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.
The first part of the article from SitNews:
The Superior Court for the State of Alaska, First Judicial District at Juneau, issued a decision with significant implications for tribal courts throughout Alaska in Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska v. State of Alaska Child Support Services Division. The Court’s order on October 25, 2011, reaffirms the Tribe’s inherent jurisdiction to handle the full range of family law issues affecting its citizens, including the particular issue of child support for the benefit of tribal children.
The Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s Press Release can be found here.
The order can be found here.
Marcia Yablon-Zug has posted “Dangerous Gamble: Child Support, Casino Dividends, and the Fate of the Indian Family” on SSRN. It is forthcoming in the William Mitchell Law Review.
Casino dividends have created significant wealth for many Indian tribes and have greatly improved the lives of their members. However, these benefits do not come without a price. Other scholars have noted the negative effects of gaming on tribal membership, culture, and identity but, there has been virtually no discussion regarding how casino gaming may hurt the Indian family. A recent case from the Florida Court of Appeals vividly illustrates how casino dividends can be used in ways that harm Indian families. In Cypress v. Jumper, the Florida court completely relieved an Indian father of any and all financial obligation to his children due to his children’s receipt of tribal casino dividends. In this article, I explore both the basis for, and ramifications of, this decision. I conclude that the court’s decision is not supported by previous case law permitting the consideration of children’s income but rather, is the result of the parties’ Indian ethnicity and the historic and continuing negative perceptions regarding Indian parents. I then explore the importance of child support and demonstrate that the benefits of paying child support are not simply monetary, but are also emotional and psychological. These additional benefits are especially important for Indian children who, given the centuries long assault on the Indian family, are more likely to experience family break down and the emotional and psychological effects of such breakdown than non-Indian children. Consequently, I argue that the Cypress decision creates a dangerous precedent that if followed, will allow Indian gaming to significantly harm Indian families.
Under these bills, every time a $1000 winner at a Michigan casino tries to collect, the casino must determine whether or not the winner owes money in the child support system.