A legal note from Marshal Willick announcing two new tools for the family law legal community, one of which is free, and the other of which is free to all subscribers.
The change from child support statutes to regulations has made the calculation of support more complex. MLAW 4: Child Support makes the calculation fast, simple – and accurate. MLAW 3: Malmquistizer makes simple the calculation of a community interest in a separately-titled residence, or the reverse.
Those two new programs join the two existing MLAW programs – the interest and penalties calculator, and the case summaries program, which are also summarized below. Details about all four programs are posted at https://www.willicklawgroup.com/mlawresources/
I. MLAW 4: CHILD SUPPORT
Per federal law, Nevada’s child support laws are supposed to be reviewed for potential revisions every four years. They weren’t. The only two quadrennial reviews ever done were issued by the Family Law Section in 1992 and 1996, and are posted at https://www.willicklawgroup.com/child-support/.
Nevada’s federal IV-D funding was imperiled by the lack of review, so in 2017 the Nevada Legislature appointed a commission of mostly lawyers, judges, and bureaucrats to start a new review. There is no formal report, but the minutes and meeting recordings can be reviewed at https://dwss.nv.gov/Support/cs_meeting_minutes/.
The regulations adopted by the commission, enacted as part of the Nevada Administrative Code, and posted at https://www.willicklawgroup.com/clark-county-bench-bar-committee/, went into effect on February 1, 2020, and will apparently entirely replace the Nevada child support statutes set out in NRS 125.070 to 125B.080.
A summary of the current regulations is posted at https://www.willicklawgroup.com/child-support/. For a review of the many changes in financial, medical, and other aspects of child support made by the new regulations, see the article by Scott Husbands, Esq., printed in the Spring/Summer 2019 edition of the Nevada Family Law Report and posted at https://www.nvbar.org/member-services-3895/sections/family-law-section/.
The math involved in the new calculations is more complicated than in the prior child support statutes. Instead of the simple percentages-per-child with statutory presumptive maximums, the new regulations require a varying percentage of gross monthly income on the first $6,000 of income, depending on the number of children, a lower percentage on the next $4,000, and a still-lower percentage for income exceeding $10,000 per month.
On the low end of incomes, instead of a presumptive $100 per month, the regulations adopt reference to the federal poverty tables, which change annually.
Where there is joint custody of one or more children, the existing “offset” method is used. Where there is a mix of primary custody and joint custody, each parent’s obligation to the other is separately calculated and then offset.
The commission has work to do in future years. For example, where alimony paid or received fits into the calculations is unclear. The existing regulations also say nothing about multiple family situations, which some people term “serial parents” – situations where a person might have children in common with two or more other parents.
For some ideas of how to address serial parent situations, see Legal Note Vol. 32 — How to Calculate Child Support with Multiple Families.
B. A Quick And Easy Tool (Free)
As part of our work creating the full MLAW Child Support program, we developed a dynamic estimator under the regulations – it is free, and posted on the main landing page of www.willicklawgroup.com under the heading “New Child Support Regulations Interactive Graph: Click here to learn more.”
It allows anyone to get a quick view of support across a range of numbers of children and income levels in a couple of seconds, and takes into account the poverty-level alterations for low-income cases.
C. The Full Program (Free)
The full program is designed in question-and-answer format, to take into account the split custody situations and do automatic calculations of the offsets, taking into account the poverty guidelines on the low end, and do the math for medical and child care costs. It should take only moments to enter all required information.
We have donated it to public use, and made it available online to anyone, from any device, in all Nevada self-help centers, the law libraries, and the courtrooms (at least in Clark County) so even pro se litigants can quickly and correctly calculate support under the new regulations.
You can get to the program at https://scalc.mlawapp.com. It has been added to the landing page for the WLG and QDRO Masters websites, and is an option for anyone logging into the home page of MLAW as well. Results can be printed to take to court.
The program will be tweaked as the regulations are altered, as we have been told they will be, for example, to provide better methodology for dealing with alimony in child support calculations, and other complications.
D. Beware Of Some Calculators Posted Online
We’ve tracked some other calculators popping up online, at least one of which appears to be government-sponsored. Be careful when using them; we have tried to reverse engineer some of them, and it does not appear that all calculations required by law – for example, the poverty-level guidelines – have been incorporated in some of them.
II. MLAW 3: MALMQUISTIZER
In 1990, the Nevada Supreme Court decided Malmquist v. Malmquist, 106 Nev. 231, 792 P.2d 372 (1990). The husband had been awarded the home he lived in during a prior divorce, and it remained in his sole name. He remarried, and during the second marriage, the mortgage was paid down with community property wages, the home appreciated in value, and the parties improved the property with a kitchen remodel and addition of a greenhouse.
When the second marriage ended in divorce, the court was asked to value the interest of the second wife, if any, in the value of the home that remained in the husband’s name.
The Court adopted a modified form of holding of the California Supreme Court from In re Marriage of Moore, 28 Cal.3d 366, 168 Cal. Rptr. 662, 618 P.2d 208 (1980).
Setting forth a series of detailed mathematical formulas, the community property appreciation share equals the amount by which community property mortgage payments reduced the mortgage principal, divided by the original contract purchase price of the residence. That fraction is multiplied by the total appreciation to yield the final community property share in the appreciation. The unpaid mortgage balance is essentially credited between community and separate property according to a time rule, depending on the total number of payments made rather than the principal actually paid down in each mortgage payment.
The Court held that, normally, improvements must be separately apportioned from equity formulas, and that usually simple reimbursement without interest is the proper measure for both separate property improvements to community property, and for community property improvements to separate property.
The calculations required to actually apportion the equity between separate property and community property involved a page of algebra, and have bedeviled math-averse attorneys ever since.
For years we have been asked to perform Malmquist calculations for other offices, and have done so for modest charges; we have been dismayed to see others charging thousands of dollars for what is essentially a straightforward series of calculations.
So we built a calculator to perform the calculations, simply requiring the input of obtainable information. We hope this makes the practice of family law more productive and economical for everyone.
B. Access To The Program
Anyone who has subscribed to MLAW Interest and Penalties and MLAW Case Summaries (both discussed below) have access to the Malmquistizer program as well.
For anyone who just wants a single Malmquist calculation, and does not want to subscribe to the programs, we will run the calculations for a flat fee of $250.
III. MLAW 2: CASE SUMMARIES
For years, practitioners requested a computerized replacement for the old Marren/Page “Notable Domestic Relations Cases” list. That existing list, and the one supplement that was distributed in 2006, are both posted at https://www.willicklawgroup.com/published-works/.
As that list got large and a bit unwieldy, I was asked to come up with a way to make it easier to search, to replace some text in the existing summaries, and to supplement it with the case summaries I had been personally keeping since the 1980s. We were asked to make all information searchable by any text.
We produced MLAW Case Summaries, which allows use of any keyword or series of nested keywords to bring up both the summary and the full text of every Nevada family law case decided since 1864, the briefs leading to the major modern cases, plus all available persuasive authority (NFLR articles, other law review articles, CLE materials, legal notes, etc.) relating to Nevada Family Law, including often-cited caselaw from outside Nevada used here and every case cited in the Nevada Family Law Practice Manual.
The database is constantly updated and expanded, and also includes all NRCP, EDCR, and WDCR rule sets, and relevant NRS sections. It even includes (by request) my personal database of snarky and other quotations.
The program makes it easy to cut and paste case information from any of those sources directly into legal documents while drafting.
B. How And Why To Use It
The database is searchable by any word, and searches can be narrowed on the fly as desired. For example, a first-level search for “child support” could have hundreds of hits; a search within those results for “modification” would be far smaller, and search within those results for “transportation” would narrow the returned stack to just the few cases and other materials most relevant. It is simple to switch between viewing summaries and full text, and anything can be cut and pasted or printed.
The program was intended to be a “leveling the playing field” tool; with it, any family law practitioner will have the same information immediately available to a family law specialist with decades of building a dedicated library.
IV. MLAW 1: INTEREST AND PENALTIES CALCULATOR
The original version of the Marshal Law Judgment and Interest Calculator Program was issued in May 1991. It was adopted by a number of practitioners, courts, and agencies, including the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office. It was updated over the years, and in 2013 was made web-based.
The program correctly calculates interest on Nevada judgments of any kind, and penalties (under current law) for child support arrearages, for any lump sum, periodic payments, or combination of sums due and unpaid (such as child support, alimony, and attorney’s fees). It automatically updates and accounts for all historical and future statutory interest rates (which change every 6 months).
Correct calculation of interest can dramatically increase the amount of a judgment. Under NRS 99.040(1), the calculation and recovery of interest is required as a matter of right, is not discretionary, and only requires determination of the rate of interest, the time it commences, and the amount to which interest applies.
B. How And Why To Use It
The original program was born of necessity – changes in Nevada law made doing interest calculations by hand virtually impossible, and generic computer packages (spreadsheets or databases) are generally unable to deal with all the complexities of correctly calculating interest under the Nevada statutes and case law, including freezing some interest rates while adjusting others, and the “looping” calculations that are required to comply with Nevada law.
Generic software packages do not handle Nevada’s semi-annually adjusted interest rate very well, or properly abide by Nevada case law (one frequent error is to apply payments to interest before principal).
The MLAW interface has been made fast and simple to use; you just need to know what was due and when, and what was paid and when, and the program accounts for all calculations, in accordance with all Nevada statutory and case law.
It is updated as those laws change. For example, after February 1, 2020, child support arrearages will accrue interest but no longer accrue penalties. It will still be necessary to correctly tabulate any prior accrued penalties, as well as interest.
For private use, full access to all 4 programs is available for $350 for the first year, and $250 per year thereafter. The programs have been made available to all pro bono providers, law libraries, and self-help centers in Nevada, at no cost.
IX. QUOTES OF THE ISSUE
“The 7th Circuit gave Moran a pass, saying there are bound to be mistakes as lawyers become accustomed to e-filing. But in a warning to other e-filers, the court referred to a ‘not so old adage’ quoted in another opinion: ‘A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history—with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.’” Vince v. Rock County, Wis., 604 F.3d 391 (7th Cir. 2010).
“I don’t believe in princerple, But O, I du in interest.” James Russell Lowell, The Pious Editor’s Creed (1860).
“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in this world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Clark’s Third Law (Sir Arthur C. Clark, British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist).
For some of the CLE materials and articles produced by the Willick Law Group, go to https://www.willicklawgroup.com/cle-materials/ and https://www.willicklawgroup.com/published-works/. For the archives of previous legal notes, go to https://www.willicklawgroup.com/newsletters.
If there are any problems with or suggestions for these newsletters, please feel free to email back to me. Thanks.