's income, while in others both incomes are used in the calculation with an emphasis on the noncustodial parent's income. Each state has a set formula for judges to use in child support cases.

Read more here.

June 17, 2015 in Child Support (establishing), Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Insurance Payments Used to Pay Overdue Child Support

From Monterey County Herald:

California lawmakers are advancing a bill that would intercept more insurance payments and use them to pay beneficiaries' overdue child support.

About a quarter of insurance companies now voluntarily participate in the program. It collects about $17 million annually from insurance claims, settlements and awards that would otherwise go to individuals who owe child support.

The measure approved by the state Senate on Thursday would make insurance companies' participation mandatory. Sen. Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino, says that will greatly increase payments.

SB585 was sought by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. The bill lets the departments of Insurance and Child Support Services cooperate to match those who owe child support with those set to receive insurance payouts.

Read more here.

June 13, 2015 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Infographic on Child Support

The amount of child support that goes unpaid each year is astonishing even though statistics show it is decreasing each year since 1993.  The number one reason payments are not made is that no explanation for the amount of funds necessary for the child and parent are established in court.

Some child support lawyers focus their attention on establishing the guidelines necessary for a reasonable child support plan.  Those guidelines are usually based on health and education needs as well as the income of the custodial parent.

You can see a great infographic on child support here.


April 29, 2013 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Child Support Collection Privatization

Two top Republicans are pushing for child support collection privatization in the state of Mississippi.  Austin Barbour, nephew of former Governor Haley Barbour, and Arnie Hederman are gearing “to put private firms on track to make big money by performing government services,” according to Democratic lawmakers.  According to statistics provided by these two Republicans, the number of child support cases in Mississippi hovers around 435,000, and the amount of overdue money hovers around $1.1 billion.  Barbour and Hederman are lobbying for YoungWilliams Child Support Services.

Read more here.


April 4, 2013 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

OH Child Support Case

An Elyria, Ohio, judge has ordered 35-year-old Asim Taylor to stop fathering children because he cannot pay child support for his four current children.  Taylor, originally indicted in August 2011 for owing almost $79,000 in child support to the mothers of his children, now owes more than $96,000 in payments.  Taylor has pleaded guilty.  Judge James Walther explained he put the condition on his sentencing because, "It's your personal responsibility to pay for these kids."

Read more here.


February 19, 2013 in Child Support Enforcement, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Child Support Enforcement Methods

Article author Mosi Secret reveals in his article even though Robert Sand, a man well-known for dodging his child support payments for almost 20 years, was arrested for owing his ex-wife Lisa Sand and his two children $1 million in payments, Ms. Sand is being faced with a tough choice:  does she want her husband to go to jail, or does she want to see him work and "pay his debt to me and my children?"  Mr. Sand had been hiding out in Thailand before he was arrested upon arriving back in the United States on December 18, 2012.

Read more here.


February 11, 2013 in Child Support Enforcement, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Child Support Figures

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, almost 60% of parents do not receive as much child support as they should receive, and in Florida, this is true for over half a million parents.  The majority of cases in the state see men owing women money, with only 5.8% of cases seeing women owing men child support (according to the Florida Department of Revenue).

Read more here.


February 8, 2013 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guest Post by Eileen McGovern: Think Debt Collection is Always Bad? Ask a Single Parent Who Isn’t Getting Child Support

Economic times are very difficult for just about everyone. But imagine if you were supporting a child, or multiple children, all on your own, without any financial help? It’s not an uncommon scenario to have a single parent supporting their kids by themselves because they are not being provided with child support payments from the disassociated parent. As times get harder these payments, which ordinarily may have been unreliable, tend to disappear. But some people are trying to help do the right thing.

A story was recently posted on CNN in their iReport section about the situation facing custodial parents, the parents who have custody of their child or children but receive no aid. These parents have been struggling on a single income to support their children, and in many cases, haven’t had any financial assistance. They don’t know who to turn to, and frequently cannot afford a lawyer to help them get that owed money.

The Custodial Support Foundation was founded to help get those custodial parents that assistance. They offer a vast range of resources and services designed to help custodial parents get the assistance that they need, including help with filing for child support, legal assistance, and a collection program. A number of these services, like collections and legal assistance, are provided at a greatly reduced cost, making it more affordable for someone who is already struggling financially.

Far from acting as a villain in this scenario, the collection agency helps to take legal steps towards getting money for the custodial parent. Too often, warrants for child support aren’t enforced and trying to get money from across state lines is nearly impossible. With a collection agency on the custodial parent’s side, these problems would no longer be an issue.

Some of the persistently negative associations that people have about debt collectors can be eased a bit. This is a perfect example of how a collection agency can help those who are really in need. When a custodial parent needs help on recovering money that they are due, they can have no greater ally than an experienced collections agency who will use their knowledge to help people who are doing the right thing by taking care of their kids.

April 26, 2012 in Child Support Enforcement, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

£100 for Child Support Enforcement

A new proposal in the UK would require parents to pay £100 for the state to initiate child support collection.  Read about it here.


April 16, 2011 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Grants Cert in Child Support Contempt Case

Rick Brundrett of The Nerve just published an excellent story about the U.S. Supreme Court's grant of cert in a child support contempt case.  He writes:

The nation’s top court will hear the appeal of an indigent Upstate father who contends his rights were violated because he wasn’t provided an attorney before being jailed for failing to pay child support.

The U.S. Supreme Court this month announced it accepted the case of Michael D. Turner v. Rebecca Price and the S.C. Department of Social Services. Oral arguments could be heard as early as March, with a ruling by the nine-member court likely by the end of June, based on the court's past practice, Greenville lawyer Derek Enderlin, one of Turner’s appellate attorneys, told The Nerve on Monday.

Having an appeal accepted by the top court is a rare legal feat: Out of about 10,000 petitions the justices receive annually, only about 100 are heard during a term, which started last month.

The Nerve previously profiled Turner’s case in April and August.

The S.C. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on March 29 that indigent parents didn't have the right to an attorney in civil contempt hearings.  Turner appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

South Carolina is one of only five states in the nation – along with Georgia, Florida, Maine and Ohio – that don’t guarantee indigent parents who owe child support the right to an attorney in civil contempt hearings that can result in jail time, according to Turner’s U.S. Supreme Court petition.

That situation creates modern-day debtors’ prisons, as judges are more likely to jail indigent parents without attorneys for contempt, Turner and his supporters say in court papers.

At any given time in South Carolina, there are about 1,500 people in jail for non-payment of child support, the vast majority of who were sentenced for civil contempt, according to research in 2005 and 2009 by Elizabeth “Libba” Patterson, a University of South Carolina law professor and former director of the S.C. Department of Social Services.

“The system just isn’t working that well,” Enderlin, who represented Turner for free before the S.C. Supreme Court, told The Nerve. “We’re putting people in jail, and by the time they get out, they’re twice as much in debt.”

Enderlin said he plans to attend the oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. The lead appellate attorney, who also is representing Turner at no cost, is Seth Waxman of Washington, D.C., a former U.S. solicitor general appointed by President Bill Clinton.

Read more here.


November 17, 2010 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Father Sentenced for Child Support Arrears in Excess of $500,000

The story of one Michigan man's serious child support issues:

The Muskegon man has fathered 23 children with 14 women, and is more than $533,000 in arrears in his child-support payments, according to the attorney general's office, which has been pushing a case against Veal -- tied to two of those children -- in Kent County Circuit Court.

On Thursday, Judge Dennis Leiber sentenced Veal, 44, to two to four years in prison for failure to pay child support, a felony. With this sentence, the judge far exceeded the state guidelines, which called for Veal to get no more than six months in the county jail.

"You are the poster child for irresponsibility," Leiber told Veal, who appeared surprised by the sentence. "You're an insult to every responsible father who sacrifices to provide for their children."

Read more here.


October 3, 2010 in Child Support (establishing), Child Support Enforcement, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

IL Child Support Enforcement Case

An Illinois appellate court recently held that it is error for a court to restrain the Department of Healthcare and Family Services from enforcing child support arrearage against a parent when the Department did not unequivocally agree to modification of the time for payment of support or waiver of the vested right to collect the arrearage by means beyond withholding employment income.  The case is In re Marriage of Heady, No. 2-09-0022 (Ill. App. Ct. March 1, 2010) and the opinion is available here.


March 25, 2010 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Class Action Against State Agency for Lax Child Support Collection

A West Virginia attorney recently filed a class action suit against the State Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, claiming that the Bureau has taken no action in scores of child support enforcement cases, allowing limitations to run and otherwise mishandling enforcement cases.

“I think we have class action here,” Webb said to a woman sitting in his office several months ago as she told him how the Child Advocacy Office handled her case. Her husband owed more than $16,000 in support payments, but the statute of limitations had kicked in and the order lapsed with no action from the office that is supposed to collect from delinquent obligors.

Webb has been a family law lawyer for 23 and served two terms in the state legislature. He knew that his client, Kimberley Hoover, wasn’t the only mother in West Virginia with a child support problem.

“The Child Advocate Office has a duty to collect child support payments for children. It should have been on high alert not to allow statutes of limitations to run out on these judgments,” says Webb with a slightly perceptible growl. “But they weren’t. No one seems to notice or care that children were losing thousands of dollars because of a failure to draft and implement a very simple writ of execution.”

Webb anticipates that the Child Advocacy Board will claim to be “overworked and underpaid” and will say that “the child support payments were uncollectable” in many cases. He doesn’t think that will pass as a defense. It is a particularly weak argument in the case of Kimberley Hoover. “The parent who owed the money advised the court that he was receiving a lump sum payment for a disability claim,” says Webb. “This was a collectable judgment.”

Read the full story here.


January 18, 2010 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hatcher: Collateral Children: Consequences and Illegality at the Intersection of Foster Care and Child Support

Daniel L. Hatcher (University of Baltimore School of Law) has published "Collateral Children:  Consequence and Illegality at the Intersection of Foster Care and Child Support," 74 Brook. L. Rev. 1333(2009).  Here is the abstract from SSRN:

This Article is the third in a series addressing the conflict between state revenue maximization strategies and the missions of state agencies serving low-income children. The Article examines the policy of foster care cost recovery through child support enforcement. When children are removed from poor families and placed in foster care, federal law requires child welfare agencies to initiate child support obligations against the parents. Resulting payments do not benefit the children but are converted into a government funding stream to reimburse the costs of foster care. This cost recovery effort often subordinates the child welfare system’s primary goals of protecting the interests of children and simultaneously strengthening and preserving families to the bureaucratic focus on replenishing government revenue. No such federal cost recovery requirement exists when children are removed from well off families. The policy targets parents whose children were often removed due to the circumstances of poverty, and the neglect that results. Already impoverished parents are further burdened by government owed child support obligations, hampering their struggle to reunify with their children. Federally required case plans intended to aid reunification are illegally converted into debt collection tools. And as the reunification efforts falter, an unconstitutional practice emerges: terminating parental rights for a government-owed debt. This Article reveals the framework and policy implications, and uncovers the illegality, when the core missions of child welfare agencies are diverted towards a self-interested fiscal pursuit.


January 8, 2010 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Recession's Impact on Child Support

States across the country are reporting substantially increased child support litigation.  Cash-strapped obligors are seeking reductions in child support awards for employment difficulities and child support arrearages are increasing rapidly.  The negative impact on children supported by those awards is obvious.  But even courts are feeling the pain of the flood of this litigation.  Many of the obligors seeking relief cannot afford legal representation and courts are struggling to find creative solutions to managing the burden of the volume of child support modification suits.  Read more about the problem here and here.


November 9, 2009 in Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 11, 2009

CFP: Children and the Law Junior Faculty Workshop Call for Papers

Children and the Law Junior Faculty Workshop

July 16 -17, 2009

The Frances Lewis Law Center at Washington & Lee University is sponsoring a workshop for junior scholars working on legal issues related to children. The workshop will be held this summer on the campus of Washington & Lee in Lexington, Virginia.
More info on Feminist Law Professors blog here.


May 11, 2009 in Abortion, Child Abuse, Child Support (establishing), Child Support Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Political Platforms on Family Law Issues

The political parties are in the process of drafting their national party platforms for the 2008 election and, as expected, there is some attention to family law issues.

The draft 2008 Democratic National Platform is interesting both for what it says and what it does not say.  A section on "fatherhood" states that "too many fathers are missing."  The party supports "removing tax penalties on married families and expanding maternity and paternity benefits," as well as rewarding those "who are responsibly supporting their children by giving them a tax credit" and will "crack down on men who avoid child support payments" and "ensure that payments go directly to families instead of bureaucracies." (page 44 lines 34-44).  There is a section on "empowering families" with an extensive discussion of policies on health care, employment, "work and family," and women.  Of particular interest is a pledge to "expand the Family and Medical Leave Act" to "enable workers to take leave to care for an elderly parent, address domestic violence, or attend a parent-teacher conference," and to work with states to make leave paid rather than unpaid.  (page 10 lines 31-35).  In a subsection entitled "Choice" the platform provides: "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right."  There is also strong support for "access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education," and a mention of "caring adoption programs." (page 45 line 19-31).  There is also this single line: "We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us."  (page 47 lines 8-9).

The draft of the 2008 Democratic National Platform, in pdf format from CNN/TIME, is available here.

The Republican National Platform Committee is apparently still in progress - - - the committee is soliciting input for its 2008 platform here.

The draft of the 2008 Green Party Platform includes a section on youth, a call for equality regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity in civil marriage and child custody, a section on protecting abortion and contraception (specifically including the "morning after pill") and is available here.

The 2008 Constitution Party Platform calls for to the government to "secure and to safeguard the lives of the pre-born."  The platform opposes "government funding of 'partner' benefits for unmarried individuals," "any legal recognition of homosexual unions," and "efforts to legalize adoption of children by homosexual singles or couples," and is available here.

(RR  August 16, 2008)

August 16, 2008 in Abortion, Child Support Enforcement, Domestic Violence, Marriage (impediments), Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)