August 8 2011 meeting minutes from 2011 Child Support Guideline Review Committee

Okay folks, here are the minutes from the August 8, 2011 Child Support Guidelines Review.

You have both the original pdf that was scanned from the meeting and an OCR scan that I did with some reformatting for clarity.


OCR scan of the pdf of the meeting minutes

2011 CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES REVIEW
MEETING MINUTES
August 8, 2011
Iberville Building, Room 1-129 Baton Rouge, LA

Attendees:

  1. Gary E. Franklin, DCFS CSE;
  2. Paul S. Fiasconaro designee for K. Jacob Ruppert, President of LA H.O. Association;
  3. Vincent Saffiotti, designee for the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Family Law Section;
  4. Bennett Wolfe, LA Ch. of American Academy of Matrimonial lawyers;
  5. Melissa Moreau, LDAA;
  6. Jennifer DeBlanc, designee for the Louisiana Senate, Senator Julie Quinn’s office;
  7. Randy Trahan, designee for LA State Law Institute’s Marriage and Persons Advisory Committee;
  8. Judge Lisa Woodruff-White, designee for the LA Dist. Court Judges Assoc.;
  9. Judge Pamela Baker, designee for Juvenile and Family Ct Judges; Tiffany Simpson, LA Children’s Cabinet;
  10. Lisa Andry, DCFS/CSE Executive Program Director

Non-Attendees:

  1. Jessica Braun, designee for House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure

The public meeting was called to order by Gary Franklin.

Lisa Andry introduced Laura Gardner (sic  correct name is Lara Gardner), Economist from Southeastern Louisiana State University. She is under contract to do the economic study for the Child Support guidelines. Committee members introduced themselves to her.

To update the CSGuidelines, child rearing expenditures will need to be determined as they relate to net income and gross income and how child support payments are determined.

Gary will get a copy of the final report from 4 years ago.

Bennett Wolfe asked if the guidelines would be expanded?

Mr. Franklin let Ms. Gardner know of the assigned research projects.

Ms. Gardner asked if the $100 minimum support should be kept.

Judge Lisa Woodruff White is studying the minimum Child Support amount.

Mr. Wolfe said the schedule needs uniformity to reduce conflict.

Vincent Saffiotti stated that the needs of the child should be considered.

Paul Fiasconaro said four years ago dollar amounts per child combined for gross income of family were increased. $100 minimum remained the same.

There are deductions for standard withholding using gross income.

Child support schedule shows combined income.

Judge Woodruff-White explained the schedule from zero to $10,000 was based on the old. Later the schedule from 10,000 to 20,000 was added. There was concern with the legislature updating the schedule. Even though the economic data supports it, the parents at the lower end of the scale would end up having decreases in child support. There is a problem when there are multiple children and multiple family cases. We have two sets of data. Judge Woodruff White said we need an updated schedule. There is a difference in child rearing expenses and child care expenses. There is a little problem between the $7,500 and $10,000 amounts. We need the most current economic data. The custodial parent is in a better position if a realistic obligation is paid rather than if an unrealistic obligation is not paid.

Two guests from Mahalia Jackson Community Center, Gregory Rattler Jr. and Tanya James, were invited by Judge Woodruff White to attend the meeting. She gave them surveys to fill out.

Ms. Gardner asked if there were other issues.

In the current schedule, $250 is included for extraordinary expenses.

Mr. Franklin brought up self employment income.

Extracurricular expenses need to be studied.

Judge Woodruff-White said under the current schedule there is a 15% dissolution factor. Do we use that throughout the schedule? There is lots of research out there on how to deal with low income parents. There is a self support reserve for low income parents. We define what percent of the self support reserve is used because if we used 100% to factor it, that would have resulted in more decreases. Data will show that it is important to use a self support reserve for low income parents. If we are going to do it, do it where it is applicable to the schedule.

We decided to include a work incentive. That is so it encourages parents to work.

Judge Woodruff-White spoke in regard of the lower end of the schedule where there is a $100 minimum in the state of Louisiana. The last time she looked, there were very few states that had a$100 minimum and they were not low income states. We used to have a schedule that started at $600. It is now $900. Judge Woodruff White would like it if the table would start at $600 again. Then make decisions where to go from there. It is fictitiously there because we had to bump it up.

What is the scope of Dr. Gardner’s contract? Analysis and determining child rearing expenses

One is economic or one is legal. Ms. Andry said Melissa and Gary, as attorneys, can take a lead on the legal part of the final report. If that is not sufficient we can find someone to help.

Mr. Franklin is to follow up with Jessica Braun on availability of Kerry Triche.

In regard to Survey Monkey, Bob Levy was not able to print out the survey.

The committee voted to extend the survey to the end of August. (Aug. 31)

Mr. Franklin turned over the floor to Paul Fiasconaro. He found a document from 2009 on Act 378. It is used by the 24th Judicial District Court in an effort to come up with income from the self- employed. It states that suitable documentation of current earnings shall include employer statements.

Judge Pam Baker said it would be great if it’s someone who keeps good business records but not all do. Some NCPs that get paid in cash want to be set as earning minimum wage. What can be done? Issue a subpoena? It won’t show on their tax return. They need verifiable income.

During discovery, Mr. Wolfe gets documentation such as federal tax returns and paycheck stubs to establish parent’s incomes.

Judge Woodruff White asked if anyone knows what other states are doing? It may address this issue in the majority of the cases. Last time information was gathered from other states.

Judge Baker says a big problem for her, are the people who have no documents or bank accounts and pay their utility bill in cash so we can’t trace anything.

Tiffany Simpson suggested looking at a person’s mortgage or loan application which would show their income.

Judge Baker asked what documents are necessary? If there is a question on a parent agreeing to the income amount, they would fill out an income expense affidavit. But if both parents agree, they wouldn’t need to fill it out.

Judge Woodruff White said she could get with the Work Force Commission to gather information.

Mr. Franklin said Professor Katherine Spaht will give her report on Paternity next meeting.

Ms. Andry said the committee needs a report on the survey by the September meeting so we can get the final report ready since the Legislative session starts early next year. A subgroup may need to gather shortly after the 31st to get a synopsis of what was found by the survey.

The next meeting will be held on Sept. 12.

The meeting was adjourned.

FUTURE MEETINGS:
October 10, 2011         -    1:15 pm

November 14, 2011    –     1:15 pm

Child Care Expenses

I received an email from our president Mr. Nicholas James, and I fully concur with him when he states as follows;

Most of the committee members clearly have their own agenda and are not interested in reforming the child support laws to fix their serious deficiencies in these laws. So we will need your assistance in monitoring their activities. “

I was one of the four present at the September 12, 2011 Child Support Guideline Review meeting being led by the DHFS and DA’s. In said meeting I was appalled and troubled by what I heard and saw at the meeting.

Of particular interest to me was one of the issues allotted for discussion regarding private tuition and childcare expenses.  The panel of 11 proposed making changes regarding childcare expenses as it relates to payment by the support obligor in the following manner.

That should a custodial parent be enrolled in college or seeking further educational improvement the support obligor be liable for child care expenses while the custodial parent is attending college or seeking further educational improvement.

This change being based on the fact that the custodial parents continuance of his/her educational goals is in the best interest of the children of the parties.

Presently a noncustodial parent is obligated to pay for 1/2 of childcare expenses if the custodial parent is either actively working or is seeking gainful employment. Nothing more!!!

If this change takes effect it will only add a hidden alimony payment to enure to the benefit of a custodial parent.

The panel at the instant moment is reviewing and attempting to change La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:315.1C.  to make it an obligation for a noncustodial parent to pay for childcare expenses if a custodial parent is attending college or seeking further educational improvement.

This is not a unique issue and has already been addressed, tested and found wanting by the fourth circuit court of appeals way back in 1998 with a published opinion on August 6, 1998 under Hamilton v. Hamilton, 716 So. 2d 412 (La.App. 4 Cir. June 24, 1998) as follows;

….“The court further determined that, because the oral reasons for judgment were adequate and timely, the later written reasons were superfluous. The court also held the deviation from the support guidelines was not justified because the subject child care expenses stemmed from the former wife’s attendance at college, which was not due to employment or a job search, as required by La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:315.3. The court further found that the education expense was not the type of “extraordinary” circumstance that La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:315.1C contemplated;.

Stating further in its opinion;

…”Nor has this Court, in spite of its [Pg 9] sympathy for an expenditure which may ultimately enure to the benefit of the children when Ms. Hamilton will presumably experience a dramatic increase in her earnings potential, found any other authority to sustain what it otherwise perceives as a desirable goal. Unfortunately, the legislature apparently does not feel that  [*417]  education under these circumstances is an end sufficient to justify the award of the means to attain it”.

OUTCOME: The court reversed an order in the parties’ divorce action that required the former husband to pay one-half of the former wife’s cost of childcare for the child attributable to the former wife attending college and affirmed the rest of the judgment.

It is apparent that the Panel of 11 is attempting to circumvent tested and tried case law which  clearly interpreted the intent of the legislature in in its enactment of La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:315.1C.  regarding extraordinary expenses. To date this ruling by the 4th Circuit has not been challenged by any appellant nor has the Legislature come forward and said that anything different was intended regarding extraordinary expenses.

I will agree that it is imperative that changes be made to our laws in order to be equitable, to be succinct  let me posit that just because a matter has been before our appellate courts and has been reviewed, tested, and tried it does not always make for good law or good case law.

However in the instant matter what is occurring is a subversive attempt by the Panel of 11 to undo the intent of the legislature regarding extraordinary expenses, to add an additional obligation of support by an obligor which are not true expenditures for the children, but rather an attempt to add a hidden alimony payment to the custodial parent.

Let us not forget that there is a proper forum addressing the further educational expenses of parties undergoing divorce and that the matter of said expenses has been concisely addressed at length under alimony payments. One need only review our statutory scheme of laws and also our appellate case law to get clarification on this issue.

It is  apparent that the Panel of 11 may be well aware of this and feels that it is easier to change La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:315.1C to include the cost of childcare as an extraordinary expense as it relates to a custodial parent attending college rather than seeking to address this in the proper forum in the area of alimony where they will in my opinion they would meet much more resistance and a larger uproar

I fully agree with the courts that parents not only have a legal obligation but also a moral obligation to support their minor children, I am also of the opinion that any support should be fair and balanced to both parties and that such support should be in such a manner that it does not disturb the children’s usual manner of lifestyle. However this change has nothing to do with the maintaining children in the lifestyle that they are accustomed to but rather relates to Alimony that a parent should receive in the divorce process.

I would appreciate any comments, for or against this matter as addressed, and agree that that I have a somewhat biased interest and view in these matters due to my situation as a custodial parent of two.

State Representative Chris Roy, Jr. on the Importance of Fatherhood

Recently, I had the privilege of observing Mr. Chris Roy, Jr. handle a complex family law matter.  One of our LaDads members sought out his services and acquired an impressive result.  Mr. Roy’s performance and competence was exceptional.  I was a little saddened to learn that he will not run for re-election for House District Seat 25 but the following statement from Mr. Roy demonstrates his dedication to his family:

 

 “My youngest child will be in the 7th Grade and my other two children are in college. At this stage of my life, it is more important for me to see my son become a young man, attend his ball games and experience the activities I was able to experience with my other children. Simply put, I don’t want to look back in a few years and regret missing some of a father’s most cherished memories because I was in Baton Rouge attending a sub-committee hearing.”

I am not often impressed with politicians (or lawyers) but Mr. Roy is one of the finest examples of integrity the public wants out of government and the legal profession.  Though he will be missed in Baton Rouge, there are just some things in life that are too important to miss out on.  I think he is one of the best attorneys I have ever met and obviously a fine example of a father as well.

I sincerely hope that Mr. Roy considers running for Judge in the future.

Daniel’s Law

Louisiana needs to reform its child support laws.

The existing laws allow for unconscionable outcomes that are harmful to the health and welfare of the children of the state of Louisiana; the children’s parents; and the financial well-being of the state of Louisiana.

The Louisiana needs to prohibit Excessive child support orders.

The specific instance of a horrendously bad outcome that we are looking at today is the Daniel Hoover case.  This case begins with the ex-wife, Kelly Marie Fletcher Hoover, through her attorney, Maurice Trippi, seeking 100% of Daniel Hoovers income as ‘child support’.

Here is a scanned copy of the original divorce petition.


Here is the judgment