Family Law Prof Blog

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

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Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Woman says religion prevents her from paying child support

The Vermont Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether a former Vermont woman can avoid paying child support because of her religious beliefs. The  Vermont Office of Child Support in 2003 received a court order allowing it to suspend the driver's license of Joyce Stanzione, a former Vermont resident who has not paid child support since she separated from her husband in 1991.Stanzione is a long-time member of the Twelve Tribes Messianic Community in Florida and is not allowed under church law to have an income, said Jean Swantko, her attorney. Suspending her license because she has no income violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects religious freedom, said Swantko, who is also a member of the Twelve Tribes Community. Information from: The Times Argus, news.  (Last visited September 7, 2005, REO). Additional information:, (Last visited September 7, 2005, REO).

September 7, 2005 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Case Law Developments: Child Support – Presumptions as to Overpayments and Underemployment

In an interesting case involving an attorney father who overpaid child support and then fell in arrears after he quit his high-paid position to become a public defender, the Tennessee Court of Appeals held that overpayments are to be treated as gifts unless proven otherwise.  The court also found that the attorney's decision to change jobs was a voluntary underemployment which would not justify lowering child support.

DeWerff v. DeWerff, 2005 Tenn. App. LEXIS 555 (August 31, 2005)
Text of Opinion on web at

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September 6, 2005 in Child Support (establishing), Child Support Enforcement | Permalink

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Case Law Development: Child Support when Child is Incarcerated

Rodney P.  v. Stacy B., 2005 Ky. LEXIS 245 (August 25, 2005)

This case of first impression, the Kentucky Supreme Court examines child support obligations for an incarcerated child.  Here, Mom had custody of two children.  She moved to modify Dad’s child support payments based on Dad’s increased income.  Dad responded that, because the oldest child was in state custody for status and delinquency offenses, child support should be calculated based on Mom's custody of one child rather than two.  Mom did not provide any evidence that she was providing support for the incarcerated child or had expenses related to her custody of him. Dad argued that, because the state could sue him to collect the costs of support for the son, if he were also ordered to pay Mom support for the son, he would  end up paying twice. 

The court reviews the few cases across the United States involving incarcerated children and child support, noting that, while most held that parents had a continuing duty of child support for an incarcerated child, those cases were ones in which the parent was seeking to terminate the support obligation entirely under an emancipation theory.  Here, Dad was not seeking to terminate his support obligation, but rather to have support calculated as if he were the custodial parent of the incarcerated son.  The court agreed with this approach.

Text of opinion at

August 28, 2005 in Child Support (establishing) | Permalink

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Marriage in the Military: Child Support and Custody

(Column) After applauding Missouri in my column for passing a law that protects Reservists and Guard Members from child support arrears as they go from high-paying civilian jobs to lower pay on the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan, I recently learned that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may soon sign a bi-partisan supported bill (SB 1082) that would protect individuals with current custody orders in addition to fair child support protection that does not punish activated or deployed parents who can no longer exercise their parenting time. . . . The pending legislation addresses both the modification of child support payments and child custody orders. Michael Robinson, a lobbyist on family court issues in California who spearheaded the bill through the California Assembly and Senate, appears to have been successful in convincing California legislators that when military personnel are sent to potentially face death in Iraq, it is grossly unfair to allow ex-spouses to take advantage of this situation by filing suit for custody of the children when deployed service members are in no position to fight for their rights in court. . . . Because of the Bradley Amendment, a child support order can only be modified retroactively to the date of a filing of a petition. In so far as many reservists are called up on short notice and are not able to file a petition for a reduction in their monthly child support amount before they are deployed, they can return with arrearages, penalties and interest that cannot be forgiven. By Captain Gene Thomas Gomulka,,13190,Gomulka_082905,00.html (last visited August 27, 2005).

August 27, 2005 in Child Support (establishing), Custody (parenting plans) | Permalink | TrackBack (0)