Child Support


Child support issues most often arise in the context of divorce or paternity proceedings. Both parents are obligated to provide financial support for their children, but most often it will be the noncustodial parent (a parent who has physical custody over a child less than half of the time) that will be obligated to make support payments. The amount that is actually to be paid is typically determined by applying the Indiana Child Support Guidelines (“guidelines”). There is a rebuttable presumption that the child support award that results from the application of the guidelines is the correct amount of support to be awarded. Occasionally, and depending on the specific facts of your case, a deviation from the presumptive amount of support due may be warranted.

The court uses both parties’ gross income figures in order to calculate the correct amount of child support that will be owed. Gross income includes all income unless the guidelines specifically exclude it. Benefits from means-tested assistance programs will typically be excluded.  In some cases, calculating income for the purposes of child support is fairly straightforward; however, when parties have irregular income, commissions, or bonus structures, the calculation can be a bit more difficult. There can also be instances where it may be appropriate for the court to find potential or imputed income for a party. Such a finding can sometimes be justified in situations where one party is capable of working, but chooses not to, or is underemployed or has had his or her living expenses substantially reduced due to financial contributions from other persons or sources.

Presumptive Support Obligation Considerations

In arriving at a presumptive support obligation, there are several other factors that will also be considered. Some of these factors include whether either party has subsequent children, any support orders for prior born children, whether maintenance is paid or received by either party, any work related childcare expenses that are incurred, and payment of the child’s portion of any health insurance premium.  Additionally, the amount of overnight visitation that the payor exercises will be factored into the calculation. Each of these variables can affect the amount of the support obligation.

With respect to medical support, the court is required one or both parents to provide health insurance to their children if it is accessible to them at a reasonable cost. Such insurance can be either public or private. Uninsured health care expenses for the children, and how these costs are apportioned, are also generally accounted for within the overall support obligation. Most times, these costs will be divided in accordance with the six-percent (6%) rule. The basic theory behind the six percent rule is that the payor, by virtue of making child support payments, is already paying for a percentage of uninsured health care costs. Therefore, the payee should use the support payments to pay for uninsured medical expenses up to 6% of the annual basic child support obligation, which is calculated on the child support worksheet. After this initial threshold is met, any remaining expenses are then allocated on a pro-rata basis.

Child Support Modifications

When the court enters a child support order, it will remain the order unless and until the court later modifies it. There are numerous reasons that can justify a modification of an existing support order. By statute, a Court can modify a prior child support order only “(1) upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable; or (2) upon a showing that: (A) a party has be ordered to pay an amount in child support that differs by more than twenty percent (20%) from the amount that would be ordered by applying the child support guidelines; and (B) the order requested to be modified or revoked was issued at least twelve (12) months before the petition requesting modification was filed.” I.C. 31-16-8-1 (1) & (2) (emphasis added).

Generally speaking, if a modification of a support order is deemed warranted, the court can modify the obligation retroactive to the date of the filing of a petition (request) to modify with the court. After a petition to modify is filed, the court will set a hearing and the parties will be ordered to appear in court. Whether a modification might be warranted is a determination that is made on a case-by-case basis. Because support-related issues can be complex, it is best to seek an attorney’s advice on the specifics of your case.

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