An Indiana Child Support Attorney Explains Voluntary Underemployment

July 07, 2022

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

An Indiana Child Support Attorney Explains Voluntary Underemployment

Child support is a critical element of the divorce process for parents in the state of Indiana. It ensures that both parents are contributing to the costs associated with raising a child in proportion to their respective financial capacities and that the child’s needs are met. But what happens when one parent tries to skirt child support obligations by purposefully lowering income? An Indiana child support attorney can help get to the bottom of the situation and ensure that that the child is not losing out and that both parties are being treated fairly by the courts.

In Indiana, both parents are required to contribute financially to their children, but the law aims to split the contribution as equitably as possible. Whether you are entitled to child support from an unemployed or underemployed parent or you are legitimately experiencing employment issues, the Indianapolis child support attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you through the court process.

Overview of Child Support and the Role of an Indiana Child Support Attorney

The child support laws in Indiana have been on the books for decades and have been refined over time through the court system and by state rules and guidelines. Parties going through a divorce rarely agree on an exact child support amount, which is where an Indiana child support attorney can step in and help.

An experienced attorney knows how to calculate child support in Indiana correctly—including making sure the appropriate parental income for calculating child support—to ensure that you are treated fairly and that your child is taken care of. By understanding how the law defines child support in Indiana, how a parent’s income and earning ability affect child support calculations, and what voluntary underemployment and unemployment mean, you can be a meaningful partner with your attorney to ensure your child gets the child support appropriate under the law.

What Exactly Is Child Support and How Is It Calculated?

At the most basic level, child support is an ongoing payment made by a parent to benefit the child following a divorce or the end of a relationship in which the partners share a child. In Indiana, child support actions under Indiana Code Chapter 31-16-2 to allow a court to order one or both parents to pay support to maintain the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage or separation not occurred. Child support is meant to cover the basic needs of a child, including:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Clothing
  • Educational expenses
  • Healthcare coverage
  • Childcare costs

The court can also factor in additional costs such as those for extracurricular activities. The Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines set out a formula that courts follow to calculate child support obligations. The calculation takes into account several factors, including:

  • Each parent’s gross income
  • Other child support obligations
  • Number of children
  • Childcare costs
  • Health insurance costs for the children
  • Child custody arrangements (parenting time schedule)

The cost of each of these obligations is computed on the Indiana Child Support Worksheet. Once the total amount to support each child is calculated, the court assigns child support amounts based on each parent’s respective income as well as child expenses paid.

While the computation process aims to provide consistency and fairness, that does not mean that calculating child support is always easy. Oftentimes, parties disagree about some variables, including income amounts or who is already responsible for paying certain expenses. An Indiana child support attorney can help parties navigate the court process and provide persuasive strategies for determining the appropriate child support obligation for each party.

How Employment Impacts Child Support

In a divorce or separation, each parent’s employment and income play a big role in calculating child support. To start, gross income is one of the primary factors that a court considers when calculating child support payments. As a general rule of thumb, the higher your salary, the more you will be expected to contribute to child support.

Lack of employment can also have a significant impact on how the court attributes child costs that are already being paid. For example, if you claim that you are currently paying for your child’s health insurance, the court may not find you credible if you do not have a record of employment or verifiable means to financially provide for your child. In some cases, a parent may voluntarily choose a lower paying job or become unemployed in an attempt to avoid a higher—or any—child support.

Finally, changes in employment are one of the most common grounds for seeking a change to child support arrangements. Just because one party gets a new job or becomes unemployed does not mean that child support automatically changes. Parties must go through the courts to request a formal modification, and that request is often granted if there is a legitimate change in employment status. While employment can seem like a straightforward factor in calculating child support, there is still a lot of grey area that an Indiana child support attorney can help you navigate.

What Is Voluntary Underemployment?

In Indiana, a parent who is unemployed or employed part-time generally has a lower child support liability than a parent who is employed full-time. However, this rule is not absolute. Indiana child support law prohibits skirting child support obligations through voluntary underemployment or unemployment. What is voluntary underemployment? It is when a parent voluntarily reduces work hours, seeks a lower-paying job, or quits a job simply to lower the child support burden.

An Indiana child support attorney presents evidence that a parent is doing this has a strong argument for calculating child support based on the under- or unemployed parent’s income potential (imputed income) rather than income earned.

Voluntary underemployment and unemployment disputes can come up in a couple of different ways. First, it can be an issue immediately following a divorce or separation when child support is first calculated. One party may claim the other parent is voluntarily underemployed to achieve a lower calculated child support payment.

The issue can also arise when one parent seeks a modification to their child support payment as a result of an employment change. A parent who has lost a job or experienced a reduction in work hours or income may ask the court to adjust his or her child support payment to more accurately reflect a new financial situation. In this case, the other parent may claim that this change in employment is voluntary and, therefore, the child support amount should not be changed.

In making a determination in voluntary underemployment cases, the court considers the amount the parent is capable of earning by considering several factors, including:

  • Education
  • Job training
  • Recent employment
  • Current health
  • Availability of work

Simply being underemployed or unemployed is not enough for the court to impute income. In seeking child support or an adjustment to child support based on voluntary underemployment or unemployment, the parent disputing the lower income must provide evidence that the other parent is intentionally avoiding employment or failing to make an effort to find employment. Sometimes courts may grant grace periods for a parent to find work before making a final determination. An Indiana child support attorney has experience working with the courts and presenting the evidence needed to allow for an informed child support calculation.

An Indiana Child Support Attorney Can Help You Navigate the Court Process

Every divorce or separation case is different, and no two child support cases look the same. In highly disputed matters, the process of determining child support can take months, with many motions and hearings along the way. An Indiana child support attorney can give you the best chance of achieving a favorable outcome for you and your children.

If you are a parent seeking child support, an attorney can help you gather the evidence needed to prove your expenses, income, and other factors to get the maximum support possible. If your former partner is attempting to decrease or avoid child support through voluntary underemployment or unemployment, an experienced family law attorney knows how to gather evidence and make persuasive arguments to secure the right child support calculation.

Likewise, if you are a parent who is legitimately experiencing underemployment issues or having trouble finding a job, an Indiana child support attorney can represent you in court and defend against child support payments that you simply cannot afford.

Throughout the court process, you may have many questions about calculating, modifying, or terminating child support. Do not put your case or your children at risk, rely on your attorney to guide you through the process. Correctly calculating child support is much more complex than merely plugging paycheck numbers into a worksheet. You need experienced legal counsel to correctly calculate child support in your case.

Trust an Indianapolis Child Support Attorney at Keffer Hirschauer LLP

There are few types of legal issues that are more important than family law matters, including child support. If you are navigating a child support case following a divorce or separation, you need an Indiana child support attorney who is experienced, knowledgeable, and compassionate. That is exactly what you can expect from the attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. Our Indiana family law attorneys are experienced in Indiana child support and voluntary underemployment matters and are well equipped to fight for your best interests of your children. What makes our firm different from others?

  • Cost-effective legal solutions
  • Free consultations
  • Comprehensive knowledge of relevant laws
  • Novel solutions
  • Hard-hitting litigation skills

In addition to our legal skills, we approach each child support case with compassion and understanding. We want our clients to feel comfortable and confident throughout the process, and we strive to go above and beyond for our clients from start to finish. When it comes to your children’s future, there is a lot at stake. Do not trust just any attorney to handle your child support case. Get in touch with an Indiana child support attorney at Keffer Hirschauer LLP for a free consultation by calling (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form.

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