PLS 240 Family Law Unit Plan: Child Custody and Support

Child Support Lesson

This lesson looks at child custody and the closely related topic of visitation.  Most of the chapter focuses on custody disputes between parents, but it also discusses the legal rights of co-parents, stepparents, and grandparents who are seeking either custodial or visitation rights.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to

  1. Explain the historical background of child custody issues;
  2. Define the legal and physical components of child custody;
  3. Define shared custody vs. sole custody;
  4. Define the best interest standard;
  5. Explain the resolution of custody and visitation disputes, including claims by nonparents.

Readings

Read Chapter 5 in text.  Read Alaska Statute 25.24.150 here (or the equivalent statute in your jurisdiction).

Watch lecture here.  Watch Alaska Court System video “Custody and Parenting Plans,” here, and “Custody and Parenting Plans Pt. 2,” here.

Discussion Prompt

After readings AS 25.24.150 (or the similar statute in your jurisdiction), post your response to this prompt:

As you read section (c) of the Alaska statute, there are nine different best interest factors the court reviews in determining custody.  Choose one of those factors and discuss why the court would consider that.  Find case law that supports that factor.  HINT:  Using Lexis Advanced to look up the statute will also give you the annotations.  These are notes about case law that interprets or clarifies elements of the statutes.  You should be able to find a relevant case that covers your selected factor.

Then read section (g) of that statute, along with (h) and (j) of the statute.  Why should an abusive parent not be allowed to have unsupervised custody?  Do you think the steps laid out in section (j) are sufficient to protect the child or other parent?  Is it possible for a batterer to have shared custody?

Parenting Plan Assignment

Note to Students:  A typical custody action begins by filing a petition or complaint for custody.  The parenting plan, support calculation and other documents are usually filed after the complaint and answer.  Since we do not get to the divorce process (complaints and answers) until Chapter 10, we are drafting the parenting plan out of order.  We will work with Ana and Chad again in the paternity chapter.

Facts

Ana and Chad have never been married to each other.  They have one child together, 18-month-old Mario Nguyen Jue-Lopez.  Ana is 5 months pregnant with their second child.  Chad is presumed to be father, but would like to establish paternity before resolving custody of the unborn child.

Ana and Chad both work full-time, although Ana’s schedule is more flexible, and she usually works shorter hours than Chad.  However, she travels out-of-state about once a month.  While she is working, her mother cares for Mario.

Since Ana and Chad separated two months ago, they have been sharing custody of Mario.  Both parents live in the same town.  Ana has Mario Wednesday through Saturday; Chad has custody Saturday through Wednesday.  They want to try to keep this schedule, but communication has gotten worse as Ana’s pregnancy advances and Chad moved in with his new girlfriend.

Ana worries that Chad is too strict for such a young child like Mario and feels that his girlfriend encourages Chad’s strictness.  Chad is worried that Ana is too permissive and is not providing proper nutrition for Mario.

Instructions

Prepare an interim parenting plan for Mario only using the template here.  The form itself is pretty basic.  HINT: To check a box in this document, right click on the box, go to Properties, click Checked.  Please remember to delete any unnecessary words (e.g. instead of leaving ” child(ren)” as is, please delete “(ren)” as we are drafting a plan for only 1 child).  The final parenting plan may be drafted after paternity of the unborn child is established.  Areas of the plan to pay close attention to are: communication, decision making, travel, and federal tax credits.  Please feel free to make up any information that is not provided here, such as addresses, dates of birth, etc.

Child Support Lesson

The lesson begins by explaining why the federal government entered the child support arena.  After discussing the federally created administrative framework for the establishment and enforcement of child support, the text looks at how individuals obtain child support assistance from the state.  Here, the relationship between the child support and the public welfare system is discussed briefly.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, student will be able to

  1. Explain the origins and effects of the Child Support Enforcement and Establishment of Paternity Act;
  2. Describe how interstate child support cases are handled;
  3. Explain typical guidelines for support obligations;
  4. Identify income to be considered in computing support; and
  5. Analyze fact scenario and compute support obligation.

Readings

Read Chapter Six in text. Read How to Compute Child Support Under Civil Rule 90.3 (DR-301) here and Civil Rule 90.3 with commentary here.

Watch lecture here and Alaska Court System “Child Support” here.

Discussion prompt

Despite the legislative changes discussed in Chapter 6 of the text, serious concerns still exist regarding the inadequacy of support payments and noncompliance with support orders.  Do you believe both parents have a moral and legal obligation to support their children?  Should the paying parent have input as to how his/her support is being used?  Given what you have learned about divorce and custody, would this approach be practical?

Assignment

Before starting the assignment, view the tutorial here.  For each scenario, you will need to prepare a DR-305 form here.  To calculate a parent’s tax liability, use the CSSD calculator here. (click bypass when prompted for a login).   Remember that the CSSD calculator figures income and deductions on a MONTHLY basis.  You may indicate MONTHLY or YEARLY on your DR-305.  If you choose YEARLY, you will need to multiply the CSSD deduction amounts by 12.

If the scenario does not provide specific information for the form, leave that item blank.  When there is more than one child, remember to calculate the support obligation for each child as he/she turns 18.  For example, there are 3 children.  Compute support for 3 kids, then 2, then 1.  This is fairly easy using the drop-down boxes on the form.  For the shared custody scenario, you will also need to prepare the DR-306 form here.

If you have questions about the calculations, please refer to the DR-310 pamphlet and CR 90.3 under Readings in this lesson.  If you start working on this project and get overwhelmed/confused/frustrated, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Scenario One:

Eric Thomas is an E4 in the Army.  Jessica Thomas is 26 and doesn’t work.  They have two kids, ages 3 and 1. Eric receives BAH of $1539 per month, BAS of $368.29, COLA of $920.  His base pay is $2432 per month.  Jessica is receiving primary physical custody and will be relocating with the kids back to her hometown.  They will share legal custody, and Eric will have summers with the kids, beginning when the youngest turns three years old.

Challenge:  Calculate Eric’s monthly child support obligation.  Should he receive the visitation credit allowed by Civil Rule 90.3(a)(3)?

Scenario Two:

John Kramer is a member of the electric workers union.  John earns $92,000.  His spouse, Laura Kramer, is employed by a local bank and earned $47,525 last year.  They have four children. Jack is 20 and a student at the university.  Brittany is 18 and is finishing her senior year of high school.  Hannah is 14 and Trevor is 11.  John and Laura will be sharing custody of the youngest two kids on a week-on, week-off basis.  Laura will have primary custody of Brittany until she graduates.

Challenge:  Calculate the parties’ respective child support obligations.  Under a shared schedule, is child support owed from either party?  Does Brittany’s residence with her mother affect the overall calculation of support?

Scenario Three:

Jason Christman owns a construction business.  Emily Christman was an employee of the business and did all the bookkeeping.  Last year, the business earned $750,000 and it issued a K1 Statement to Jason for $96,000.  Emily was issued a W2 for $54,300 for the same year.  Jason pays the daycare costs for the parties’ two young children at a cost of $1300 per month for full-time care.  Emily is no longer employed by the company, but per agreement, the business will continue to pay her a stipend at her old salary while she finishes her degree for the next eighteen (18) months.  They will share custody of the kids with Emily having them 60% of the time and Jason having them 40%.  Each of them has traditionally put $200 per month into an IRA for retirement.

Challenge:  Calculate the parties’ respective child support obligations on a shared, but unequal, custody calculation.

(After students have submitted this assignment, this is the feedback I provide CS assignment explanation.)

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