No. 11-0369. [1-680] Greve v. Anderegg
October 14th, 2011
JOINT PHYSICAL CARE OF CHILD, MATERNAL CHILD SUPPORT, TAX EXEMPTION
In another appellate court decision, the court affirmed the district court's order in a paternity case that granted the parties joint physical care of their minor child, ordering the mother to pay child support, and allocating the income tax dependency exemption for their child.
The parents of a minor child, never married, but lived together for a few years. After the parents separated, they lived in the same town and reached an informal agreement on custody of their child which they followed for two years. The father then filed a petition to establish paternity, establish joint legal custody and joint physical care, determine child support, and award the income tax dependency exemption.
The mother believed it would be best if the child was placed in her physical care, instead of the parties' joint physical care. In determining physical care for a child, the court's first and governing consideration is the best interest of the child. The court analysis remains the same whether the parents have been married or have remained unwed. The court considers the following factors in determining whether to grant joint physical care: (1) the historical caregiving arrangement for the child between the parents; (2) the ability of the parents to communicate and show mutual respect; (3) the degree of conflict between the parents; and (4) the degree to which the parents are in general agreement about their approach to parenting.
Both parents testified at district court that the other was a good parent and they would maintain civility for their child. Neither parent had any qualms about the other's approach to parenting. The court also noted they got along for two years under their informal agreement. These factors led the court to affirm the district court's ruling on joint physical care, because it allowed the child the maximum opportunity to spend time with each parent and would promote a healthy physical, mental, and social child.
The mother also appealed the district court's decision to award the husband child support. Each party's W-2 forms were presented as evidence. The mother also testified that the father earned more. The district court used the most reliable evidence presented and decided child support obligations based on the W-2 forms. Based on the W-2 forms, the mother earned more than the father. This resulted in the mother being obligated to pay child support. The court affirmed the district court's decision.
Lastly, in cases involving joint physical care, the allocation of deductions should be based upon the impact of deductions to the child's interest. The appellate court agreed with the district court's ruling that the income of each parent did not differ greatly, allowing for alternating tax exemptions to serve the child's best interest.