What to Know About Negative Child Support

“Negative” Child Support In Indiana: Fact Or Fiction?

At Ciyou & Associates, P.C., we address various inquiries regarding child support, from assisting clients in recovering significant child support arrears to navigating challenges posed by irregular income as a paying parent. While most of these matters may not be encountered by the average legal consumer and can be deemed uninteresting, there are exceptions, one of which is the concept of ‘negative' child support.

In certain cases, the custodial parent, who typically has primary custody of the children, may find themselves in a situation where they are required to pay child support to the non-custodial parent. In Indiana, child support calculations follow a formula established by the Indiana Supreme Court. Occasionally, significant income disparities or one parent's lack of income can result in a negative child support calculation, which can be perplexing and contentious for both parents.

The apparent answer is straightforward. According to the Indiana Supreme Court's Child Support Rules and Guidelines, the application of the formula establishes a presumption that the resulting child support amount is the appropriate payment. 

However, in the interest of prioritizing the children's well-being, a trial court may deviate from this presumed amount if it provides written justification, and such deviation is not overturned by a higher court. Therefore, it seems that if the calculation leads to the custodial parent paying the non-custodial parent, that is the outcome.

But things are not quite as simple as they appear. This specific legal issue was addressed by the Indiana Supreme Court in 2007 in the Grant v. Hager case. The court ruled that if the calculation results in the custodial parent owing support to the non-custodial parent under the Indiana Child Support Rules, the support obligation should be set to zero.

Nevertheless, the primary objective of divorce and paternity laws is to ensure a child's access to both parents. Recognizing this, the Indiana Supreme Court acknowledged that there may be situations where negative support is necessary to maintain the non-custodial parent's relationship with the child. Thus, it created a rebuttable presumption that neither parent owes support in cases where their incomes and parenting time arrangements would result in a negative support obligation.

However, the door remains open for negative support in appropriate circumstances:

‘Given… deviation authority, a court could order a custodial parent to pay child support to a non-custodial parent based on their respective incomes and parenting time arrangements if the court had concluded that it would be unjust not to do so and the court had made a written finding mandated by Child Support Rule 3.'

The possibility of ‘negative' support does exist, but it is not widespread. Indiana lacks specific case law outlining how this presumption is rebutted. It's clear that this is not a substitute for alimony, but in certain cases, it may be deemed appropriate.

‘Negative' child support is both a reality and a rarity. At Ciyou & Associates, P.C., we offer comprehensive legal representation for all child support matters. We have experience in ‘negative’ child support situations and how to navigate same. Perhaps we are a good fit for you. 

This blog is not meant to serve as legal advice. This is an advertisement.


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