Marcia Zug on Sharpe v. Sharpe and Child Support Modifications


It is easy to presume that maximizing child support is in a child’s best interest, but as the above cases demonstrate, there are exceptions. When the benefits of modification outweigh the negatives, modification should be permitted. This is true for all child support cases, but especially those pertaining to American Indian families. When considering modification requests made by Indian obligors, family courts must be particularly sensitive to the effects of income imputation on individual Native families as well as the effects of imputation on their tribes more broadly. If the benefit of modification relates to the child’s or the parent’s unique status as a member of a federally recognized tribe, this fact should be given substantial, perhaps even decisive, weight in the court’s modification decision. As discussed in Part I, courts applying the strict rule test have permitted modification when it benefits the child or the greater community. Supporting native subsistence lifestyles does both.

Sharpe v. Sharpe is here.