Shelbie Booth No numbers have been filed or listed in support of Bainbridge Elementary School’s ailing double bassist. And her name’s etched on a bench outside a courtroom. It’s here that the Supreme Court on Friday ruled the child support ordered from Bainbridge Elementary School can be lifted.
By a 3-2 vote, the Supreme Court justices ruled parents can ask for an order that keeps their former kids in a child support fund, no matter the child is older than 13, as long as the former child has been requesting the funds since 2016, the middle of the divorce process.
Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor recused themselves from the case, but wrote an opinion in favor of parents.“In such cases, child support funds are limited to the child’s earnings and expenses,” Sotomayor wrote. “In addition, a petitioner does not need to convince a court that he is the primary beneficiary of the child’s support funds — as long as the petitioner shows that the fund has been previously established by the parent.”
The court has precedent for this type of order. In 1996, Kagan, Sotomayor and Alito were with the court in the case on which the Supreme Court struck down the Illinois law which claimed the child support fund was “uniform” and so limited. The court ruled in that case that the child support fund law had no place in an equitable society, as courts frequently interpreted cases in other contexts that it had settled before.Those other courts did not see this as the case under the law and the child support fund law, Kagan wrote. She said a law like that should “guarantee that the child is entitled to its support resources, and that the support is provided as compensation for a years-long situation that the parties have endured.”
The child support fund law was first used to help resolve a custody dispute in Massachusetts in the mid-1970s when in a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts, on behalf of a person who had been raped by an unconscious man who was later acquitted of the crime, the state court ordered the child support and payment of $70,000 per month to the man who was arrested and convicted.
Justices James E. Brown, Thomas F. Farrell, Gregory J. Meeks and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.Brown cited the only two cases the Supreme Court had considered in which it found it right to lift a child support order on the basis of pre-existing claims. “This is more than a case-specific problem,” Brown wrote. “The court’s decision can affect the entire family life. A person’s parents must be able to remain faithful to their parental duties, not only to a particular child but also to the minor children whose fathers did not abide by previous court rulings.” Brown noted that the Court previously lifted a pre-enacted child support order on the basis of claims by parents who were minors at the time of the case. He called that case “one that found relatively few children could sustain an additional claim.”
Justice Stephen J. Breyer, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, also dissented. He read the opinion as though it applied only to a single high school student. “Such decisions concerning the right to pursue claims against former spouses at any stage of the child’s family life can by no means make up the bulk of the current majority’s decisions,” Breyer wrote.
Kagan recused herself from the case because the attorney who had sought funding on behalf of the former pupil of Bainbridge School wanted to represent the appellate court in the case as a jurist. Kagan’s father was a trustee for the Bainbridge School, and she was a trustee.