When parents in Indiana decide to end their marriage or relationship, child support is often one of their top concerns. Regardless of whether you are the parent who makes these payments or the one who receives them, knowing what to expect in terms of child support is a critical part of shaping your future financial security. When faced with child support issues, working with a skilled family law specialist can make the experience far easier to navigate.
How does Indiana law approach matters of child support?
The law in Indiana, like in other states, places the needs of the child at the center of all child support matters. The central idea is that even though a child’s parents choose to end their union, shared children deserve to maintain the same level of care they had when both parents were working together to provide for them.
It’s expensive to raise a child, even when you have two parents giving it everything they’ve got. Once a marriage or relationship ends, the child’s needs remain the same, and the parent who retains the bulk of parenting time and responsibilities will need help covering the costs associated with raising the child.
Indiana uses a specific process to determine how much child support a noncustodial parent should pay the custodial parent. Understanding how these calculations are made can make it easier to know what to expect.
What counts as income for child support determinations?
The first step is determining the income for both parents. In the state of Indiana, income includes the following:
- Money received from wages or self-employment
- Money received from royalties or rent
- Any commissions or bonuses
Certain money coming into the home is not counted as income for the purposes of determining child support payments. Examples include public assistance programs like food stamps, Temporary Aid to Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income. Survivor benefits for any children residing in either home are also not taken into consideration as parental income.
If a parent is intentionally earning less than he or she could, the courts can impute income to make up for the difference. This process usually looks at past income to determine a parent’s earning potential, and if the parent has no established work history, minimum wage is used to impute income.
What if there are other support payments being made?
If a parent is already paying child support for another child, or if there are other children living in the household, the amount of income available for child support payments will likely be reduced. This is to account for the fact that if the parents remained together they would have fewer resources to put toward one child if there were other children living within the household.
How does the law determine the percentage of income each parent should pay toward supporting a shared child?
The process begins by determining each parent’s weekly income, using the guidelines outlined above. Once the weekly gross income is clear, the financial obligation of supporting a shared child is divided between the parents according to their proportionate share of weekly combined income.
What if either parent is paying for services for the child?
Certain expenses that either parent pays for a shared child can be deducted from each parent’s child support obligation. Health insurance is one of those expenses. If a parent is obligated to pay $300 per week in child support, and that parent covers the full cost of health insurance for the child at a cost of $90 per week, then that parent’s weekly child support obligation would drop to $210 per week.
Child care is another area where a direct deduction can be made. If a parent pays for child care so that he or she can maintain employment, the cost of that care is deductible from the overall weekly child support obligation.
Does it matter how much time each parent spends with the shared child?
The breakdown of child custody can have a direct impact on the amount of child support a parent is obligated to cover. A parent who has more overnight visits with the child can see his or her child support obligation drop considerably more than one who does not routinely keep the child for overnight visits.
This is done to account for the fact that parents who are providing overnight care for a child have expenses related to providing food, clothing, and various other necessities during that period of time, and that the other parent would not have to cover the cost of those needs while the child is not in the household.
Once a child support agreement or order is in place, can it be changed?
Things can change over time, and it’s not uncommon for a parent to request an adjustment in child support, whether they are on the giving or receiving side of the equation.
If you are the custodial parent and you feel you aren’t receiving the proper amount of support, you can ask the court for a modification. You’ll need to prove that there has been a substantial change of circumstances since the time of the most recent order, that at least 12 months have passed since the last order went into effect, and that the proposed increase is at least 20% of the existing level of support.
If you are the parent tasked with making child support payments, there are several reasons you might ask for a reduction. If you’ve recently lost your job, have suffered an illness or injury that prevents you from earning the same amount, or have had a new child, your payments might be reduced.
Working through these and other child support issues can be stressful. That’s why so many Indiana parents rely on the services of an experienced family law attorney when determining child support payments or preparing to ask for a modification. Having a trusted legal advisor to turn to can make a world of difference in the process.
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