In Indiana, child support orders are based on the Indiana Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines attempt to create a situation that allows the children to have the same standard of living that they would have enjoyed if the parents had stayed together.
Child support is calculated from a formula. In order to determine the child support order, certain factors have to be known. For starters, you have to know each parent's gross weekly income. This, in and of itself can be difficult to determine, and is often the subject of litigation, because gross weekly income for tax purposes is not the same as gross weekly income for the purposes of calculating child support. For instance, people who are self-employed are not allowed to take certain "deductions" that are perfectly acceptable and legal with respect to the IRS. A parent's gross weekly income takes all types of income into consideration (with only a few exceptions). After gross weekly income is determined, it is important to know information concerning either parent's other children (prior born and subsequent), as well as costs of the children's portion of healthcare insurance, the cost of work-related child care, and the number of overnights the children will spend with each parent.
The Indiana Child Support Calculator can be a useful tool to see how it works in your particular case. Be aware, however, that every child support calculation is different, and you might not be aware of additions or subtractions that might apply in your case.
Modifying Child Support
If certain criteria are met, either parent may seek a modification of the child support order. For the party receiving child support, if the parent paying support earns significantly more money than when the prior support order was entered -or there has been a change in the wages of the custodial parent -modification may be appropriate. Other circumstances may justify a modification and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
When the court decides on a child support amount, they are only setting the support amount on income and related factors, focusing primarily on looking out for the best interests of the child. However, over time, a child support order may no longer suit the needs of the child and parents involved. Child support orders are not set in stone and may be modified under certain circumstances.
Indiana law allows for the modification of child support where:
There exists changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the prior support order unreasonable; OR
The amount of support ordered to be paid differs by more than 20% from the amount that would be paid by applying the guidelines AND the order requested to be modified was issued at least one year before the request for modification.
If you think you need to modify your child support order, our Jonathan Deenik can help you. In cases where you are and your ex-spouse or partner can agree to cooperate on a modification, you can both petition the court for an approval of your support change. Even if you believe you are both on the same page, you still need legal counsel to ensure your best interests are protected.
Enforcing a Child Support Order
Too often parents fail in their obligation to pay child support as ordered. One option to enforce a child support order is to seek out a contempt finding. In order to find an individual in contempt, a court must determine that the party willfully disobeyed the court's order. If an individual has to seek court intervention, a fact-specific motion explaining the allegations must be filed with the court and a hearing would be requested. Both sides may have the chance to argue their position during this hearing.
At a hearing, the party seeking the contempt finding has the burden of proof to show the other party has willfully disobeyed the court's order.
If it is shown that a party willfully disobeyed an order, the court has the authority to tailor the appropriate punishment. While there are numerous options available to a court are, typical contempt citations include monetary penalties, payment of attorney's fees for the other side, and even potential jail time. The primary purpose of contempt is to coerce the other party into action for the benefit of the aggrieved party.