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  HOW IS CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATED IN INDIANA?

A divorce or paternity lawsuit is incredibly stressful. One of the biggest causes of stress is child support. How much will child support be? Will it be enough to provide for the children? If I am ordered to pay child support will it wipe me out financially? The purpose of this article is to give a brief overview of how child support is calculated in Indiana and hopefully relieve the stress of some of those concerns

When I started practicing law in the 1980's, Indiana had no mandatory state wide guideline or rule regarding calculation of child support. The amount of child support ordered varied from county to county and many times from court to court in the same county. Indiana first began developing a state wide child support guideline in 1985. The child support guidelines became mandatory for all courts in Indiana in October of 1989.

Child support is required to be calculated according to the rules found in the Indiana Child Support Guidelines. Indiana courts are required to use the guidelines and order support consistent with them. There is a rebuttable presumption that the child support obligation derived from the guidelines is the correct support amount to be ordered by the court. The commentaries in the guidelines quote The Family Support Act of 1988 which provided "There shall be a rebuttable presumption, in any judicial or administrative proceeding for the award of child support, that the amount of the award which would result from the application of such guidelines is the correct amount of child support to be awarded."

In rare cases, the Courts may deviate from the guideline presumption. The guidelines address some possible reasons a court may deviate from the guideline child support amount:

"Situations Calling for Deviation.   An infinite number of situations may prompt a judge to deviate from the Guideline amount.  For illustration only, and not as a complete list, the following examples are offered:
•         One or both parties pay union dues as a condition of employment.
•         A party provides support for an elderly parent.   
•         The noncustodial parent purchases school clothes.
•         The noncustodial parent has extraordinary medical expenses for himself or herself.
•         Both parents are members of the armed forces and the military provides housing.
•         The obligor is still making periodic payments to a former spouse pursuant to a prior Dissolution Decree.
•         One of the parties is required to travel an unusually long distance in the course of employment on a regular or      daily basis and incurs an unusually large expense for such travel, and
•         The custodial or noncustodial parent incurs significant travel expense in exercising parenting time.
                Again, no attempt has been made to define every possible situation that could conceivably arise when determining child support and to prescribe a specific method of handling each of them.  Practitioners must keep this in mind when advising clients and when arguing to the court.  Many creative suggestions will undoubtedly result.  Judges must also avoid the pitfall of blind adherence to the computation for support without giving careful consideration to the variables that require changing the result in order to do justice."

The Indiana Child Support Guidelines can be online found at:

 http://www.in.gov/judiciary/rules/child_support/

According to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines, child support is calculated using each parent's gross income from all sources. The types of income used for the child support calculation are detailed in Guidelines as "actual weekly gross income of the parent if employed to full capacity, potential income if unemployed or underemployed, and imputed income based upon "in‑kind" benefits".  

 Guideline 3(A)(1) specifies that "weekly gross income of each parent includes income from any source, except as excluded below, and includes, but is not limited to, income from salaries, wages, commissions, bonuses, overtime, partnership distributions, dividends, severance pay, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits, workmen's compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, gifts, inheritance, prizes, and alimony or maintenance received".

Since most types of income can be included in the support calculation, it is important to carefully review all potential sources of income for each parent and determine if they can be used for calculation of child support. A lot of child support litigation involves arguments over what income figures should be used for the support calculation.

Another important number that is necessary for the child support calculation is the number of actual overnights of parenting time or visitation that the noncustodial parent spends with the children. The actual overnights of parenting time exercised are used to arrive at a parenting time credit that serves to reduce the noncustodial parent's weekly child support obligation. The parenting time credit is discussed in detail in Guideline 6. Calculation of the parenting time credit is moderately complicated but it can make a very significant reduction in the weekly child support paid by the noncustodial parent. Like gross income, the number of overnight visits and the parenting time credit create a lot of arguments in child support litigation.

A third number that significantly affects the weekly child support amount is the cost of health insurance premiums for the children only that either parent pays. If the noncustodial parent pays the health insurance premium for the children only they are given a direct credit against their weekly child support for the weekly cost of the health insurance premium for the children of the marriage only. This credit can greatly reduce the weekly child support obligation.

The Indiana Supreme Court provides an online child support calculator that can be found at:

http://www.in.gov/judiciary/2625.htm
 
Calculation of child support can be complicated and many times disagreements over the numbers that go into the support calculation, including the parenting time credit, can result in contested litigation.

The amount of weekly child support ordered by a court can have a dramatic financial impact on both parents and their children. Parents in a divorce or paternity action with child support disputes in Indiana are wise to consult a family law or divorce attorney.




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This article and information on this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice.  The information provided is not, and is not intended to be, a substitute for obtaining legal counsel, advice or representation. Contact between Daniel H. Wolfe and any persons using this site via email, phone, or in-person or from articles contained on this website do not establish or create an attorney-client relationship.