Nothing could be more important than your kids and your relationships with them. In Indiana, if you are divorcing or if you are involved in a post-divorce dispute over child support, you must be represented by an attorney you can trust – an experienced Lake County child support attorney.
In this state, every child has a right to financial support from both parents. It doesn’t matter if the child’s parents weren’t married or if the child is adopted. In a divorce settlement, or if the parents never married, either parent can be ordered by an Indiana court to make child support payments.
If divorcing spouses cannot mutually agree on a child support arrangement prior to or during a divorce, or if never-married parents cannot agree on child support, an Indiana court will use the state’s established rules and guidelines to calculate an appropriate child support payment figure.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED WHEN CHILD SUPPORT IS CALCULATED?
When parents can’t agree, child support is calculated using Indiana’s Child Support Rules and Guidelines, which sets payment amounts based on the parents’ incomes and earning capacities, the number of children, their needs, and the amount of time each parent spends with the children.
Indiana judges may adjust a payment amount in a specific case if the amount determined by the Guidelines is unfair, unjust, or insufficient. The best interests of the child are the top priority of Indiana’s family courts, and every family court ruling is made on the basis of that priority.
Child support should never be thought of by anyone as a punishment or as a penalty. When an Indiana family court judge issues an order for a parent to make child support payments, the court order is simply recognizing what is in fact already that parent’s responsibility.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED INCOME?
Indiana’s Child Support Rules and Guidelines define a parent’s weekly gross income as income from salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, dividends, pensions, annuities, capital gains, trusts, Social Security and disability benefits, workers’ comp benefits, gifts, inheritances, and prizes.
According to the Rules and Guidelines, “When a parent is unemployed by reason of involuntary layoff or job termination, it still may be appropriate to include an amount in gross income representing that parent’s potential income.”
Additionally, “If the involuntary layoff can be reasonably expected to be brief, potential income should be used at or near that parent’s historical earning level … Potential income equivalent to the federal minimum wage may be attributed to that parent.”
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU’RE PAYING CHILD SUPPORT, AND YOU’RE INJURED?
So to answer our original question, the answer is yes. Workers’ compensation benefits are considered income when a child support payment amount is calculated by an Indiana court.
Of course, sustaining an injury does not mean that you are temporarily no longer a parent; your child (or children) still must be supported. But workers’ compensation benefits in Indiana replace only two-thirds of an injured worker’s average weekly wages.
Will your child support obligation be reduced as well? Not automatically. In spite of your lower weekly income, your child support obligation is unchanged unless you request a modification of the court’s child support order and persuade the court that your payments should be reduced.
HOW CAN A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER BE CHANGED?
Indiana’s lawmakers and family court judges recognize that as a parent’s situation changes, child support orders may also have to be changed. A parent may request a modification of the court’s child support order if and when such a modification is justified by the circumstances.
For example, if you have sustained a mild or moderate injury on the job, and you are going back to work in only two or three weeks, a child support modification request probably will be futile.
But if you have been seriously injured at work, and if it will be months before you are able to return to your job, an Indiana family court will probably agree to consider your request for a modification of your child support order.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO MODIFY A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER?
To have a parent’s child support order modified, that parent must demonstrate to the court that a substantial change in life circumstances has happened, and the parent must also demonstrate that the requested modification is in the child’s best interests.
If you need a child support order modified while you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Indiana – or for any other reason – get the sound legal advice and representation that you will need by arranging to speak with a qualified Lake County family law attorney.
It is not unusual for the victim of a workplace injury to become delinquent with child support obligations. Interest on delinquent child support payments in Indiana may be charged at 1.5 percent per month.
And if you were already behind on child support payments when you were injured, the amount that you owe probably can’t be reduced – even if a family court agrees to modify the original court order.
CAN A MODIFIED COURT ORDER BE RETROACTIVE?
In other words, modifications of child support orders generally are not retroactive in this state, but if your child’s other parent agrees to a retroactive modification, and if that agreement does not impair the best interests of the child, a judge may agree to approve your modification request.
Divorced or unmarried parents should also understand that they may not simply arrange on their own a new child support agreement without informing the court. Until and unless a family court judge signs a modified court order, the current child support order will remain in effect.
WHAT IS “POTENTIAL” INCOME?
Although it may not apply to you if you are receiving worker’s compensation benefits, the concept of “potential income” needs some explanation.
A parent in this state cannot decrease or eliminate his or her child support obligation by earning less income or by deciding not to work at all. Indiana family courts can designate a “potential income” if a parent decides not to work or decides not to work to his or her capacity.
HOW CAN A FAMILY LAWYER IN MERRILLVILLE HELP?
For parents – and sometimes for children too – child support disputes can be difficult and emotionally challenging. If you need to have a child support order modified or enforced, let a reliable and experienced Indiana family lawyer handle the matter on your behalf.
Nothing is more important than your kids, so you must get the legal help you need. That is every parent’s right.