Friday, October 17, 2008

Why now may be the time for a Modification in Child Support Payments or Custody

Why now may be the time for a Modification in Child Support Payments or Custody
18 October 2008
by Stuart Showalter

Although much of this article focuses on Indiana law it is generally applicable to all states and can be conformed through application of the various state statutes. Although most parents do care about and love their children there are some who can’t or won’t provide a loving and nurturing environment to their children and require special consideration not applicable to this topic.

The United States and the world is in what will likely be a prolonged recession and it now appears that the general population knows it. Government officials are even starting to hint at it also. In October 2008 the University of Michigan Consumer Confidence Survey fell from 70.3 to 57.5 even as fuel prices were retreating. [Any reading below 100 indicates that consumers have a negative feeling about future economic activity] Consumers were especially bleak in their outlook for employment and inflation.

What does this mean for Parents, both the Non-Custodial Parent (NCP) and Custodial Parent (CP) as it relates to existing court orders? If you haven’t already, you likely will face a change in circumstances, primarily employment, that is continuing and substantial enough to justify a modification in support payments or custody. Your former spouse may change jobs, take on a second job or lose employment. Relocation will also become probable as companies consolidate or merge to save costs. This can affect not only income but also place of residence, time of day scheduled to work, daycare and/or babysitting.

Child support payment and custody orders that are based upon two working parents with a child in a daycare may require modification. The child reaching school age is the most obvious when cost of daycare has been made a part of the child support payment order. This is a change in circumstances that often goes unnoticed or challenged but can cost $1000’s per year to a NCP not seeking a modification. Additionally, a remarried parent in a two earned family that suddenly becomes a one earner family can produce a significant change.

If the NCP loses a job and the parents live in close proximity then the NCP could provide child care services for the parties children. This is mandatory in Indiana where the NCP is to be given first right-of-refusal to provide childcare services when the CP or a family member cannot. This can be a cost savings for both and also give the child more interaction with the NCP which is a benefit to the child.

Similarly, if the CP loses employment and can provide care for the child then daycare expenses would be eliminated.

Either parent losing employment is going to have an effect on child support payment calculations. If it is you who is paying then naturally it is in your best interest to run straight to the courthouse and ask for a modification. If the CP loses employment then the NCP may want to offer to help alleviate some of the costs and stress associated with child rearing. This could be taking the children to practices and events, keeping them in the evening and feeding them. This will give the other parent a chance to look for employment and get a break from some of the expenses. Ultimately it benefits the children and both parents should be receptive to this.

It economically stressful times neither parent is going to want to spend a considerable amount of money on attorneys. This can be beneficial to your children in that if you are a NCP seeking more time or a CP seeking to have the NCP have the children more and have lost your job you have the upper hand. Such as life is that would be the time to take advantage. With a little help you don’t need to hire an attorney.

The parent who has a job knows that the other likely can’t afford to pay attorney fees and would be stuck paying them. A prolonged battle will only be had by the most vindictive of parents. Instead I suggest that if you are the NCP who has hit upon hard times that you request greater custody and a corresponding reduction in child support payments. If your are the CP who has hit upon hard times and are wanting the NCP to have more involvement then you can request that the NCP spend more time caring for the children. In exchange you offer not to seek to have support payments modified upward since you lost your job.

In a time of economic crisis the “me” culture always resorts back to family and community. There is no better reason to do this than for the benefit of your children. Regardless of your relationship status with your child(ren)’s other parent there is one thing that will never change: You both have the responsibility to set aside your differences and work together for what is best for your children.

To read more about why I believe a strong economic downturn is best for children please read my theory by following this link:

Stuart Showalter is the Legislative Liaison for Indiana Shared Parenting, a lobbying association seeking to reform Family Law Courts to provide parents with more access to their children and reduce litigation amongst parties. Mr Showalter is also the Executive Director of Boone County Child Advocates, an advocacy group that seeks to promote greater parental involvement in children’s lives and the best interest of the family. As an experienced litigator in Child Custody and Support Payment issues Mr Showalter has successfully ensured that children get the care and attention they need from both parents and that the parents spend less time in the courtroom and more time with their children.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Indiana Legislature to Hear Joint Custody

15 October 2008
The Indiana Child Custody and Child Support Legislative Advisory Committee met for the final time this session and addressed a number of issues. The main issue that the committee heard was about a directive from the federal government regarding Title IV-D.

Currently under Indiana law in a paternity action the Non-Custodial Parent is required to pay at least 50% of the cost of the delivery of the child regardless of income. Federal Title IV-D guidelines, however, require that orders for financial support of the child, which includes reimbursement of medical care expenses for the child’s delivery, be based upon the parents income. The federal government didn’t provide any guidance on how to meet their directive.

The committee placed the responsibility of drafting a proposal on the state director of the Title IV-D program. The title IV-D agency will have to work quickly though as the State of Indiana is currently working on the four-year review of the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.

The subject of Shared Parenting was again raised. Testimony had been presented on this subject at the previous meeting by a variety of members of the community. The Committee decided to pursue presumptive joint legal custody of children of divorce during this legislative session.

The Committee heard testimony from one member of the community during this meeting. Stuart Showalter, Legislative Liaison for Indiana Shared Parenting, presented testimony of the subject of domestic violence and child custody. Mr Showalter presented written materials to the committee members and then spoke briefly about that issue. His testimony included personal accounts of his experiences as a victim of domestic violence and also the false allegations made against him.

During the discussion period some members acknowledged that attorneys use false allegations of domestic violence as a divorce strategy to gain custody of the children. There was agreement that the use of protective orders based on false allegations is widespread and that judges issue these with no evidence. Judge Vorhees noted that when she sees a protective order application prepared without the assistance of the victim’s advocate she approaches it with doubt because that generally suggests that the victim’s advocate did not feel it had merit. Mr Showalter suggested that there be a third-party filter prior to any petition for an ex parte order reaches a judge.

There was clear agreement among the Committee that the issue of false allegations of domestic violence needs to be addressed and that those who use that strategy be punished. One concern raised was how does the Indiana Legislature amend their laws to meet these needs but still stay in compliance with federal mandates such as VAWA. Mr Showalter was asked to further study that issue and to keep pursuing a remedy for this problem.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

A Strong Economic Downturn - Best for Children and Families!

A strong economic downturn, recession, depression or however it ultimately becomes labeled, will benefit the cause of protecting children. Assessment, blame, accusation and more will be made throughout this paper however, this paper is not intended to attack any particular gender, social or economic class of people or particular programs.

What harms children?

In analyzing how children will benefit we must first look at what harms children and then what is at the root of that. Statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services show that children born to unwed parents, children of divorced parents and children in foster care are subjected to the greatest harm from those situations in descending order.

When we realize what the motivation that leads to most of those situations is then we can analyze how a strong economic downturn could benefit these children. It is not only those three situations that bring harm to children, obviously. Other situations will also be touched upon and as you will see a strong economic downturn will ultimately benefit families and children.

Motivations that harm

That primary motivation is control. Control of people and control of money. The phenomenon of unwed parenting is a complex one. Nothing has so many factors as this and a valid assessment cannot overlook these. There is no single overriding motivation to unwed parenting. So, these are addressed in no particular order.

Young lust is one we have all likely been through. Recklessness in general is just part of the process of maturity. In the evolutionary scale this allows those persons whose brains do not form in a manner consistent with that necessary to raise offspring to maturity to die off prior to parenting. Recklessness now is often manifest in unintended pregnancies. It would be useless to attack this problem through a cost-consequence approach. After all, that is what recklessness is all about; not foreseeing the consequence.

Instead an economic downturn could have an effect on this through unintended consequence. Young lust plus opportunity is what often leads to these pregnancies among unwed teenagers. Take a parent out of the workforce and you may have less opportunity. Additionally, there is an opportunity for many of those young girls who are just seeking affection and attention to get it from a parent rather than a hormone filled sex machine. Take the automobile away from that teen because you can’t afford it and there is less opportunity there.

Society has now made it acceptable for adults to be unwed parents. Many excuses are offered like so many people get divorced anyway so why get married. There are women who will intentionally get pregnant while unmarried for the sole purpose of collecting child support. That number is few though and although significant to the guy who was duped it is not significant for discussion here. Another factor is that neither wants to give up some control over their personal life which is a necessity of a successful marriage.

Harm does come to children from the lack of stability that married parents provide. The equal availability of jobs to both genders has made separate residences for nearly all adults feasible. The former mandate that a woman find a husband out of economic necessity no longer exists. With a strong economic downturn it will become necessary for parents to again live together and be wed to take advantage of favorable tax laws. As men are much more often to be stay-at-home fathers now this trend will also continue.


Any government agency has a budget procedure based upon the use-it-or-lose-it principle of accounting. Government is the most wasteful of all employers based upon this simple accounting procedure. So expect Child Protective Service and the Department of Child Services to be no different. If any agency’s funding should be based strictly upon need then this is it. Unfortunately those who profit by it will always label anyone who seeks to alter their financing scheme to be against the welfare of children.

The financing scheme of CPS/DCS requires that children be removed from the home in order to receive federal reimbursement dollars. CPS/DCS could spend all their money on parenting education classes, public awareness campaigns or other similar programs but those don’t get reimbursed by the federal government. The State would have to pay for it all. Do you want to be the governor of a state who is not bringing in money from the feds? Your state director of CPS/DCS is going to tell the counties to take more children out of their homes.

Did the rate of child abuse and neglect double in Kentucky in one year? No, but the governor saw this is as a way to help the state budget. Money is brought in and distributed to foster families who then buy more in the local community. A strong economic downturn would logically lead to more cries for reduced taxation and local control of government. However, logic is often far from the minds of people convinced by power brokers that they are facing imminent doom.


Many factors lead to divorce but undeniably money is the primary factor as reported by those surveyed. Women are the overwhelming winners in divorce who, not always, but, often get 100% of the assets, no debt and child support payments to fund a lavish new lifestyle. Admittedly a strong economic downturn is going to lead to more financial discord in married households but it will also lead to cooperative resolution as the prospect of financial gain from divorce evaporates and the cost of divorce becomes prohibitive.

One way lawyers keep themselves employed is to perpetuate animosity amongst litigants. Most people that went through a divorce and had attorneys representing them will tell you that they get along much better once the lawyers are out of the equation. A strong economic downturn should reduce the divorce rate but even among those intent upon divorce will find that they cannot afford an attorney or attorneys will not represent them because they see no possibility of getting paid through the liquidation of non existent assets.

Many will be forced into representing themselves in court. If already out of work this task will be made simpler. The fear of self-representation will be overcome by many and lawyers will have a much more limited role in society. The lack of resources to devote to prolonged litigation should lead to more agreements on the terms prior to going to court. A parent who knows that he or she won’t be able to get child support money is going to be more likely to want Shared Parenting. This has been shown to be the best situation for children save being in a home with two married parents.

Reducing or eliminating lawyer fees and staying out of court will ultimately leave parents with more money for their family obligations including the children. A strong economic downturn that gets lawyers, judges and social workers out of the business of micro managing families will do nothing but have a positive impact on children overall.

How wealth harms children

You may first think that wealth improves the quality of life. Our many cultures, religions and scientific data tell us otherwise. Wealth can buy medical care while poverty may eliminate the need for medical care. Wealth can buy us convenience while at the same time giving us disease. In short the old basis rules apply; money can’t buy you love, for every action there is a reaction and all the others you know but may not truly adhere to.

Assets are disappearing as more couples file for bankruptcy protection or have homes repossessed. The typical two earner household is going to be reduced to one. The wealth factor may be disappearing. Those who gain control through wealth want you to be scared but you should see this as a positive opportunity. Loss of general wealth is going to have a dramatic impact on the welfare of children and families in many ways. Some are subtle and some more obvious. Here are a few.

~ Childhood Asthma
One of the most subtle ways that economic prosperity harms children is through childhood asthma. If you haven’t already thought of this don’t be surprised, few have. Two earner families and single parenting essentially requires each parent to have a car and drive. This releases more pollutants into the air in a macro sense. Most are often pressured for time and will use the drive thru at a restaurant or convenience type household cleaning products that emit harmful vapors. This pollutes the air these children breathe in a micro sense. Few cars on the road and good old fashioned bleach and water instead of spray and walk away cleaners will provide cleaner air for children to breathe.

~ Full-time parenting
Leave it to Beaver was never reality and we would be foolish to think that a strong economic downturn is going to place us all into a blissful television created lifestyle. However, there is some reality to it. There are many benefits to full-time parenting which will be covered under other point here but one is that you get to spend more time with your children.
Studies have shown that children who are raised in daycare centers are more likely to be on behavioral medication, have discipline problems and anxiety issues. It is appalling to think that there are couples out there consciously deciding to subject their children to this in exchange for the freedom to pursue a career, an expensive automobile, plasma tv and fast-food dinners but it happens with great regularity.

~ Childhood Obesity
Long ago I read a study that I believe was promoted by the American Heart Association that addressed the issue of wealth and heart disease. The surprising conclusion was that wealthy people were more likely to suffer from heart disease than the poor. The explanation for this contrarian view was that even though the wealthy had access to better medical care they were much more likely to eat red meat and unhealthy convenience foods that the poor cannot afford.
Similarly, I find the same things when looking at childhood obesity. Most of what I have read points to those same factors in addition to sedentary lifestyle. Two earner or single parent households are more likely to use unhealthy convenience or fast foods as their children’s primary source of caloric intake. On top of that restaurant foods prepared in excessive amounts of fat, including hydrogenated oils, and salt have become family dinners for many. A strong economic downturn would go a long way to eliminating these sources as home cooked meals would become favored again.
I have found that wealth contributes to a sedentary lifestyle. Wealthier children are often entertained through expensive video game systems, TV shows, computers and other primarily non-cardiovascular activities. If we look to those that do participate in sports we find that in the U.S. there has been particular favor to sports such as Baseball and Gridiron Football. Although both are relatively sedentary the latter actually encourages obesity. Basketball is one American sport that does involve an intense cardiovascular workout.
In studying Latin American youth who have emigrated to the U.S. we find that childhood obesity rates have shown similarities to those of American youths. However, the Latin American youth in their native countries have very low rates of childhood obesity. The wealth factors attributed to Americans are not available in these poor countries. Another distinction is the popularity of World Football which is by far the predominant sport in Latin America. This is a cardiovascular sport where the clock rarely stops and play is continuous. Fortunately it is catching on in America and is very inexpensive to play.

Currently there is a strong push by lobbyist for the teacher’s unions and corporations to mandate 14 years of childhood education. Equally strong is the push for post high school education. This has nothing to do with imparting knowledge on your children but more on how they are socialized and what they are taught to believe.
As recently as 1858 the Indiana Supreme Court said it was the duty of a father to educate his children. Property values are going down. School systems who rely upon property taxes are going to get less as homeowners have their home’s value reassessed. Financial necessity may again require that parents educate their children more. This will increase the bonding and trust between parent and child necessary to establish a well developed individual.
Pharmaceutical companies aggressively try to get educators to recommend drugging children as a means of behaviour modification. Is this who you want your children exposed to? Do you want a government institution making the reproductive decisions for your daughter? This is going on now. When you are out of a job will you want the government to take more of your money to tell your children what their moral beliefs should be?
Government education institutions should be limited to the basic academic challenges without inflicting government sponsored social, political and moral beliefs upon our children through either direct programs or use of selective photos and carefully constructed text in textbooks.
Slashing educational budgets would be a very positive step for children.


This paper is in no way intended to be comprehensive or to fully examine every aspect of how a strong economic downturn will benefit families and children but hopefully has provided to you some insight into what the general results may be. Even if this hyped economic collapse doesn’t occur and the US Senate saves us by eliminating the tax on children’s wooden arrows you may be able to find some incentive to make beneficial changes in your life that are not necessitated by economic reasons.

~ Stuart Showalter, Executive Director
Boone County Child Advocates