Family Law Prof Blog

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

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Holds Stepfather Liable for Child Support

From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A stepfather who sought legal and physical custody of his ex-wife's children can be liable for child support, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

The Supreme Court ruled on a 3-1 vote last week in A.S. v. I.S. that when a stepparent takes aggressive legal steps toward assuming the same parental rights as the child's biological parent, the stepparent assumes parental obligations.

Justice Max Baer, who wrote the majority's opinion, said a parent's in loco parentis status — meaning he or she assumed parental obligations without going through legal adoption — doesn't create a child support obligation.

“Here, we have a stepfather who hauled a fit parent into court, repeatedly litigating to achieve the same legal and physical custodial rights as would naturally accrue to a biological parent,” Justice Baer said, adding “this is not the ‘typical case’ of a stepparent” who wants a post-separation relationship with the children.

The decision reversed both the trial court's ruling that the stepfather should not owe child support and the Superior Court's affirming decision.

Chief Justice Thomas G. Saylor issued a dissenting opinion arguing there was an insufficient record in the case because the trial court dismissed the mother's complaint for child support at the pleadings stage.

Read more here.

January 24, 2016 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kansas Sperm Donor Fights Back After State Forces Him to Pay Child Support


It’s probably one of the most bizarre Craigslist transaction, involving a lesbian couple desperate for a sperm donor, and a Topeka man willing to help.

Little did he know that act of kindness would lead to a lengthy child support battle that continues to this day. Recently this controversial case led to a court ordered DNA test that revealed he is a father, “I’m the sperm donor, I’m not the father,” William Marotta said.

If Marotta had a nickel for every time he’s said that in the past three years, he’d have enough money to pay off the amount the state of Kansas wants in back child support, “Cause it would be really easy for me to just pay off the money and be done,” Marotta said. “But that’s not the point, shouldn’t have been done in the first place, it’s wrong.”

The person he believes is responsible for the wrongdoing, Governor Sam Brownback, “I believe he’s sat down with a group of his people and said ‘okay,this is what I want to do, how do we accomplish that.’”

This all started when Marotta donated his sperm to the lesbian couple in 2009 after seeing their post on craigslist. Marotta accepted to help the couple, and later that year the couple had a little girl, “Angie and Jennifer are the parents,” Marotta said.

However the state of Kansas won’t accept that. Despite the fact that the lesbian couple and Marotta signed a contract giving up all parental rights to the child.

Read more here.

September 15, 2015 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 26, 2015

New Georgia Law Permits DNA Testing for Child Support

From Florida Times-Union:

Under a new law, the Department of Human Services will now be able to conduct DNA tests for all child support cases in which paternity is unresolved.

DHS met on Wednesday in Atlanta to discuss changing its internal rules to fit HB568 that will go into effect July 1.

Under the new law, any man that is proven not to be the biological father will not have to pay child support. The bill was intended to end wrongful paternity claims prior to legal action.

Read more here.

June 26, 2015 in Child Support (establishing), Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0)

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)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

WI Ruling on Child in Same-Sex Separation

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.


October 8, 2013 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Child Support MA Case

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

August 25, 2012 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (2) | 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)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Child Support & Filiation in Missouri

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.


September 10, 2010 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 3, 2010

NY Court Requires Same Sex Partner to Pay Child Support

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.

Read more news coverage here or the opinion here.


September 3, 2010 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Child Support Law in Quebec


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 Quebec's child support benefits are unfair and unconstitutional.

Anne-France Goldwater is alleging children of divorce in Quebec are victims of discrimination because child support payments are often lower than those in other provinces and child support is cut in half in joint custody cases.

Read more here.


June 28, 2010 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (8) | 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)

Friday, October 24, 2008

New Scholarship on Child Support

Lockie_2 This looks like a fascinating forthcoming article reconceptualizing child support:

Adrienne Lockie,

"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.


October 24, 2008 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Case Law Development: Foster Care Funding Need Not Provide Auto Liability for Teenagers

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)

August 25, 2007 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

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: 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)

March 21, 2007 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Legislative Update: Bills to Allow Disestablishment of Paternity

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)

February 15, 2007 in Child Support (establishing), Child Support Enforcement, Paternity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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

December 6, 2006 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Man Jailed for Planning to Kill Ex-wife Seeks Relief from Child Support Payments

"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)

November 9, 2006 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Case Law Developmetn: Statute of Limitations in Child Support Actions

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)

September 22, 2006 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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!

August 28, 2006 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Case Law Development: Calculation of Child Support in Joint Custody Arrangements

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)

August 25, 2006 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)