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Anderson, IN Child Support Attorneys
The purpose of child support is to ensure that both of a child’s parents equitably contribute to the child’s upbringing. It should not be entirely on your shoulders to pay for their housing, food, clothing, education, medical bills, and more. If you and your child’s mother or father lived together, you would be both contribute. Child support ensures that continues despite maintaining separate households. It also ensures your child lives a similar lifestyle to their parents.
Whether you and your child’s other parent are going through a divorce or have never been married, you need to resolve the child support issue. The best way to do this is to contact a child support attorney to discuss how much you may receive or need to pay. If you already have a child support order in place and you think it is too low or high, call a family lawyer with GDS Law Group, LLP at 765-313-7092 or online to discuss a modification.
Child Support in Indiana (IC §31-16-6)
Customarily, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. In other words, whoever has your child less than 50 percent of the time pays the parent who has the child more than 50 percent. However, this is not always true in Indiana. The state’s child support guidelines look at each parent’s weekly income and how much they should each contribute to their child’s expenses per week. A custodial parent who has a significantly higher income than the non-custodial parent may be required to pay support to the parent who has their child less often. All of this is to say that you should not assume you will obtain child support if you have physical custody of your child, particularly if you have a higher income than the other parent and the other parent has a great deal of parenting time. You should speak with a lawyer about child support in Anderson, Indiana before making any assumptions.
Paternity May Matter
If the issue of child support arises in the context of a divorce, then paternity is rarely an issue. It may only come up if you or the other parent claims to not be the child’s father.
If you and the other parent were never married, then you must establish paternity (IC §31-14) before a child support order can be handed down. Paternity may have been settled at your child’s birth. You or the child’s father may have voluntarily signed a Paternity Affidavit at the hospital. Doing this right away ensures the father’s name is placed on the child’s birth certificate. This is enough to move forward with a child support proceeding.
If a Paternity Affidavit was not completed at the hospital or a short time later at the local health department, then you and the other parent can either agree to go through with a genetic test or one of you may have to go to court for a judge to require it. If you refuse to go through with a genetic test, keep in mind the child’s mother can take you to court to force the issue. If you are the mother and your child’s father is refusing, call a Madison County, Indiana child support lawyer to discuss how to proceed.
How Indiana Courts Calculate Child Support
To determine how much child support you or the other parent must pay, the court will first calculate each parent’s weekly gross income. This considers all sources of income, including a salary, hourly wages, bonuses, dividends, interest, annuities, capital gains, social security benefits, workers’ comp, unemployment benefits, gifts, inheritances, and alimony. Compensation that is excluded is that from public assistance programs like food stamps and survivor benefits. This calculation can be complicated, particularly if you or the other parent are self-employed, disabled, or unemployed. You should work with an experienced child support attorney to make sure the court has accurate figures for both of you.
The next step is for each parent’s income to be placed into Indiana’s Child Support Obligation Worksheet so that is can be adjusted based on whether they pay spousal support or support other children. For instance, if your weekly gross income is $1,500, yet you pay $150 per week on child support already, then your weekly gross income is adjusted to $1,350.
Once your adjusted weekly gross incomes are obtained, the judge will combine them and then refer to Indiana’s Guideline Schedule for Weekly Support Payments. This gives a figure regarding how much should be spent on providing for your child. For instance, if your combined weekly adjusted income is $2,000 and you share one child, then Indiana says you should spend $268 on your child per week, according to the schedule effective January 2016. The weekly child support amount schedule may change in the future.
This amount is then proportioned between the parents based on your weekly incomes. If you made $1,350 and the other parent makes $650 per week, you may be expected to contribute roughly twice as much of the $268 per week for your child. This calculation can then be modified based on how much parenting time the non-custodial parent has. The more overnights the non-custodial parent has; the more parenting time credits reduce the amount of child support they must pay.
At this point, if you have any qualms with the calculation, call a child support lawyer immediately. In some situations, calculating child support is quick and painless. In others, several factors may have you asking for a greater sum or a smaller payment. At GDS Law Group, LLP, we are here to review your options.
Discuss Other Expenses (IC §31-16-6-2)
Child support payments do not cover everything. You must address who will provide health insurance for your child and whether both parents must help pay for it (IC §31-16-6-4). If your child has one or more medical conditions that require additional care, then you must also address how these expenses will be paid.
Other additional expenses to discuss during a child support proceeding are child care and additional educational expenses. If you both work and your child requires day care or a nanny, you need to work out how this cost will be covered. Will you split the child care expense 50/50 or will one parent have a greater financial obligation than the other?
Your child’s needs may require additional educational expenses, such as school uniforms, attending a special education program, or tutors. Without coming to an agreement regarding these expenses, the custodian parent may inevitably have to deal with them on their own. If you are the custodial parent, work with your child support attorney to make sure the other parent pays their fair share.
Child Support Payments Are Not Based on Visitation
A common misconception is that child support and child custody are inherently linked, that one impacts the other. While the amount of time each parent has with the child can influence the amount of child support, they are not tied together in any other way.
The obligation to pay child support is not based on having or not having time with your child. You cannot refuse to pay child support because you have minimal parenting time. You cannot refuse to pay child support even if the other parent is not letting you see your son or daughter. When a parent does not uphold the child custody order, this does not affect child support. You must address this issue in court.
Also, you cannot withhold your child because the other parent stops paying. No matter how behind in child support the other parent becomes, you should never deny them their rightful parenting time. These are two separate issues, and if a parent is behind in support, you should speak with an attorney about your enforcement options.
How Child Support Payments Are Made (IC §31-16-9)
The court order will dictate how child support payments are to be made from one parent to the other. A judge can require a large upfront sum. However, child support is usually made in weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly payments. In some cases, a judge will order that one parent may pay the other directly. Though, more likely, the court will order child support payments to go through the county clerk’s office or a state agency, which can then carefully track the payments and if a parent falls behind.
An Income Withholding Order (IC §31-16-15-0.5)
If you have a right to child support and are not confident you will get paid, or the other parent has already fallen behind on payments, talk with your child support attorney about pursuing an Income Withholding Order (IWO). This is also called wage garnishment. You can ask the court to require that the other parent’s employer withhold a certain amount per paycheck, which is then directed to a state agency before the income makes its way to you.
An IWO is not your only enforcement option. If your child’s other parent is not regularly employed and wage garnishment is not available, then speak with a child support attorney right away about other types of child support enforcement (IC §31-16-12). Your child’s other parent can be held in contempt of court if they unlawfully refuse to pay support, which could lead to their arrest.
Modifying Child Support (IC §31-16-8)
If you believe you are not receiving enough support or you think your payments are too high, talk with a lawyer about filing a Petition to Modify Child Support. The most common reason for a child support modification is a significant change in one parent’s income. If your income has involuntarily gone down or you know the paying parent makes a lot more, then you may ask for it to be recalculated, and you may obtain a higher payment. If you are the paying parent and your income has decreased or the custodial parent’s income has risen, speak with a lawyer about whether a recalculation would reduce your obligation.
Another reason for modifications is when the child’s expenses change. As children grow up, there needs change. Your child may suddenly have been diagnosed with a medical condition that requires expensive treatments or medications. If the other parent does not cooperate in covering their portion of the expense, you may need to return to court for an order requiring them to contribute.
Additionally, it may be time for your child to go to college. If you need help in paying for your child’s education after high school, ask a child support lawyer about seeking a court award for post-secondary education.
GDS Law Group, LLP Is Here to Help
If you are the custodial parent, you may be concerned with getting as much child support as possible. If you are the non-custodial parent, you may simply wish for the calculation to be fair and not devastate your income. At GDS Law Group, LLP, we help all parents and guardians, whether you are known as mom or dad and whether you have full custody or a small amount of parenting time. We are here to fully explain your parental rights and to protect the relationship you have with your child. We will also fight to make sure you receive a fair child support evaluation.