Thursday, March 19, 2015

Domestic Relations Committee meets to amend 2015 Indiana Child Support Guidelines

The Domestic Relations Committee [DRC] of the Indiana Judicial Center met in regular session Thursday 19 March 2015 on the first of two consecutive days. The DRC has been working on amending the Indiana Child Support Guidelines [ICSG] following their last project which was the review of the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines [IPTG] which became effective as amended on 01 March 2013. The amended ICSG should be promulgated later this year. By federal law the state is required to review its child support guidelines every four years and take public input.[en1] Public input was received by the DRC on 16 May 2014. Dr Betson who is a professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame has also been providing input throughout the review process.

Thursday Dr Betson’s presentation was on calculating support for prior born children and additional children. Indiana uses an income shares model for calculating child support payments for one child. In the case of prior born children and additional children a percentage of income model is used as shown in the Commentary to Guideline 3C. Dr Betson has demonstrated that the current support calculations for additional children exceeds what is necessary for support of the children when income is over $1000/wk. The model is based upon the percentage of parental income averaging 13%. The current ICSG create a substantial deficiency when incomes <$500/wk and is highly excessive for incomes >$2000/wk. The calculation of support at very low incomes is a policy decision which takes into account the necessity for the nonresidential parent to maintain sustenance and that the residential parent is likely receiving means tested assistance which is not counted in the parents adjusted weekly gross income.

Indiana originally followed the first in line, first in right approach to child support when additional children were considered. The effect of this was that the support dedicated to the children of the marriage remained constant and that a parent who had children subsequently took on that obligation knowing that the amount of support for the prior children would not be adjusted downward. Dr Betson sees no reason to give a credit for subsequent born children. Colorado recently recognized subsequent born children based upon one extreme case which involved a change of custody. Indiana is one of the 18 states that give a subsequent born child credit. I see no reason to give a subsequent born child credit because it is a voluntary action that is or should include another person who is likely contributing to the support of the subsequent born children.

The Committee has proposed adding commentary to Guideline 3A(d) Imputing Income for consideration of a new spouse’s income. I suggest modifying the language to include “or other adult household member living as if married to the parent.” It has long been a complaint, primarily of non custodial fathers, that the custodial parent remarried a high income partner and subsequently quit working which resulted in the NCP paying higher support. In one extreme case the father who was earning <$30K/yr was had his support raised to approximately $200/wk following mother quitting her job after marrying a man who earned >$600K/yr. Considering the income of a subsequent partner for child support payment calculations is something that needs to be included in most cases. This commentary should contribute to that happening.

[1] 42USC§667(a)

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