As a threshold matter, the driving purpose behind child support is to provide a standard level of support for the child(ren). Obviously, this is dependent on the parent’s professions, ability to earn money, prior-born children of other relationships, and a variety of other factors. Academics, economists, and courts are always looking for ways to better meet the needs of children, recognizing the fact it takes more money to run two (2) households in divorce cases. As such, the Child Support Rules and Guidelines occasionally change to better serve families. (Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines).
Using the Child Support Guidelines, the Supreme Court provides a child support calculator to determine support (Indiana Judicial Branch: Child Support Calculator). That said, due to the variation in the facts Indiana trial courts and their judges receive, Child Support Rule 3 allows a court to deviate from the proposed amount as fair, just, equitable and necessary.
Indiana Child Support Rule 3 states, in pertinent part, as follows: “If the Court concludes from the evidence in a particular case that the amount of the award reached through application of the guideline would be unjust, the court shall enter written findings articulating the factual circumstances supporting that conclusion [and enter a just weekly child support obligation for the non-custodial parent]”. This blog covers reductions in child support the Guidelines currently provide for presupposing certain “parenting time” occurs.
For a significant period, the Guidelines provided for an abatement of ten percent (10%) “visitation credit”1 for regular visitation throughout the year and a fifty percent (50%) abatement during extended summer “visitation”. There were many policies behind these credits. One policy was to encourage non-custodial parents to have regular “visitation” with their children throughout the year. Another policy was a recognition that the custodial parent has less costs for maintaining the household during the time the non-custodial parent had parenting time. For various reasons, these “visitation” credits were replaced by a “parenting time credit” based on the number of overnight visits the non-custodial parent exercises with the child(ren) throughout the year.
However, courts still have broad discretion under the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines to enter an equitable weekly child support obligation for the non-custodial parent. In [i]n the paternity of S.G.H., the Court of Appeals of Indiana faced a situation where the non-custodial parent received an abatement of child support for extended summer “visitation” as well as consideration of 110 overnights of “parenting time” throughout the year.2 Ultimately, the Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed and remanded the case back to the trial court to correct this prima facie error3 in the application of the law to the facts.
The takeaway from this blog is that the trial court must apply the correct version of the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines. That said, the trial court still has vast discretion to deviate from the child support to be paid by the non-custodial parent based on application of the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines. Notwithstanding, to enter an order that deviates from the presumptive amount to be paid, a party seeking more or less support than called for under the Guidelines must present evidence as to why the presumptive amount of child support to be paid would be “unjust”.
Without this evidence, the trial court will not be able to enter findings deviating from the presumptive amount of weekly support to be paid by the non-custodial parent because it does not have the evidence to do so. This cannot be corrected later, unless and until a modification of child support would be permissible under the controlling statute4 and case law, and not result in reversible error.5
Specifically under the controlling statute, “. . . modification may be made only . . .(1) upon a showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms unreasonable; or (2) upon a showing that: (A) a party has been ordered to pay an amount in child support that differs by more than twenty percent (20%) from the amount that would be ordered by applying the child support guidelines; and (B) the order requested to me modified or revoked was issued at least twelve (12) months before the petition requesting modification was filed. . . .”
This blog is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. who handle child support matters throughout Indiana and child support appeals. We hope you find this blog helpful to your understanding of the application of the current Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines. This blog is intended as general educational information. The blog is not written to be used in any given circumstance or case. Additionally, the blog is not legal advice. It is an advertisement.
- The term “visitation” has been replaced with the legal term “parenting time” to reflect a closer tie that is hoped to exist between a non-custodial parent and the child(ren). The term ‘visitation’ is now only used as it relates to “grandparent visitation”, or in the rare case, a court orders a parent to have “supervised visitation” because he or she poses a significant risk to the child(ren)’s physical or mental health.
- In re Paternity of S.G.H., 913 N.E.2d 1265 (Ind.Ct.App.2009).
- The standard of review was lessened because the custodial parent did not file an appellee’s brief. When an appellee does not file a brief, the appellate court will generally apply a less standard of review and will reverse the trial court’s decision if the appellant makes prima facie showing of reversible error. In re the Paternity of S.G.H., 913 N.E.2d 1265, 1267 (Ind.Ct.App. 2009).
- Indiana Code section 31-16-8-1.
- MacLafferty v. MacLafferty, 829 N.E.2d 938 (Ind.2005).