If you are a parent considering or anticipating a divorce in Indiana, or if you were never married to your child’s other parent, will you be able to receive child support? What steps must you take? And if you are ordered to pay child support, how much will it be? Every family and every divorce is different, but keep reading, and you’ll learn the basics about receiving or paying child support in the state of Indiana.

When a divorce is finalized, or if the parents of a child or children were never married, both parents are equally obligated to support their child financially. If parents can voluntarily agree upon an amount the non-custodial parent will pay in child support to the custodial parent, an Indiana judge will usually sign off on that arrangement. Such voluntary agreements, unfortunately, are rare.

In fact, child support disputes are common both during and after a divorce as well as between parents who never married. In the state of Indiana, if you have been awarded custody of your child or children in a divorce, or if you were never married to your child’s other parent, what must you do to receive child support payments? How can you be sure that you’ll get what you need, when you need it?

TO RECEIVE CHILD SUPPORT, WHAT’S THE FIRST STEP?

To receive child support payments in Indiana, you must get a court order. If you were not married to the other parent, you will first have to establish paternity (if you have not already done so). In most cases, an experienced Lake County family law attorney can help you establish paternity and/or obtain a court order for child support. Don’t hesitate to get the legal help you need.

If you are a parent and you are divorcing or anticipating divorce, a child support order is usually part of the final divorce decree, so you will need to have an experienced Lake County divorce lawyer represent you and protect your rights from the very beginning of the divorce process. How much can you expect to receive? If you’re the non-custodial parent, what can you expect to pay?

HOW DO COURTS DETERMINE THE RIGHT CHILD SUPPORT FIGURE?

Indiana courts use standard child support guidelines to calculate a fair and appropriate child support amount. The assets, debts, and incomes of both parents are taken into account, along with expenses like health insurance and child care. The amount of time that the non-custodial parent spends with the child is also considered.

The state’s child support guidelines consider a parent’s gross weekly income as well as any in-kind income such as free meals or housing, the use of a company car, and other income that reduces a parent’s expenses. The court may also take “potential” income into account when a parent has no income but is able to earn an income.

Finally, the court may adjust the standard calculated child support amount if it believes a different amount is warranted in any individual situation. In any legal matter before an Indiana court that involves a child, that court will make its decision based on what it believes is the best interests of the child.

Only a few non-custodial parents in this state are exempted from paying child support. Indiana courts do not generally require child support payments from a parent who has been diagnosed with a mental incapacity, a parent who is serving time in a jail or prison, or a parent who is already caring for another child when that other child is disabled.

HOW ARE CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS ENFORCED?

When a parent in Indiana fails to make court-ordered child support payments, interest can be charged at 1.5 percent per month. If you are a custodial parent and you are not receiving the child support payments that you need, a Lake County family law attorney can ask the court to enforce the child support order on your behalf. In Indiana, child support enforcement may include:

– reporting the debt to a credit agency to impact negatively the parent’s credit score
– seizure of state or federal tax refunds, insurance settlements, or lottery winnings
– revoking or denying the parent’s passport
– placing a lien on the parent’s personal vehicle
– suspension of state-issued licenses including driver’s licenses, professional licenses, and fishing or hunting licenses

CAN A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER BE CHANGED?

Everyone’s circumstances eventually change over time. You – or your child’s other parent – may relocate, change jobs, be convicted of a crime, or become sick or disabled. After a divorce, many parents marry a new partner and have another child. When your situation changes, or when the other parent’s situation changes, the child support order may also need to change.

A Lake County family law attorney can help you obtain a child support order modification from the court – or if necessary, help you contest a modification request that your child’s other parent has made. If you are behind on child support payments because you’ve been unemployed, injured, or disabled, you can’t just stop making payments.

Instead, you must have the child support order modified. A Lake County family law attorney can help. Child support orders usually do not change – unless a parent requests a modification – until the child turns 19. Non-custodial parents in Indiana typically pay child support until a child turns 19, gets married, dies, starts active military duty, or is no longer under the care of a parent, foster parent, guardian, or state agency.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT WHEN THERE’S MORE THAN ONE CHILD?

When more than one child is covered by a child support order, it is vital for the parents to realize that in Indiana, a support order is not automatically modified because one child has turned age 19. At that time, a non-custodial parent will need to request a child support order modification to determine a recalculated payment figure for the remaining children.

Nothing is more important than your child. In the state of Indiana, if you are not receiving the court-ordered child support payments you need in a timely manner, if you are having trouble making those payments in a timely manner, or if you need to have your current child support order modified by the court, have an experienced Lake County family law attorney explain your rights and options and then work on your behalf.