ILNews

Judges differ on day-care credit, child support

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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An Indiana Court of Appeals panel disagrees about whether or not a parent who uses day care when he or she isn't working is entitled to a child-support tax credit.

In Craig Cross v. Victoria Cross, No. 49A05-0802-CV-94, authoring Judge Elaine Brown and Judge Paul Mathias ruled the trial court erred in ordering father Craig Cross to pay $30 more a week to pay for Victoria Cross' work-related day care for their adult child with autism. At issue is whether or not the day-care expenses claimed by Victoria were incurred in connection with her employment.

Victoria worked as a health-care provider for a patient with Alzheimer's and would bring her daughter V.E.C. with her to work, but she paid a neighbor $30 a week to watch V.E.C. for five hours so Victoria could be relieved of her constant supervision of her daughter.

The majority found Victoria's day-care expense isn't work-related or income-producing, so it doesn't fall within the provisions of the Child Support Guidelines. As a result, Craig shouldn't be responsible for paying for the day care, Judge Brown wrote.

If the trial court would have entered a written finding as to why it deviated from the Child Support Guidelines, then the day-care cost could have been credited to Victoria, the appellate court determined. But because the trial court didn't, the majority reversed the order crediting her for work-related day care.

But Chief Judge John G. Baker adopted Victoria's argument as to why she should receive a work-related day-care credit and quoted from her brief that giving her a break during the week gives her respite "necessary to handle both the duties at her job and the responsibilities she has as [her daughter's] full-time caregiver."

He believed the majority's adoption of the Child Support Guidelines was overly literal and that the child-care cost was work related because a brief, weekly break allowed Victoria to continue to work and receive an income, he wrote.

All three judges affirmed the trial court's grant of Victoria's motion to withdraw admissions, its exclusion of V.E.C.'s Supplemental Security Income from its determination of Craig's child-support obligation, and its denial of Craig's petition to claim the children for tax-exemption purposes.
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