Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.

In re Marriage of Blagg, 13 Kan.App.2d 530

This case explored the issue of:

Can a trial court modify a previous support order?

This case explored the issue of whether a trial court has the authority to modify a previous support order by increasing amounts past due. The court concluded that although the trial court has the authority to modify the support order, it does not have the authority to increase or decrease amounts past due.

Steven Blagg (appellant) was married to Colleen Blagg. Upon receiving the divorce decree, Colleen filed a motion to increase child support and to require Steven to provide health insurance for their child. The trial court ordered Steven to pay half of his child’s accumulated medical expenses, which totaled $1,750. The district court also ordered Colleen to reimburse Steven for the additional income tax he was required to pay on several tax returns. Colleen did not allow Steven to claim their child as a dependent on his tax documents, even though the court ordered her to do so. Steven appealed the ruling.

Steven argued that by ordering him to pay half of the medical expenses that were accrued since the divorce, the trial court essentially changed his original support order retroactively. The trial court however said that the medical expenses were “extraordinary” and child support had nothing to do with those medical expenses. Generally, the parent who was ordered to pay child support, Steven in this case, is not responsible for extraordinary medical expenses. This court stated that the trial court should have considered medical insurance and health care for the child in its original support order. The ruling was reversed.

In sum, a trial court can modify a support order but cannot change the amounts past due.