Divorcing couples should not let themselves get roped into litigation because of ignorance about child support laws. Except in the case of self-employed people, the factors that go into a child support calculation are easily available to both parties and the calculation is simple. Indeed, you can get a pretty good idea of what your child support would be by going to the Child Support Calculator located at www.in.gov/judiciary/2625.htm. Just follow the instructions.
If both parties are employed, you need to know the gross income of each parent, the number of overnights each parent will exercise with the children, the child’s portion of the health insurance premium, and the cost of work-related child care. If either party is self-employed, start with gross receipts and subtract necessary business expenses (not depreciation or lunch with friends). Your tax returns will not be an accurate indication of the income a court will use for calculation of child support if you are self-employed.
Child Support in Indiana is based on an Income Shares Model, which results in a child receiving the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received had the parents remained married.
CHILD SUPPORT CALCULATION
The Guidelines are revised every four years to account for cost of living increases and takes into consideration the division of the child’s expenses between the parents. The expenses that are considered in such calculation are controlled expenses, transferred expenses, and shared duplicated expenses.
Controlled expenses are typically paid by the custodial parent, and include, among other things, uninsured medical expenses, school expenses and children’s clothing. Transferred expenses are those that are transferred back and forth between the parents because they go with the children, such as food expenses.
Duplicated expenses are duplicated by both parents, such as shelter and utilities. The expenses incurred by the noncustodial parent are accounted for in the parenting time credit he or she receives based on the number of overnights the children spend with that parent. The expenses incurred by the custodial parent are paid from his or her share of the support calculation as well as the support received from the noncustodial parent.
CHILD SUPPORT WHEN PARTIES HAVE EQUAL TIME
The recommendations of the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines typically do not render an adequate child support obligation when the children have equal time with their parents. In that event, you may want to deviate from the support recommendations and share the children’s expenses on a pro-rata basis. In other words, if mom makes 30% of the total income and dad makes 70% of the total income, they would share all children’s expenses on a 70/30 basis. You can find your pro-rata share of income at Line 2 of the Child Support Obligation Worksheet. Since parents do not have the right to waive their children’s right to support, you will need to have an attorney or mediator draft this agreement for you.
MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT
In order to modify child support, a parent must show a change of circumstance so substantial and continuing as to make the existing order unreasonable. A 20% difference would be considered unreasonable if the current order was issued at least twelve months prior to the new petition to modify. Except in very rare circumstances, the court will not modify support prior to the date a petition to modify was filed with the Court.
Be sure to ask the “best case” “worst case” question as you interview attorneys for a child support disagreement. And, oh yeah – be sure to ask what your attorney fees will be if the case isn’t settled out of court. This is an issue that can easily be resolved with the help of a mediator.
Other Child Related Matters
As a rule, the parent who can obtain the least expensive health insurance with the best benefits will be ordered to maintain the children on that insurance plan. Generally, that parent already has the children insured. Further, that parent will receive a child support credit for the child’s share of the insurance premium such that the parents are, in effect, sharing the expense on a pro-rata basis (the income percentage of total income between the parties).
By statute, the parent who did not take the parenting time credit will be ordered to pay the first 6% of the Basic Child Support Obligation towards the children’s uninsured medical expenses. Once that parent reaches his or her 6% Obligation each year, the parties will share the remaining expenses on a pro-rata basis. The pro-rata amounts for each party can be found on Line 2 of the Child Support Obligation Worksheet.
EXTRACURRICULAR AND EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSES
Agreed upon extracurricular and extraordinary expenses are generally shared on a pro-rata basis as determined by their incomes. See Line 2 of the Child Support Obligation Worksheet.
HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD STATUS
You can only claim head of household status if you are single and have a child in your custody 51% of the time. Therefore, if your agreement states that each party will have custody of the children 50% of the time, neither party will be able to claim head of household status. With proper drafting of your agreement, each party will be able to claim that status 1) every other year if there is only one child and 2) every year if there are two or more children. Be sure your attorney considers these factors in the drafting process.
Carol offers free consultations and will schedule flexible appointments in order to accommodate your work schedule. Call today to discuss your divorce or family dispute.