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State of Washington Behalf of Kristina Morgan Sigler v. Sigler

March 13, 1997

STATE OF WASHINGTON ON BEHALF OF: KRISTINA MORGAN SIGLER, APPELLANT,
v.
SCOTT NOEL SIGLER, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from Superior Court of Kittitas County. Docket No: 93-5-00043-3. Date filed: 11/14/94. Judge signing: Hon. Michael E. Cooper.

Authored by Philip J. Thompson. Concurring: Frank L. Kurtz, Stephen M. Brown.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson

THOMPSON, A.C.J. The State brought an action for child support against Scott Noel Sigler. He requested a deviation from the child support schedule for a residential credit. The commissioner denied his request based upon RCW 26.19.075(1)(d), which disallows a residential credit to noncustodial parents when the custodial parent receives Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Mr. Sigler appealed the commissioner's decision to the trial court contending the statute violated equal protection. The court found the statute unconstitutional under the rational basis test. The State appeals contending that the statute survives a constitutional claim under the rational basis analysis. The State also contends the trial court erred by failing to make specific findings in support of the downward deviation of support. We reverse.

Kristina Sigler was born on August 15, 1991. Kimberly McQuiston, Kristina's mother, receives AFDC. She assigned her rights to child support from Mr. Sigler to the State.

The State filed a paternity action and Mr. Sigler was determined to be Kristina's father. Ms. McQuiston was awarded primary custody, and Mr. Sigler was ordered to pay child support.

Mr. Sigler has a net monthly income of $1,765.77. Ms. McQuiston had a net monthly income of $200. The court imputed her income at $973.

Pursuant to the child support worksheet, Mr. Sigler was ordered to pay $349.59 a month in child support. He requested a residential credit to reduce the amount of support because he had Kristina 40.5 percent of the time. The court commissioner denied his request because RCW 26.19.075(1)(d) prohibits the court from reducing child support based upon residential credit when the child's custodial parent receives AFDC.

Mr. Sigler appealed the commissioner's ruling to the superior court.

The court reversed the commissioner's ruling, finding the statute was unconstitutional because it failed the rational basis test under an equal protection and fundamental rights analysis. The court then revised the order of child support reducing Mr. Sigler's monthly support to $181.57 a month. The State's motion for reconsideration was denied.

The State contends the court erred by determining RCW 26.19.075(1)(d), the statute prohibiting deviations from the standard calculations of child support based upon the residential time spent with the noncustodial parent if the child receives AFDC, violated equal protection under both the state and federal constitutions. The challenged statute provides:

The court may deviate from the standard calculation if the child spends a significant amount of time with the parent who is obligated to make a support transfer payment. The court may not deviate on that basis if the deviation will result in insufficient funds in the household receiving the support to meet the basic needs of the child or if the child is receiving aid to families with dependent children.

RCW 26.19.075(1)(d) (emphasis added). Washington's constitution provides:

"No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations."

Const. art. I, sec. 12. The federal constitution states: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person ...


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