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.

North Dakota Supreme Court Decides Child Support Jurisdiction Case


15] B.B. argues that because custody has already been determined in the tribal court, the tribe has continuing and exclusive jurisdiction over paternity and support.

16] We specifically held in Kelly, 2009 ND 20, ¶ 22, 759 N.W.2d 721, that custody can be bifurcated from other proceedings in marriage. “Thus, even if the district court determines that the reservation is the child’s home state and that the tribal court therefore has jurisdiction over child custody, the district court retains concurrent jurisdiction over the remaining incidents of the marriage and may choose to exercise that jurisdiction . . . .” Id. Although B.B. and A.T.H. never married, the bifurcation principle of Kelly nevertheless applies in this case because multiple parties and jurisdictions are involved and each has an interest in the outcome of the proceedings. We conclude that under Kelly, the paternity and support claims brought against B.B. in state court can be bifurcated from the custody action brought in Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court.

17] Recognizing that paternity and support claims are divisible from custody determinations, and in view of the factual similarities between this case and Doe, we conclude the state court has subject matter jurisdiction in this case.

Alaska Court Reaffirms Tribe’s Inherent Jurisdiction Over Child Support Orders

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 on Tribal Gaming Revenue Sharing and Indian Child Support

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.

The abstract:

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.

Michigan Senate Bills 67-68: Capturing Child Support from Gaming Winnings

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.