Mulle knocked up Nash during
an extra-marital affair. Since then he had nothing to do with mother or
After the baby was born and
paternity was established, Nash went to Court and received an order for
$200 a month in child support.
A few years later Nash went
back to court and asked for an increase in child support.
Nash argued that Mulle's
income had increased dramatically (from $30k a year to almost $300k!)
Mulle argued that the child
couldn't possible spend all that money, so it isn't necessary to give the
child so much.
The Trial Court awarded Nash
$1312 a month in child support, and
ordered Mulle to establish a trust for his daughter's college of $1780 a
month (aka a 529 Plan). Mulle appealed.
Mulle argued that under
Tennessee law (T.C.A. §36-5-101),
the maximum he could be forced to pay was just $1310 a month.
There are tables that
judges are supposed to use when setting child support payments, but those tables maxed out at
incomes of $6250 a month. Mulle was making almost $15k a month, so he
was off the chart.
The Appellate Court reversed
the trust. Nash appealed.
The Appellate Court found
that the trust was unallowable because it improperly extended the
parental duty of support beyond the age of majority.
Basically, child support is supposed to only go until the kid is 18,
but this trust fund would support the kid in college.
The Tennessee Supreme Court
reversed and allowed the trust.
The Tennessee Supreme Court
found that if you extrapolated the tables to Mulle's income, he would
have to pay $3k a month, which is exactly what the Trial Court's told him
The Court found that it
wouldn't be equitable to cap the amount of child support when one parent was making more money than
the tables listed. Courts should instead extrapolate the amount fro the
The Court found that while
the child support payments may not
extend beyond the age of majority, the benefits of those payments can.
In this case, even though Mulle's kid wouldn't use the college money
until after she turned 18, Mulle would be paying it to her before she
The Court noted that Nash
couldn't be expected to suddenly pay for college when the kid turned 18,
she had to start saving now, while the kid was young. Therefore the
real 'need' for the money was now, while the kid was still under 18.
Mulle unsuccessfully argued
that there was an equal protection
violation because it treats different types of people (married couples
and divorced couples) differently without a rational basis. However, the
Court found that children of divorced parents suffer economic
deprivation, so that was a rational basis.
On one hand, the courts
can't force married couples to save for their children's education, but
there was data that kids from divorced parents didn't go to college as
often as children of married couples.
Conversely, in Curtis v.
Kline (542 Pa. 249 (1995)), the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court found this argument persuasive and found the
use of child support to pay for college unconstitutional.
This case shows that whenever
the child is the child of a parent with good fortune, then the child
should benefit from that good fortune as if the parents had stayed
together. It isn't about daily living expenses only, so if the parent's
income would result in more child support than the child really needs, then the rest can go into a trust