THE HIGH COST OF FALLING OUT OF LOVE

February 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

A contract to devise property by will is enforceable under Mississippi law. It’s not something one sees every day, but it is something one bumps into every now and then.

Take the case of Hall v. Lewis, decided February 12, 2013, by the COA, a most appropriate case to look at on Valentine’s Day.

Howard Hall and Varnell Lewis were in love. They had been involved in a romantic relationship for several months when, in 1998, Howard purchased a piece of property in his sole name and built a home on it at his expense. At the time of trial in this case, many years later, the property was valued at $80,000.

In 1999, Howard and Varnell, still lovebirds, executed a document entitled “Intervivous [sic] and Testamentary Contract” [is the proper use of Latin phrases yet another thing they’ve stopped teaching in law school?] and each executed a will. The contract provided that Varnell would have a life estate in the property, or have one-half of the proceeds if sold during her lifetime, or have a life estate in any property acquired to replace the property. The agreement required both of them to execute a will contemporaneously to effect its terms. The agreement also provided that it “shall remain in full force and effect and may not be changed by either party,” and “a violation of this agreement may result in a suit for damages for the value of the property.”

By 2005, Howard and Varnell, alas, were out of love, and they parted ways. Howard changed his will to make his grown children the sole beneficiaries and devisees, cutting Varnell completely out.

In 2007, Varnell tried to move a mobile home onto the property based on her contract rights, but Howard refused. Varnell filed suit to enforce the contract, and the chancellor ruled in her favor that it was, indeed, an enforceable contract. Based on the final sentence of the contract as to damages, the judge awarded Varnell a judgment for $40,000 against Howard, and ordered that, upon payment of that amount, Varnell’s right to a life estate would be extinguished. Howard appealed.

After disposing of Howard’s assertion that he did not actually sign the contract, Judge Ishee’s opinion states:

 ¶10. Additionally, Mississippi law provides that a contract to devise or bequeath property by will is enforceable. Williams v. Mason, 556 So. 2d 1045, 1048 (Miss. 1990) (citing Trotter v. Trotter, 490 So. 2d 827, 830 (Miss. 1986) (citation omitted)). With regard to oral promises to devise property, the Mississippi Supreme Court has held that “[a] will, when written in conformity and compliance with the agreement, was a consideration which belonged to the appellee. The testator had no right to revoke it, and its attempted revocation, if deliberately made, constituted a fraud upon [the appellee.]” Johnson v. Tomme, 199 Miss. 337, 347, 24 So. 2d 730, 732 (1946).

¶11. Here, not only did Hall’s and Lewis’s wills reflect the agreement between them, the agreement itself was written by an attorney, signed by both parties, and notarized. This constitutes “clear, definite[,] and certain evidence” of the parties’ intentions. Trotter, 490 So. 2d at 830. Hall’s assertion that the contract is unconscionable is, therefore, also meritless. Accordingly, we cannot find error in the chancery court’s enforcement of the contract.

As illustrated in this case, a contract to bequeath or devise property by will is one of those planning tools that can be used to help unmarried parties to formalize their relationships, as I have discussed here before. You will want to be sure you advise them both in advance, in writing and acknowledged by each of them, that the contract may not be unilaterally rescinded later.

Another interesting point in this case is that the appellant’s 19-page brief cited not a single authority in support of the argument. As the opinion pointed out, “Failure to cite authority to support an argument renders an issue procedurally barred.”

Finally, it’s a hard but immutable principle of law that falling out of love is simply not a reason to abrogate any legal agreement. Happy Valentine’s Day!

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

February 13, 2013 § 5 Comments

Anyone who has spent any time in chancery court has witnessed the hapless flailings of people ineffectively trying to represent themselves in legal matters, some of which would be challenging enough for an experienced legal professional, much less someone completely unversed in the complexities of the substantive law, evidence, due process and procedure. It is never a pretty sight.

Last Friday I attended a symposium at Ole Miss on Poverty and Access to Justice. I should say, more accurately, that I attended the morning sessions. I came away with some misconceptions corrected, hope that something constructive can be done, and an idea of some steps I can take in my own district.

The symposium papers are published at Supra, which is the online publication of the Mississippi Law Journal. I encourage you to click on the link and read them to get an idea of the scope of the problem, as well as ideas that people are pursuing to address it.

And it is a problem with several facets:

  • There are the poor and illiterate who could not afford even a modicum of legal representation, and so are prey to loan sharks, unscrupulous merchants, and sharp dealers of every imaginable stripe. Legal Services, which is on the verge of extinction, has tried with underfunded and understaffed offices to provide representation to as many as possible, but there are not enough resources to keep up with the numbers.
  • There are the growing numbers of people who no longer have the financial means to hire an attorney, and take on the task themselves.
  • There are the few who simply believe that they will somehow be equal to the task, or that the judge will help them.
  • There are the online purveyors of self-help legal kits. I’ve posted here about them.

The dilemma created by these cross-currents is that on the one hand we have people whose poverty and lack of education create nearly insuperable barriers to accessing the legal system, and, on the other hand, we have too few legal resources available to low- and no-pay clients.

In the court room, the judge is responsible to be fair to both sides. The opposing lawyer has a duty to zealously represent his or her client. It’s not called an adversarial system for nothing.

In my district, I am going to organize a group of lawyers who are interested in doing something to work on solutions. We are going to work with the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission and try to alleviate the problem in our corner of the universe. Our efforts will likely not eradicate the adverse impact of poverty vis a vis the legal system, but that’s no reason not to try.

ALIENATION OF AFFECTION: A DISH BEST SERVED COLD

February 12, 2013 § 3 Comments

Alienation of affection survives the Mississippi legislature yet again, per Randy Wallace.

Here’s Philip Thomas’s take.

In the 21st century, what is the justification for continuing this cause of action in effect? Don’t the equitable distribution principles take care of this? Doesn’t the tort simply add a distorting feature to the equitable distribution arrangement?

Our family law has been evolving away from the nineteenth-century retribution-based model to today’s equitable relief, based on valuations and equities. This tort just does not fit.

Maybe some day all of our marital-dissolution law, including associated tort law, will move into the 21st century (hopefully before the 22nd century).

POLICE REPORTS AS EVIDENCE

February 11, 2013 § 2 Comments

Police investigations and reports not infrequently play an evidentiary role in divorce and modification trials in chancery court.

A recent example is Heimert v. Heimert, handed down by the COA on November 13, 2012. In this case, Sheri and Walter Heimert had a history of physical altercations involving allegations of biting, strangling, hitting, and on and on, with the physical marks to show for it. The police were called multiple times to intervene, and two police reports, one from August, 2007, and the other from December, 2008, were offered into evidence. The December report showed that Sheri was charged with domestic violence. Her attorney objected that there was an inadequate foundation to admit it, but the chancellor let it in anyway, and Sheri complained on appeal that the report should not have been admitted.

The COA rejected Sheri’s argument. Judge Lee, for the court:

¶16. “Even though police reports, if offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted[,] are hearsay and the information within them may be based on hearsay, they may be admissible under the hearsay exception in [Mississippi] Rule [of Evidence] 803(8).” Rebelwood Apartments RP, LP v. English, 48 So. 3d 483, 491 (¶36) (Miss. 2010). Rule 803(8), entitled “Public Records and Reports,” states:

Records, reports, statements, or data compilations, in any form, of public offices or agencies, setting forth . . . (C) in civil actions and proceedings and against the state in criminal cases, factual findings resulting from an investigation made pursuant to authority granted by law, unless the sources of information or other circumstances indicate lack of trustworthiness.

¶17. The police report was taken after an investigation of domestic violence reported by Sheri. No assertion has been made that the document lacks trustworthiness. Sheri argues the police report was inadmissible because it was not authenticated. However, a document may be authenticated by the testimony of a witness with knowledge “that a matter is what it is claimed to be.” M.R.E. 901(b)(1). Sheri was a knowledgeable witness, and she submitted the police report as part of discovery. Sheri testified she was familiar with the document; thus, Sheri’s testimony was sufficient to show that the document was “what it [was] claimed to be” – the police report from December 5, 2008. See Cassibry v. Schlautman, 816 So. 2d 398, 403-04 (¶¶20-23) (Miss. Ct. App. 2001) (finding medical records submitted by plaintiff in discovery were authenticated by plaintiff’s own testimony).

¶18. Further, Sheri testified consistently with the information in the police report, and Walter testified consistently with his version of events in the police report. Thus, even if the police report was admitted into evidence erroneously, the admission was harmless, as it was cumulative. Id. at 404 (¶24) (holding admission of hearsay may be held harmless where corroborating evidence exists). Sheri complains she was prejudiced by the report because it only contained information provided by Walter. However, this is not the case. The report clearly contains information gathered from both Walter and Sheri.

¶19. Sheri was familiar with the police report, and she submitted it as part of discovery. Further, the contents of the police report were corroborated by the testimony. We find the police report was properly admitted into evidence. This issue is without merit.

In other words, Sheri was hoist with her own petard. She herself corroborated the facts in the report in her testimony, and she herself had sifted the poison pill into the recipe by providing it in discovery, thus weakening her arguments against authenticity and trustworthiness.

One is left to wonder whether Sheri’s objections would have been upheld if Walter had been the sponsor of the report, and if Sheri had truthfully denied the facts in the report. What do you think? Don’t overlook this statement by Judge Lee: “The report clearly contains information gathered from both Walter and Sheri.”

WEBSTER COUNTY COURTHOUSE RUINS

February 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

The Webster County Courthouse in the Village of Walthall, pop. 170, burned during the night of January 17, 2013. You can see some photos taken in res gestae at the Mississippi Preservation web site.

The courthouse, located in the geographic center of the county, is four miles north of the nearest town, Eupora. The village has a handful of homes, an Exxon station/convenience store, an appliance repair shop with 50-60 washers and dryers out front, a beauty salon, and a sizeable Baptist church. I stopped en route and took these pictures of the ruins.

This is the front of the courthouse, with the main entrance, facing east …

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Sunlight where the courtroom was …

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South entrance …

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Rear, facing west …

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The old jail, immediately behind the courthouse, was not damaged …

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North entrance …

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Reserved parking …

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I read somewhere that the building was constructed in 1915. It was two years short of a century old when it burned.

It’s sobering to ponder what all is lost when a courthouse burns. There are the records, the furnishings, the courtrooms, the equipment, the workplaces. But there also is all of the lore and local history. Buildings can be replaced, but not their souls.

YOU MIGHT WANT TO RECONSIDER YOUR MRCP 59 MOTIONS

February 7, 2013 § 1 Comment

Judge Griffis tells of a time that he filed a “Motion to Reconsider” in federal court after a judgment that he took issue with had been entered. Judge Lee, in his ruling, devoted the first page or two to pointing out that there is no such motion.

When I heard the story, I took exception and pointed out that even under our pre-MRCP practice there was a motion to reconsider, and that the MRCP even continues our pre-rules practice. I added that lawyers even today file motions to “reconsider.” 

Well, I was wrong. Sort of.

MRCP 59 says that a new trial may be granted ” … in an action tried without a jury, for any of the reasons for which rehearings have heretofore been granted in suits in equity in the courts of Mississippi.”

That’s rehearing, not reconsideration.    

To discover the reasons for which rehearings were granted in pre-rules suits in equity, I consulted Griffith, Mississippi Chancery Practice, 2d Ed., 1950, which is the bible of pre-rules practice. Under that ancient practice, all the business of the court was conducted during the terms. All judgments became final on the last day of the term, unless the judge entered an order during the term that set a matter for hearing on a day outside the term (“in vacation”), and orders and decrees could not be altered or amended by the chancellor after the term ended except for some very limited circumstances.

During the term, all decrees and orders issued by the chancellor, even if filed, were considered to be “in the bosom of the court,” and could be changed, altered, withdrawn or vacated by the court at any time up to the close of the term, either on its own motion, or on motion of any party to the suit. The request to the court during the term was a “motion for rehearing,” and some of the bases mentioned by Griffith are: on the court’s on motion to vacate or modify its decree; reargument to point out an overlooked point of law; urging a different result based on something in evidence that the court failed to mention; and newly-discovered evidence (now an MRCP 60 matter).

So “the reasons for which rehearings have heretofore been granted in suits in equity in the courts of Mississippi” include not merely a naked request for a new trial, but also a request for the chancellor to go back and study the evidence and the law again, to see whether perhaps a different result would have been reached. The judge could then, during the term, alter the decree or order, or withdraw it and direct a new trial. 

That smells a lot like both reconsideration on the one hand, and rehearing on the other.  

Even today in chancery court, lawyers may know under the rules that they are asking for rehearing, but they know, too, that they are asking for reconsideration. Out of curiosity, I asked my staff attorney to pull up the R59 motions that had been filed in the preceding year. Of the dozens filed, only a couple were styled or even asked for “rehearing.” Nearly every one was styled “Motion for Reconsideration,” or asked for reconsideration. That’s reconsideration, not rehearing.

Thus, I was sort of right, and sort of wrong in response to Judge Griffis. Right in the sense that the common usage is to call a R59 motion a request for reconsideration, and to ask for reconsideration. Wrong because the rule and pre-rule practice call for rehearing.

It’s not a big deal because the MSSC said many years ago after the MRCP went into effect that judges are to look to the substance of the motion, and not the form, and MRCP 8(f) mandates that pleadings be construed so as to do “substantial justice.” Thus, what you call the motion, and whether you ask for rehearing or reconsideration, is less important than clearly invoking MRCP 59.

Most “Motions for Reconsideration” are just that. They ask the court, “Please, take a look at this one more time and, please, change your mind.” That’s not in keeping with the rehearing language of R59, but it definitely captures what the pre-rules practice was. As the COA said in Brown v. Weatherspoon, which is a R60 case, but the principle is the same, “Finality should yield to fairness.”

Don’t worry too much about getting caught with your proverbial pants down in an appeal because you called your R59 motion one for reconsideration, rather than rehearing. It appears that reconsideration is the vogue word for our appellate judges, too … 

  • Check this out from the COA decision in Estate of Ristroph v. Ristroph, decided in January, 2013: “John then filed a motion to reconsider under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 59. While awaiting the chancellor’s decision on John’s Rule 59 motion, Paul filed a motion for summary judgment with respect to the other alleged inter vivos gifts, contending these claims were also time-barred under section 15-1-49. The chancellor denied John’s motion to reconsider the timeliness of his petition to set aside the warranty deed, and John appealed the denial to the Mississippi Supreme Court.”
  • And this from the COA in Rodgers v. Moore, et al., decided in November, 2012: “According to the briefs, plaintiffs filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal with the chancery court. The chancery court entered an order on March 8, 2007, denying the motion to reconsider.”

I am sure there are more, but you get the picture.

STRIKE THREE — YER OUT

February 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

In Estate of Ristroph v. Ristroph, handed down by the COA on December 4, 2012, we confront yet again the mantra that an appeal from a judgment that disposes of fewer than all of the issues before the trial court, and which does not include a certification under MRCP 54(b), will be dismissed. In this case, the principle lands home with a triple whammy.

As you may recall, I’ve described MRCP 54(b) here as the “Graveyard of Appeals.” That’s because of the rule’s requirement that, if the trial judge directs entry of a judgment as to fewer than all of the issues, he or she must include a finding that there is no just reason for delay, and directing entry of a final, appealable judgment as to the issues decided.  The trial judge’s certification must have a reasonable basis and must not be an abuse of discretion. If the judgment lacks the certification, the appellate court will lack jurisdiction because an appeal lies only from a final judgment (MRAP 5 does provide for an interlocutory appeal to the MSSC, but that is discretionary with that court, and these comments pertain to non-interlocutory appeals).

Undaunted by the express requirements of MRCP 54(b) and the ever-growing body of case law strictly applying it, lawyers continue to file appeals from judgments disposing of fewer than all of the issues, apparently drawn to the appellate process like moths to a flame — with similarly self-immolatory results.

In Ristroph, John Ristroph filed a pleading in his father’s estate to set aside a deed from his father to his brother Paul. He filed a separate pleading challenging certain inter vivos gifts from his father to Paul. Both pleadings alleged undue influence.   

The chancellor dismissed the challenge to the deed based on statute of limitations.

John then filed a motion for rehearing pursuant to MRCP 59. Before the chancellor could rule on John’s motion, however, Paul, having once struck paydirt with his statute-of-limitations argument, filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that John’s inter vivos gifts claims were also time-barred.

The chancellor entered an order overruling John’s MRCP 59 motion for rehearing, and John appealed. <STRIKE ONE>

While the appeal was pending, John filed a motion under MRCP 60 asserting a new argument based on lack of consideration.

The chancellor then overruled John’s MRCP 60 motion, as well as Paul’s motion for summary judgment. John filed yet another an appeal from this latest adversity. <STRIKE TWO>

The MSSC bundled John’s two appeals together and sent them downstairs to the COA, where they landed with a thump on the desk of Judge Maxwell, who astutely pointed out that the chancellor was not yet through with the case at the trial level because the claims as to the inter vivos gifts remained unresolved. Ergo, no jurisdiction. <STRIKE THREE — YER OUT>

From where I sit — reading an appellate judge’s interpretation of a cold record — I find it hard to grasp why and how attorneys are filing appeals from less-than-fully-dispositive judgments without a R54(b) certification. Here we had not one, but two, untimely appeals in the same case. That may be some kind of record. John’s counsel on appeal does get a “Z” for zealously representing his client, I guess, but still, two untimely appeals (strikes one and two) and a dismissal (strike three). That’s got to smart a little.

CORROBORATION BLUES

February 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tell me, how long, Judge, do I have to wait?
Can you let me know? Why must I corroborate?
— apologies to Rev. Gary Davis “Hesitation Blues”

We’ve visited the issue of corroboration in divorce cases several times on this blog. You can find posts on the subject here, here and here. As Judge Maxwell said in the case of Smith v. Smith, “[C]orroborating evidence need not be sufficient in itself to establish [habitual cruelty], but rather ‘need only provide enough supporting facts for a court to conclude that the plaintiff’s testimony is true.” citing Jones v. Jones, 43 So. 3d 465, 478 (Miss.App. 2009).

If your case lacks corroboration, you will leave the courtroom sans a divorce.

You will find the latest example in the case of Gillespie v. Gillespie, decided by the COA January 29, 2013. I’ll let Judge Griffis’s decision do the talking:

¶13. Habitual cruel and inhuman treatment as a ground for divorce must be proved by a preponderance of credible evidence. Chamblee v. Chamblee, 637 So. 2d 850, 859 (Miss. 1994). This Court has stated:

Conduct that evinces habitual cruel and inhuman treatment must be such that it either (1) endangers life, limb, or health, or creates a reasonable apprehension of such danger, rendering the relationship unsafe for the party seeking relief, or (2) is so unnatural and infamous as to make the marriage revolting to the nonoffending spouse and render it impossible for that spouse to discharge the duties of marriage, thus destroying the basis for its continuance.

Fulton v. Fulton, 918 So. 2d 877, 880 (¶7) (Miss. Ct. App. 2006) (citation omitted). Generally, the “cruel and inhuman treatment must be shown to be routine and continuous; however, a single occurrence may be [sufficient] for a divorce on this ground.” Boutwell v. Boutwell, 829 So. 2d 1216, 1220 (¶14) (Miss. 2002) (citations omitted).

¶14. In Chamblee, the supreme court addressed the requirement that the claims of cruel and inhuman treatment be corroborated by a witness. Chamblee, 637 So. 2d at 860. The court noted that the wife produced only one corroborating witness. Id. The witness simply observed the presence of bruises on the wife’s arm and had no independent knowledge of how they got there. Id. Finally, the husband denied abusing the wife. Id. For these reasons, the court determined the chancellor did not err when he denied the wife a divorce on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment because she failed to prove her case by a preponderance of the evidence. Id.

¶15. In Fulton, 918 So. 2d at 880-81 (¶¶9-10), the wife produced three witnesses to corroborate her claim that her husband abused her. Id. at 880 (¶9). Her mother testified she observed bruises. Id. Also, a friend testified that on many occasions the wife called late at night to discuss the altercations between her and her husband. Id. Finally, a cousin testified she took pictures of the wife’s bruises and scratches in her mouth. Id. The cousin also observed tension in the household when she visited. Id. This Court determined that this evidence was sufficient to grant a divorce based on cruel and inhuman treatment. Id. at 881 (¶10).

¶16. Here, Timmy offered one witness, James Moss, to corroborate his claim of cruel and inhuman treatment. Moss observed bruises on Timmy but had no independent knowledge of how Timmy had received the bruises. Moss’s testimony was based not on his own knowledge or information but on what Timmy had told him.

¶17. Timmy also claims that Meagan observed an attack. But, Meagan did not testify to corroborate his claim.

¶18. No corroborating witness, with independent knowledge of the instances of cruel and inhuman treatment, testified to establish the claim of cruel and inhuman treatment. As a result, we find that the chancellor’s finding of grounds for a divorce due to cruel and inhuman treatment was not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record. Nevertheless, because we affirm the chancellor as to the grounds of adultery in the following section, this decision does not affect the outcome of this appeal.

The difficult corroboration cases seem to be the ones that I refer to as self-corroboration, which occurs when all that the corroborating witness knows is what he or she was told by the alleged abusee, as in Chamblee. In Smith, the only corroboration was police reports that the alleged victim had made, which were based on her own allegations and nothing else. The Fulton case, above, is a good illustration of the web of circumstantial evidence that will be found to be corroborative.

No corroboration, and you have to hesitate.   

 

 

THE END OF COLLEGE EDUCATION SUPPORT?

February 4, 2013 § 2 Comments

The seminal case of Nichols v. Tedder, 547 So.2d 766 (Miss. 1989) established once and for all two significant principles of Mississippi family law: One, that the duty of support for a child includes college education support; and two, that the duty to support a child can extend no further than the child’s 21st birthday.

Senate Bill 2339, introduced in this session by Senator Burton, would eradicate both principles.

The bill would amend MCA 93-11-65 with this language:

(9)  (a) The duty of support of a child terminates upon the emancipation of the child. Unless otherwise provided for in the underlying child support judgment, for child support orders established on or after July 1, 2013, emancipation shall occur when the child:

(i) Attains the age of eighteen (18) years or graduates from high school, whichever comes later, but in no event shall the duty of support continue after the age of nineteen (19) unless otherwise agreed to in the support order, or

(ii) Marries, or

(iv) [sic] Joins the military and serves on a full-time basis, or

(b) Unless otherwise provided for in the underlying child support judgment established on or after July 1, 2013, the 260 court may determine that emancipation has occurred and no other support obligation exists when the child:

(i) Discontinues full-time enrollment in school having attained the age of eighteen (18) years, unless the child is disabled, or

(ii) Cohabits with another person without the approval of the parent obligated to pay support.

(c) The duty of support of a child who is incarcerated but 268 not emancipated shall be suspended for the period of the child’s incarceration. [Emphasis added]

The implications of these changes for divorce practitioners?

Under our present law, the parties may agree to college education support to age 21 (or beyond if they can agree). They know that if they can not reach an agreement the court will likely order college support to age 21, which is the limit of the court’s authority under Nichols v. Tedder. So, recognizing the likelihood, most divorcing parents agree to college education support to age 21.

Under this bill, unless the parties agree, the duty of support will absolutely end at age 19, which would be during the sophomore or possibly junior year of college for most children. The court would have no authority to order any support beyond age nineteen, eliminating the bargaining pressure in favor of college support.

Based on years of experience negotiating PSA’s, I expect that college education support will fall into the category of “my client prefers to help his child voluntarily rather than being bound by any contract,” which translates into “he’ll never do it,” or “he might agree in the future if his ex will give up something more.”   

Anyone who has practiced any amount of divorce law is painfully aware of what many refer to as “divorce blackmail.” That’s the situation created by our present statutory divorce scheme, which requires the parties to agree in order to obtain a divorce where one of the fault grounds is not applicable. The party wanting the divorce more must give up more, sometimes everything, just to obtain the divorce. Under this bill, you can add college education support to the already long list of bargaining chips.

College education has been found conclusively to be a good thing for young people. It makes their financial future more secure, enhances earning ability, exposes them to new ideas, expands their horizons, and imparts advantages to them in innumerable ways. Children of divorced parents already face many financial challenges. Why would the public policy of Mississippi be to diminish the opportunity of children in a divorce to a college education?

The only reasons assigned for this proposal that I have heard are: (1) that Mississippi and New York are the last two remaining states who have 21 for the age of emancipation; (2) that lowering the emancipation age is the quid pro quo demanded by some legislators for them to agree to raise the statutory child support guidelines; and (3) that it would save DHS a lot of money.

The fact that we are one of only two states with this particular age of majority seems to me a laughable justification. If we were to go through and change every law where we were one of only a few states with a certain provision, we would literally have to rewrite our code, including elimination of separate equity courts (only four other states, as far as I know). Although we should always be informed and inspired by what other states do, our laws should be based on what is best for Mississippians, not on what everyone else is doing. The acid test should be: “How does this benefit our children?”

The second reason, about raising the guidelines, is based on an earlier part of the bill that would increase guideline child support percentages. The quid pro quo is that if we are going to increase the amount of child support being paid, we should decrease the amount of exposure time for the payer. I understand the politics of trade-offs, but how does this benefit children in Mississippi?   

The last is a byproduct of the harsh 21st century reality that many policy decisions that directly and indirectly affect many citizens are driven by budget considerations, often budget considerations that those same citizens neither benefit from themselves nor will ever. Yes, this will be a boon to the bean-counters at budget time, but again, how does it benefit our children?

I would have less heartburn with this bill if it were amended to add an education clause that would authorize court-ordered education support — college, technical, or otherwise — to age 21.

SCENE IN MISSISSIPPI

February 1, 2013 § 6 Comments

Where?

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Where Am I?

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