Indiana Child Support: Tending To Your Child’s Needs
The cost of parents maintaining separate households is naturally greater than if they maintained a single household. After a divorce or in the event parents are not married, child support orders attempt to maintain the child’s quality of life as if the parents were together. Whether you are the parent responsible for the payments or the parent receiving them, it is important to understand how the Indiana child support system works.
While it may seem straightforward, determining the appropriate child support obligation in Indiana can actually be rather complicated depending on the facts involved in your case. This child support primer will give you the framework of how to calculate child support in Indiana. Thereafter, an experienced Indiana child support attorney can help you understand the child support laws in Indiana, how the court determines child support, and how to calculate a child support obligation in your particular case.
The Basics of Indiana Child Support
Indiana child support is a court-ordered financial obligation that one parent pays to the child’s other parent or legal guardian to share in the cost of providing for and raising the child or children. Whether you are the parent paying support or the one receiving it, understanding how support is calculated and what it should be used for is critical to protecting your rights and the rights of your child.
How Indiana Child Support Laws Define this Obligation
Child support’s goal is to keep the child in the same financial condition as if the parties resided together. As such, the support covers the basic costs of raising the child. These costs include:
- Food and clothing expenses
- Regular educational expenses
- Work-related childcare costs
- Health care costs
A basic child support obligation usually covers costs like these. Additional costs may also factor into the child support order in Indiana, including extraordinary medical expenses or for the child to participate in extracurricular activities. As such, a child support obligation may also identify additional child-related expenses the parents must share, typically in proportion to each parent’s income.
How Long Does a Parent Have Child Support Obligations
In a typical case, the noncustodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. A child support order often requires the parent paying support to make weekly payments to the other—either directly or through an account at the court—until the youngest child reaches the age of 19. In the event a child becomes emancipated, the child support obligation continues until the child graduates high school. A child is emancipated when:
- The child is active duty military
- The child is married
- The child is not under the care or control of a parent or court-approved government agency
However, if a child has special or extraordinary needs, such as the child being incapacitated due to a disability or injury, the judge can extend the payments for as long as appropriate under the facts.
In addition to “regular” child support, a court may order one or both parents to pay for a child’s educational expenses, such as the cost of attending college.
How to Calculate Your Child Support Obligation
The Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines (Indiana Child Support Guidelines) establish rules for determining a parent’s child support obligations. Using the formula and rules in these guidelines, courts, lawyers, and parents can determine which parent should pay child support (guideline amount) and the amount of the child support obligation. When parents attempt to negotiate the child support obligation, either alone or as one issue in a divorce, for example, the court may or may not approve an agreement that deviates from the guideline amount.
When the parents are not in agreement, the judge must decide the final amount of child support to be paid. While the judge usually orders the guideline amount, they can deviate when the evidence presented by either parent supports it.
How to calculate child support in Indiana can be contentious. The guidelines formula for calculating support uses each parent’s weekly gross income as the starting point for determining a child support obligation. Calculating support also requires consideration of several factors:
- The number of each parent’s children whether or not the beneficiary of the child support obligation being calculated
- A parent’s existing child support obligations in other cases
- The number of overnights each parent has according to the parenting schedule
- Costs for work-related childcare
- Premium costs for the child’s health insurance
When determining child support, a parent’s weekly income is not limited to hourly wages. According to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines, weekly income can include items such as the following:
- Rent and royalty income
- Commissions and bonuses
- Other forms of income
Each parent must file a child support obligation worksheet (CSOW) with the court, listing each parent’s income and any other relevant costs. The CSOW, usually completed online, calculates uses the formula and schedule in the Indiana Child Support Guidelines to calculate the child support obligation.
Disputes in Calculating Child Support Obligations
In evaluating the CSOW, the court verifies each parent’s income by checking it against any government wage match information submitted, such as tax returns. Parents can get an idea of how much they will owe by using Indiana’s guideline schedule for weekly support payments. However, calculating a support obligation is not always as straightforward as it may seem. Issues can—and often do—arise regarding one or both parents’ child support calculations. Common areas in which disagreements arise include:
- Disputes about the income reported on the CSOW
- Disputes about the legitimacy or amount of childcare costs
- Disputes about the appropriate parenting time credit (usually in child support modification cases)
Each of these raises questions of fact that often require the submission of supporting evidence and, in some cases, a court determination to resolve the question presented in the dispute. As a result, consultation with an Indiana child support lawyer early in the process of determining child support is critical to getting the right child support obligation order in your case.
Modifying An Indiana Child Support Order
After the court has issued a child support order, both parents have the right to request modification of that order in certain circumstances. Common reasons for a request to modify support include changing or losing jobs, learning of the other parent’s raise, suffering severe illness, or the birth of another child. Regardless of the reason, a parent who desires an increase or decrease in child support must establish:
- There has been a substantial and continuing change of circumstances
- The previous order is at least one year old, and the amount of support calculated under the modification would be at least 20 percent different from the existing order
Whether the paying parent needs to reduce the payment or the custodial parent wants an increase, the parent seeking the change must file a formal request with the court that issued the original order. The other parent will have an opportunity to file a response to the request, and the court may set the matter for an evidentiary hearing. If the court grants the modification, it will issue a new child support order that replaces the prior one.
Disputes about the modification of a child support order are common. An experienced Indiana child support lawyer can help you establish or dispute the modification your child support responsibility.
When Parents Agree on Child Support Matters
Given the factors considered in determining a child support obligation, child support, custody, and parenting time orders are interrelated. These orders better meet the children’s and parents’ needs when the parents can agree. Additionally, child support, custody, and parenting time orders may issue faster and are much less expensive to achieve when parents are in agreement and submit their agreements for court approval.
Parents who reach an agreement must file the same with the court for approval whether child support is merely one aspect of a proceeding, such as a divorce, or it’s the sole issue, such as in a proceeding to modify an existing child support obligation. Once the parties file all necessary documents, a judge reviews the agreement and proposed order to ensure they follow the state’s child support laws. Upon approval, the court mails the final orders to both parents, or their attorneys.
Parents attempting to “settle” regarding child support issues should remember that child support in Indiana is the exclusive right of the children, not the parents. Therefore, parents cannot negotiate for a lesser or no child support obligation. However, working with an Indiana family law attorney can often help facilitate an agreement that complies with the law.
Enforcing an Indiana Child Support Order
A child support order is a court order, and violation of this order can result in legal consequences ranging from mild to significant. A parent seeking to enforce a child support against an obligor who is not paying support as required by the order may seek to enforce the order by filing a request with the court. If the court determines that the obligor has not complied with the support order, it may take action such as:
- Requiring all future child support payments to be may by an income withholding order, which take payment directly from the obligor’s paycheck
- Enter an order that charges interest on delinquent payments
- Cause child support to be garnished from the obligor’s tax refunds and/or stimulus payments
- Place liens on the obligor’s real property
- Suspend the obligor’s license and confiscate the obligor’s passport
- Find the obligor in contempt of court
- Order the obligor to pay the other parent’s attorney’s fees
When you seek to enforce a child support order or are defending against a wrongful claim that you are not in compliance, a skilled child support attorney can be critical to protecting your interests.
Finding Help to Protect Child Support Rights
Child support is a complex area of family law with a moving target. Job changes, family changes, children becoming adults, and relocations are just a few of the reasons this area of law is so dynamic. Add to that the emotional turmoil that can accompany child-related cases, and you’re in need of knowledgeable legal help to protect your rights and those of your child. Whether you seek a child support order or to modify it, an Indiana child support attorney from Keffer Hirschauer LLP has the skill and experience to help you. For a free consultation, call us at (317) 857-0160 or send us a message.