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Child Support Cases and News Items

February 7, 2005

Caldwell v. State, No. S-11149 (Alaska Supreme Court, January 21, 2005): Proceeds that husband received in connection with the sale of a closely held corporation in which he held minority interest constituted one-time capital gains plus return on capital. Thus, the entire payout of his share of sales proceeds could not be treated as “income” spread evenly over a five-year period of his post-sale covenant not to compete, based on theory that noncompete provision constituted compensation for not working.

In re Marriage of Henry, No. G033727 (California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, January 28, 2005): Increased, unrealized equity value in obligor spouse’s residence was improperly calculated as income in child support modification proceeding, as calculation of income of obligor spouse, who sought downward modification of child support owing to her physical disability which caused her employer to let her go, should have been limited to unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, and any wages she had earned.

In re Marriage of Lindman, No. 2-04-0408 (Illinois Court of Appeals, Second District, January 11, 2005): Disbursements from the father’s individual retirement account (IRA) constituted income for purposes of child support, and the nonrecurring nature of the father's IRA disbursements did not prevent the disbursements from bring considered as part of father’s net income. Further, the father was not entitled to deduct disbursements he received from his IRA from his net income pursuant to a statute that allowed a deduction for “reasonable expenditures for the benefit of the child and other parents.”

Keling v. Keling, No. ED 83915 (Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, February 1, 2005): Although the wife testified she had not sought full-time work because she chose to live more frugally so she would have more time with her children, the trial court was entitled to disbelieve wife’s explanation as to why she was not working full-time, and was within its discretion in imputing income of $2,427 per month to wife based upon full-time employment at $14 per hour as trained dental assistant.

Caplan v. Caplan, No. (New Jersey Supreme Court, January 28, 2005): The trial court’s decision to address child support without imputing income to ex-husband, whose unearned income was sufficient to meet the reasonable needs of children, while not unreasonable, failed to give proper weight to underpinnings of child support guidelines, which were based on total income of intact family, in divorce proceeding involving high income situation; it was not fair result only to use unearned income and underlying assets to calculate support merely because income from those assets would satisfy support award.

Heselton v. Maffei, 374 N.J. Super. 184, 863 A.2d 1100 (App. Div. January 11, 2005): Payments that the ex-husband was required to make to his ex-wife as reimbursement for a bank’s judgment against the ex-wife after it foreclosed on marital premises, which payments were based on ex-husband’s obligation in the property settlement agreement to indemnify ex-wife from any claims arising out of the loans against the marital premises, did not constitute current alimony that was required to be taken into account when determining the parties’ child support obligations.

Mateer v. Field, No. 2005 N.Y. Slip Op. 00266 (New York Appellate Division, Second Department, January 18, 2005): The parties’ separation agreement, which was to be construed in accordance with laws of another state, and which obligated the father to pay for the child’s college tuition and for half of her other college expenses, could not be enforced due to failure of mother and child to allow father to participate in college selection process.

Spicer v. Spicer, No. COA03-1197 (North Carolina Court of Appeals, February 2, 2005): Considering income issues, the court held: (1) the trial court properly considered husband’s rent-free housing as form of gross income; (2) the definition of “income” in child support guidelines, as applied to settlements received by an obligor spouse, included awards intended to compensate obligor spouse for non-economic loss such as personal suffering and disability, and was not restricted to settlements providing compensation for lost wages; thus, the trial court properly treated principal of trust fund established for husband with proceeds from settlement as non-recurring income to husband; (3) trial court properly ordered husband to invade principal of trust fund to make lump-sum payment establishing trust for child’s support.

Boumont v. Boumont, No. 20040213 (North Dakota Supreme Court, January 19, 2005): After the trial court decided to leave unchanged the equal-physical-custody provision of the divorce judgment, the court was required to apply the child support guideline concerning equal physical custody when determining whether to increase the father’s child support obligation, even though actual custodial arrangement was not equal, because the guideline specifically relied on language of court orders.

Taylor v. Fezell, No. E2002-02937-SC-R11-CV (Tennessee Supreme Court, January 14, 2005): The retained earnings of a subchapter S corporation should not be imputed as income to the sole or majority stockholder unless the earnings are excessive or it is shown that the shareholder-obligor is intentionally manipulating earnings to avoid support.

Groenstein v. Groenstein, No. 04-60 (Wyoming Supreme Court, January 19, 2005): Benefits paid to child of disabled parent through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are to be included in parent’s gross income when initially determining parent’s child support obligation. The parent is then entitled to a credit against his/her obligation for the benefits received by the child.

[Ed. note: See also Holtgrewe v. Holtgrewe, No. ED 84274 (Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, January 18, 2005), reiterating that the credit goes only to the parent whose income the benefits are given to replace.)

News Items
(Note: News items, unlike case descriptions, contain editorial content.)

Item: Georgia seems set on enacting new child support guidelines, abandoning the Percentage of Income model in favor of either Income Shares or Cost Shares.

Item: Seems that Armstrong Williams wasn’t the only right-wing pundit shilling for the administration. Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families in the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has been paying reporters to report favorably on the administration’s “healthy marriages” initiative.

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