Tuesday, October 8, 2013
From Star Tribune:
MADISON, Wis. — A state appeals court says a woman who separated from her same-sex partner doesn't have to pay child support, and still has visitation rights with her partner's biological child whom they raised together.
Read more here.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
From Bloomberg Family Law Reporter:
While it is within a trial court's discretion to order child support when parents share physical custody of their child, such an award may not be used to equalize their incomes, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Aug. 15. Explaining that income equalization is inconsistent with principles underlying support orders, the court also noted that the trial judge below did not find that the subject child's reasonable needs were not being met in the absence of such an order, where both parents enjoyed comparable standards of living and had incomes exceeding the levels to which the support guidelines presumptively applied (M.C. v. T.K., Mass., No. 10910, 8/15/12).
Read more here.
Hat Tip: Naomi Cahn
Sunday, October 3, 2010
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.
Friday, September 10, 2010
News report on changes to MO law that make it easier for fathers to challenge child support orders based on paternity:
It didn’t take long for Michael W. to confirm that the 2½-year-old girl for whom he was paying child support wasn’t really his biological daughter.
He just had a DNA test done one weekend when she was with him for visitation.
But it has taken three years since then for Michael, 35, to finally make his case to a judge that he should not have to keep making those payments.
Until a new law went into effect last year, Michael and other men like him were stuck. Even if they had DNA evidence proving that they were not the biological fathers, they still were obligated to make child support payments until the child turned 18.
But Michael and thousands of other such Missouri men now have the opportunity to legally answer the paternity question and, perhaps, get out from under payments that they think are unfair.
The new law allows men broader opportunities to petition courts to order DNA testing and then set aside paternity judgments and child support obligations.
Under the new law, any man paying child support can file a challenge to the paternity question until Dec. 31, 2011. After that, men will have two years to file such lawsuits after judgments of paternity or support have been entered.
The old law permitted such challenges for only a year. Previously, the presumed father had to prove fraud — that is, that the woman had lied to him about being the father.
The Missouri General Assembly moved to change the law after an appeals court ruled in January 2009 that despite Michael’s proof that he was not the father, state law offered no help.
“He is certainly correct that scientific advancements in the determination of parentage raise new issues not previously addressed,” the appeals court wrote. “This court, however, is not the legislature. Whether our statutes are inadequate in light of scientific advancements to provide appropriate relief to these types of cases is a question better suited for the legislature.”
Lawyers cautioned, however, that a man who was not the father still could be ordered to pay child support.
After DNA testing is complete, the law calls for a judgment that is “in the best interest of the parties,” a new and untested standard that has not yet been refined by case law and appeals courts. Under the old system, the “best interests of the child” prevailed.
Read the full article here.
Friday, September 3, 2010
From the WSJ blog:
A New York state appellate court ... became the first in the state to rule that a same-sex partner may be liable for child support.
The case of H.M. v. E.T involved a one-time lesbian couple who allegedly agreed to conceive a child through artificial insemination.
But after the baby was born, E.T. — the non-biological parent — ended the relationship. H.M. argued that she relied on her former partner’s promise of support when she decided to give birth to the child.
H.M. has stated a viable cause action for child support, a New York appellate court ruled. In prior ruling in the state, the court noted, fathers who have denied paternity have still been required to pay child support if they had developed a relationship with a child and had promised to support the child.
“By parity of reasoning, we hold that where the same-sex partner of a child’s biological mother consciously chooses, together with the biological mother, to bring that child into the world through [artificial insemination,] and where the child is conceived in reliance upon the partner’s implied promise to support the child, a cause of action for child support . . .has been sufficiently alleged,” the court ruled.
Monday, June 28, 2010
The lawyer who represented the
woman known as "Lola" in a high profile child support case is in
court for a similar case involving six women who feel
Anne-France Goldwater is alleging children of divorce in
Read more here.
Monday, May 11, 2009
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,
More info on Feminist Law Professors blog here.
Friday, October 24, 2008
"Multiple Families, Multiple Goals, Multiple Failures,"
32 Harvard Journal of Law and Gender ____ (2009).
The abstract posted on ssrn provides:
Current child support laws are based on false assumptions about families that fail to reflect family complexity and the realities of parenting. As a result, the federal goals of child support laws are not met. New federal child support goals should be centered on the needs of poor families and multiple families and should consider more of the resources available to the families.
Multiple families are families where at least one existing parent has a child with a different partner. Federal child support laws ignore the way that children in multiple families compete for the limited resources of their parents. States lack guidance about how to choose between the two policy ways to allocate child support among families, "first family first" or "equalization."
This Article argues that the federal government should provide guidance to the states in answering the question of who bears the cost of subsequent families; this article proposes a new theory of child support, "limited equalization," which makes an explicit policy choice in favor of existing families.
Limited equalization includes five new child support goals: (1) an explicit policy choice about supporting multiple families giving a preference to existing families; (2) attention to the demographics of the families that need child support; (3) an expanded definition of parenting and the duty of support; (4) attention to poverty prevention; and (5) attention to gender equality. Limited equalization re-envisions the goals of child support and provides a mechanism to examine all of the circumstances and realities of the families in calculating child support awards. This major structural change attempts to address the complexities of child support, particularly in multiple families, while giving preference to existing families.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
It's official law now -- teenagers do not NEED to have a car. The case, in addition to presenting a catchy policy issue to discuss, provides an excellent demonstration of statutory interpretation.
A young woman in foster care sued the county to compel payments for automobile liability insurance so that she could lawfully drive a car. The juvenile court denied her motion and the California Court of Appeals affirmed. The petitioner argued that federal and state statutes required the payments to her foster parents for auto insurance and provided a set of arguments regarding statutory interpretation that would make a fine example of the skill for new law students. She argued that federal and state statutes regarding payments to foster parents were designed to “secure for the minor custody, care, and discipline as nearly as possible equivalent to that which should have been given by his or her parents.” Moreover, those statutes included requirements that payments be made for “liability insurance with respect to a child” which she argued included auto liablity insurance. (42 U.S.C. § 675(4)(a); § 11460)
The court disagreed, interpreting the statutes to exclude auto liability insurance and concluding that "The care of a minor does not require payment for car insurance (as opposed to necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter)."
In re Corrine W., (Cal. App. August 22, 2007)
Opinion online (last visited August 24, 2007 bgf)
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Case Law Development: Child Support for Ward of a Divorced Couple Is Not Terminated When Ex-husband Withdraws as Guardian
The Indiana Supreme Court reversed a trial court's modification of child support in a case involving a couple who had become guardians of Wife's grandson from a prior marriage. Ten years after the guardianship was established, the couple divorced. The trial court incorporated into its decree the parties' settlement agreement, in which the couple agreed to share custody of the grandson and Husband agreed to pay Wife for some of the expenses of raising the grandson.
After the dissolution, Husband remarried, withdrew as guardian, and sought modification of the decree's section about payments for the benefit of the grandson. The trial court granted modification, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Indiana Supreme Court concluded that termination of guardianship was not grounds for modifying the dissolution decree.
The court rejected Wife's argument that Husband was in loco parentis to the grandson, and thus obligated to obigated to pay child support as if he were the father, reasoning:
...it makes little sense to require child support from a person in loco parentis when that status is temporary in nature and essentially voluntary. The stand-in parent would effectively be able to choose whether or not he or she should be required to pay child support simply by choosing to continue or discontinue the relationship. It also seems unwise to create a layer of financial risk for adults who voluntarily provide financial and emotional support to children not their own. Lastly, it is difficult to imagine imposing parallel obligations on the institutions (like juvenile courts or universities) to which in loco parentis is commonly deployed.
The court did, however, find that there were no grounds for modifying the decree. The court considered whether the agreed payments were best characterized as maintenance, child support, or disposition of property, but concluded that, regardless of the characterization, "the termination of guardianship has little practical effect" as there were no grounds for modifying the dissolution decree under any one of these theories.
In re Marriage of Snow, Indiana Supreme Court (March 13, 2007)
Opinion on web (Last visited March 20, 2007 bgf)
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Legislation is working its way through the Colorado legislature that would make it harder for Colorado to force people to pay child support to children DNA tests have proven aren't theirs. The text of the bill. See the CBS4Denver website for a news video on the bill.
According to the Kansas City Star, this week a bill was introduced into the MIssouri legislature allowing DNA evidence to disestablish paternity after the current one-year limitations period.
See this Time magazine article on the national movement to pass similar legislation.
(all links last visited February 15, 2007 bgf)
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Case Law Development: Michigan Court Lets Stand Parental Agreement that Future Child Support Shall Be Satisfied From Alimony
I regularly have students ask about parental agreements that waive child support and assure the students that parents may not bargain away their duty to support their children. But then I see cases like this one, in which the Supreme Court of Michigan over a strongly worded dissent denied appeal of a case in which the parents agreed that if the father was ordered to pay any child support in the future, the obligation must be satisfied entirely from the mother's alimony. The dissenting judge noted that "The 'deal' that the parents agreed on is unusual in the annals of divorce law in this state [and] may well be in violation of public policy."
Laffin v. Laffin, 2006 Mich. LEXIS 2788 (November 29, 2006)bgf
Thursday, November 9, 2006
"A Toronto-area man, already serving a four-year sentence for plotting to kill his ex-wife to get out of paying child and spousal support, is now using his incarceration as an excuse to avoid the payments. Ronald Schulz pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to commit murder, admitting he hired a hitman to break his ex-wife's neck. The "hitman" was in fact an undercover police officer, and Schulz ended up in prison. In court this week, however, Schulz argued he still can't pay for support due to his incarceration, an argument that his ex-wife's lawyer called the ultimate in audacity." Reuters, Yahoo News Link to Article (last visited 11-8-06 NVS)
Friday, September 22, 2006
The Supreme Court of Montana held that the statute of limitations barred an action for premarital child support in a case in which the parties had two children in 1981 before they were married in 1986 and then sought divorce after 17 years of marriage. The trial court granted the ex-wife retroactive premarital child support, as well as a portion of the ex-husband's retirement benefits. On appeal, the court reversed and remanded. The 10-year statute of limitations in Mont. Code Ann. § 27-2-201 barred the ex-wife's claim for premarital child support. At no time between the birth of the child in 1981 and the parties' marriage in 1985 was an order of child support issued, and while the ex-husband might have had a moral obligation to support the child, under the laws in effect at the time, he did not have a legally-imposed obligation. The child for whom support was sought was 23 years old at the time of the parties' dissolution trial and was no longer residing with the ex-wife. The court also reversed the trial court's division of the ex-husband's retirement benefits. The trial court erred in using the "self-only annuity" benefit amount and the trial court was to recalculate the ex-wife's marital portion based on the ex-husband's net annuity.
Momsen v. Momsen, 2006 MT 233, 2006 Mont. LEXIS 445 (September 19, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited September 21, 2006 bgf)
Monday, August 28, 2006
Case Law Development: Child Support Obligation for Medical Expenses Includes Costs of Child's Therapist
The New Jersey Court of Appeals addressed the financial responsibility incurred by a couple's divorce settlement in which the father was to pay most of the children's uninsured medical expenses. The child's therapist was a licensed, certified social worker. Father argued that he should not have to pay for the therapist's services because she was not a psychologist or a physician and because the children had not been diagnosed with a mental illness. The cour rejected this argument, reasoning that:
Viewing the protracted and acrimonious nature of the ongoing litigation between these parties, as focused on the children and their relationship with their parents, it would be myopic to conclude that these children have not been subjected to significant stress, trauma, and turmoil that warranted professional intervention. Moreover, paragraph 10 of the parties' property settlement agreement specifically provides that the terminology "uninsured medical expenses" is to be "interpreted broadly" to include not only psychological or psychiatric treatment, but "any other healthy related care." Certainly, the services of Ms. Roll, as found by the judge, fall within this broad definition of unreimbursed expenses of the children.
Tafaro v. Tafaro, New Jersey (August 25, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited August 27, 2006 bgf)
Post amended August 31, 2006: Thanks to Pieter Droppert of the New Jersey Family Law Blog, for pointing out my confusion in a prior version of this post. His point there -- that readers (and fellow bloggers) -- should never consider blog commentary on cases to be a substitute for reading the cases themselves is one with which I wholeheartedly agree!
Friday, August 25, 2006
The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's award of child support in a case in which the parties had stipulated to "joint physical placement" and a "joint parenting plan" for their child. Father argued that the child support award treated him as though he were not the custodial parent, when he was a joint custodian according to the agreement. Under Iowa law, the child support obligation of parents who provide "joint physical care" of a child is calculated using the "offset method." "In the offset method each parent should be deemed the noncustodial parent on the guidelines chart for purposes of calculating the support each would owe the other. One child support obligation is offset against the other parent's child support obligation, rather than requiring a monthly exchange of child support payments."
However, the trial court had calculated support as though Mother had custody and Father had visitation. The appellate court that, even though the parties had termed their arrangement "joint custody", they did not in fact have joint physical care as actual overnight time with father was "approximately one-third of nights and an average of approximately one-third of the hours of a year." Thus it was proper to calculate child support as though mother were primary custodian.
In re Marriage of Reeves, 2006 Iowa App. LEXIS 997 (August 23, 2006)
Opinion on web (last visited August 25, 2006 bgf)
Sunday, July 23, 2006
The New Jersey Court of Appeals reviewed a trial court's decision to order child support for a 15-year-old girl from both "her biological father, who was unknown to her until these proceedings, and the man she called Dad for almost ten years." In reviewing the appeal by the biological father, the court held that the biological father was properly ordered to submit to genetic testing, as daughter's relationship with her psychological father had already deteriorated and she sought to determine her biological father. The court further held that equitable estoppel did not make the psychological father solely responsible for the daughter's support, since biological parents have the primary support obligation absent exceptional circumstances. Here, the court found that while biological father had the primary support obligation, it was proper for him to share the obligation with the psychological father because the biological father could not pay the entire amount of support.
J.R. v. L.R., 2006 N.J. Super. LEXIS 198 (July 17, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited July 23, 2006 bgf)
California Family Code section 4502(c) applies retroactively and bars a parent from relying on laches to defend an action to enforce a child support order. The California Supreme Court holds that the terms of the Family Code itself dictate retroactive application. Moreover, an exception to retroactive application of laws that create new duties does not apply to the laches defense as "Assertion of a laches defense seeks an equitable act of grace to relieve the burden of an existing obligation. Elimination of the defense does not create a new duty."
Moreover, the court rejected the due process challenge to retroactive application, holding that this application advances a compelling state interest. "Unquestionably, the availability of laches impaired the ability of a parent to collect child support. Eliminating the defense necessarily advances the state’s interest in securing payment of all child support obligations. Moreover, to the extent obligor parents benefit from their efforts to evade support obligations through the use of the defense, section 4502(c) cures this “ rank injustice of the former law.”
In re the Marriage of Fellows, 2006 Cal. LEXIS 8764 (July 20, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited July 23, 2006 bgf)
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan firmly rejected a petition to enjoin a paternity prosecution on the grounds that requiring fathers to accept responsibility for children violates equal protection. Clearly, the petitioner's request did not sit well with the court:
"According to the pleadings, Dubay commenced a personal relationship with defendant Lauren Wells, dated her, engaged in intimate sexual relations, impregnated her, terminated his relationship, and sued her for bearing his child. If chivalry is not dead, its viability is gravely imperiled by the plaintiff in this case. But chivalry is not the issue here, nor does it provide a basis upon which to decide the legal and policy issues that Dubay seeks to advance through this litigation. Rather, the plaintiff contends that Michigan's paternity statutes are repugnant to the United States Constitution's Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses because he has no say, he argues, in the decision whether to beget and bear a child. Therefore, he insists, he ought not to be saddled with the financial responsibility of the child's support, and he should receive damages from the private and public defendants who are attempting to exact that toll from him. The plaintiff's claims have been rejected by every court that has considered similar matters, and with good reason."
Plaintiff had framed his case as a 1983 civil rights action and, as the court observed, "The fundamental flaw in Dubay's claim is that he fails to see that the State played no role in the conception or birth of the child in this case, or in the decisions that resulted in the birth of the child."
Dubay v. Wells, U.S. Dist. Ct. E.D. Mich. (July 17, 2006)
Opinion on the web (last visited July 19, 2006) bgf
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Missouri child support workers are beginning a review of about 400 files in St. Louis to determine if an error in the amount owed by Herbert L. Chalmers, who murdered four women last week before taking his own life, is more widespread. Missouri officials acknowledged that a data entry error led to a mistake in calculating Chambers’ child support obligation, however, they said, he had many opportunities to correct the error. Source. Robert Patrick, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, stltoday.com. To read the complete story, please click here (last visited April 30, 2006, reo).