Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My comments on the proposed amendments for 2016 Indiana Child Support Guidelines

Honoured members of the Domestic Relations Committee -

Following are my comments on your draft proposal of modifications to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines. For brevity I will not include the text of my previously made recommendations but will instead only make reference.

Of great contention is the amount of income to be attributed toward child support. The first paragraph of the Preface proclaims that the purpose of the Guidelines includes maintaining the “standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved or had the separation not been ordered[.]” Although most parents spend nearly their entire income, or greater, there are a few who place substantial amounts into investments, business ventures or have been and continue to provide ongoing support to extended family. Thus those monies have not been available for use by the immediate family and should not be considered income in calculating support. I suggest including language that invites judicial officers to consider a pattern of dispersing monies, expenses or investment that reduced the income available to the immediate family. This would be consistent with the treatment given to its opposite - the received support - as noted in the Commentary to 3A at [d] - “If there were specific living expenses being paid by a parent which are now being regularly and continually paid by that parent’s current spouse or a third party, the assumed expenses may be considered imputed income to the parent receiving the benefit.”

That last inclusion at [d] will be of substantial benefit in ensuring more equitable treatment of the parents and subsequent family members. As such, it should not be disturbed.

3C and its commentary were exhaustively vetted and I am satisfied with the proposed language.

The commentary to 3E at [2] provides a step toward figuring support in a manner consistent with actual expenditures - “In determining the amount to be added, only the amount of the insurance cost attributable to the child(ren) subject of the child support order shall be included, such as the difference between the cost of insuring a single party versus the cost of family coverage.” I have long advocated for this same approach such as if the one bedroom apartment is $600/mo and the two bedroom is $700/mo then the cost for the child is $100/mo which should then be attributed using the income shares model. This admittedly is inconsistent with the intent of reducing discovery as stated in Commentary to the Preface at Gross Income versus Net Income - “Under a net income approach, extensive discovery is often required to determine the validity of deductions claimed in arriving at net income. It is believed that the use of gross income reduces discovery.” Resolving support matters early in a manner that appears more equitable may reduce contention among parents and protracted litigation. Thus, reducing initial discovery to a point that an equitable support order cannot be found early may be a fallacious policy objective. I do not seek to revolutionize the calculation method at this point but merely mention this to keep the seed planted for future consideration. Likewise, I have previously advocated for a policy that promotes greater parental involvement by providing actual support rather than just money. Again, a matter for future consideration. Both of those were detailed in my report accompanying my testimony last year.

The Commentary to Guideline 8 at [2] provides the new language, “When determining whether or not to award post-secondary educational expenses, the court should consider each parent’s income, earning ability, financial assets and liabilities. If the expected parental contribution is zero under Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the court should not award post-secondary educational expenses. If the court determines an award of post-secondary educational expenses would impose a substantial financial burden, an award should not be ordered.” I vigorously applaud this inclusion and it should not be disturbed other than to add a factor of “a pattern of the parents’ expressed desires regarding the child’s post-secondary education.” The disparate treatment given to parents under court jurisdiction compared to those who are not in presuming that those under the court’s purview intended to and should pay a child’s college expenses has been inequitable and a long-standing injustice.

The thoughtful wordsmithing and grammatical accuracy is much appreciated as it provides a greater level of credence to the document which will manifest itself in greater respect by those subject to it. Of course the “or not” in the previous paragraph could be struck as “whether” presupposes both option of to act or not act.

The last thought for consideration is the potential to reduce overnight parenting time disputes by including language encouraging judicial officers, practitioners, and parents to take a liberal view of the parenting time credit by considering costs associated with a child during wakeful times. Children don’t each much, get taken to sporting or other events, or bounce around on the furniture and spill drinks while sleeping. Those things and their associated costs occur during wakeful times. Parents who provide substantial support for a child during the day should be credited for that support.

I appreciate the welcoming atmosphere that you have provided to me and other guests during the past two years as this review has taken place. I thank you for your consideration and, in some part, inclusion of my recommendations. I trust that you will always continue to pursue solutions that provide for more equitable treatment of parents, reduce conflict, and ultimately benefit the children.

Best Regards,

Stuart Showalter

A link to making a comment may be found here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Make a suggestion for me to write about.

Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

Connect with me for the latest Indiana child custody related policy considerations, findings, court rulings and discussions.

View Stuart Showalter's profile on LinkedIn

Subscribe to my child custody updates

* indicates required
©2008, 2015 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.


No comments: