Exactly what does the law say in Indiana regarding child support? It’s a legal question that is far easier to ask than to answer. The following is a basic introduction to the laws and rules regarding child support in Indiana, but if you are involved in a child support dispute – or expect to be – you will need to obtain sound legal advice from an Indiana family law attorney regarding your individual situation. In any Indiana legal case involving a child, this state places that child’s best interests above all other considerations. Indiana’s children have the legal right to the financial support of both parents.
Child support is what a non-custodial parent pays to a custodial parent to help support their child or children. The state’s child support guidelines are designed to facilitate a child’s best interests, reduce the need for litigation, and reduce conflict between custodial and non-custodial parents. Child support amounts are determined using written legal rules, guidelines, and formulas that are part of the Indiana Rules of Court. In arriving at an appropriate amount for child support in any particular case, Indiana family law judges consider factors that include but are not limited to:
- the assets, debts, and income of both parents
- the child’s standard of living prior to the divorce or separation
- the child’s mental, physical, healthcare, and educational requirements
HOW IS A CHILD SUPPORT AMOUNT DETERMINED IN THIS STATE?
The state’s child support guidelines consider a parent’s gross weekly income and then arrive at an adjusted weekly income. Gross income is income from all sources including salary or wages, rental incomes, royalties, dividend payments, and Social Security or veterans’ benefits. Additional income considerations include “imputed” income such as the use of a company car, free housing or meals, and other in-kind income that reduces the parent’s expenses. Judges may also consider “potential” income when the parent has no money coming in but is capable of earning it.
When an adjusted weekly income is arrived at for both parents, a “Child Support Obligation Worksheet” is used to arrive at a precise figure for the child support payments. A very few non-custodial parents pay no child support, because Indiana lawmakers and judges do not attribute any income to a parent with mental illness, a parent who is incarcerated, or a parent who cares for another child who is disabled.
The court has the discretion to differ with the calculated child support amount if the court believes that the amount is unjust in any particular case. Parents can use the online child support “calculators” to get a general idea of the amount that may be ordered, but the figures provided by online calculators may vary greatly from what the court actually determines. At any rate, an online calculator is no substitute for the legal advice that an experienced Lake County family law attorney can offer.
HOW ARE CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS ENFORCED IN INDIANA?
When a non-custodial parent in Indiana does not make court-ordered child support payments in a timely manner, delinquent payments must include a 1.5 percent interest fee.
Prosecutors in this state have a number of ways to pursue delinquent parents and collect overdue child support payments, including:
- seizing the parent’s state or federal income tax returns, insurance settlements, lottery winnings, and
- similar types of income
- placing a lien on the parent’s personal vehicle
- reporting a parent’s failure to pay child support to credit agencies
- suspending any driver’s, professional, fishing, or hunting licenses the parent may have
- having the parent’s passport revoked
WHAT OTHER EXPENSES CAN A PARENT BE ORDERED TO PAY?
The state of Indiana’s child support laws are crafted to ensure that children have their basic expenses paid for including food, shelter, clothes, and health insurance. When an Indiana family court determines that it is in a child’s best interests, a non-custodial parent may also be required to pay for educational needs, medical or dental expenses not covered by insurance, or funeral expenses should the child die. Non-custodial parents in Indiana typically pay child support until a child marries, dies, begins active military duty, turns 19 years old, or is no longer under the care of a parent, guardian, foster parent, or state agency.
Indiana courts can also require child support past the date of the child’s 19th birthday for a child with disabilities until further order of the court. At this time, Indiana family law courts can also order child support to continue until a child’s 21st birthday if a child support order was issued before July 1, 2012 and if a request for educational child support is filed before the child’s 19th birthday.
However, a court in this state can also order the termination of child support payments at any time after the child’s 18th birthday if the child has not attended an educational institution for four successive months and the child is capable of being self-supporting.
CAN CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS BE MODIFIED?
Child support matters in Indiana are seldom permanently resolved simply because a divorce has been finalized or a child support amount has been determined. When circumstances change and a child support order needs to be modified, a Lake County family law attorney can help you request and argue for that modification. Situations that might require a child support order to be modified include but are not limited to a change of jobs or the loss of a job; illness, injury, or disability; a new child with a new partner; or a move to another jurisdiction, state, or nation.
It is critically imperative for both parents to understand that a child support order for two or more children does not automatically modify itself in the state of Indiana when one child no longer requires support because he or she has become emancipated. The paying, non-custodial parent must take the active step of requesting a formal modification to decide a new payment amount for any remaining children.
Additionally, if you are obligated to make child support payments and you lose your job or otherwise become unable to make those payments, seek the counsel of an Indiana family law attorney at once. Child support orders cannot be modified without a request by one parent or the other. A parent who does not request a modification may become legally responsible for child support which that parent may no longer able to pay.