Saturday, March 21, 2015

2015 Indiana Child Support Guidelines review scheduled for public comment

The Domestic Relations Committee [DRC] of the Indiana Judicial Center met in regular session Friday 20 March 2015 on the last of two consecutive days. The DRC is striving to complete amendments to the current Indiana Child Support Guidelines [ICSG] so that they can be promulgated and adopted by the end of this year.

The purpose of the meeting Friday was to finalize a procedure for drafting the proposed modified ICSG and a schedule for submission of those changes to the Indiana Supreme Court. The proposed revisions include changing the section on emancipation to reflect the statutory change to age 19 years, numerous changes to sections of the commentary to reflect that the ICSG are guidelines, and removing the HIPWA worksheet. The HIPWA worksheet will still be available through a website link for use in cases operating under the previous guidelines. It appears to be the position of the Committee that practitioners and judicial officers are not crafting child support agreements or orders that give due consideration to the individuals’ circumstances. One such modification will be to encourage consideration of the income of subsequent spouses when imputing income to a parent whose income has changed based upon the change in total household income. Changes will be made throughout to bring continuity to the ICSG. This will include replacing all references to ‘child’, ‘children’, or ‘child(ren)’ with a single term. I have suggested ‘progeny’ or ‘offspring’ as plural nouns but, more likely, ‘child’ will be used and a definition or statement in the introduction that use of the word in the singular is inclusive of plural applications.

It is my intention to move toward reducing the particulars of the Guidelines and, instead, have them reflect more general underlying principles so that judicial officers will feel that they may and will use broader discretion in creating child support payment orders. The Guidelines have been being used more as peremptory procedural instructions where judges tend to feel that they must be followed or provide compelling reasons for deviation; reasons which are based upon evidence, argument and which require deliberation. Rote application of the ICSG should be the exception not the norm.

Proposed revision will be published for public comment in June. The comment form will be available on the Indiana Supreme Court’s website. There will not be a public hearing but, in the past, 60 days has been available for submission of written comments. This time allotment may be reduced to 45 days. The proposed modifications must be presented to the Board of Directors of the Indiana Judicial Conference for final review and revision before being tendered to the justices of the supreme court. The Board meets in late June and again in September. The modified ICSG should be promulgated by 01 October 2015 and effective no later than 01 January 2016.

The next meeting of the DRC is 15 May 2015. At that meeting the Committee will review all of the proposed revisions and the process for taking final public comment. Members of the public are invited to attend. If you would like to attend please contact me so your name may be added to the guest list. The Committee meets at the Indiana Judicial Center, 30 South Meridian Street in Indianapolis.

I will be making additional posts as necessary which will include a link to the public comment page. Upcoming meeting dates of 16 October and 20 November have been added to the calendar.

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