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Committee gets feedback on child support rules

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Creative suggestions came from a public hearing today about how to modify Indiana's child support rules and guidelines.

As it does every four years, the domestic relations committee of the Judicial Conference of Indiana is reviewing the guidelines and will propose changes to the Indiana Supreme Court. A public hearing this morning brought a handful of speakers with comments and criticisms about the current system and what can be done to make it better.

Those attending the hearing before the 10-person committee included attorneys, business people, government workers, people from volunteer organizations involved with child-support issues, and parents who've gone through the system themselves.

Robert Monday with the national Children's Rights Council had three suggestions: college support orders need to be clearer as far as the tax treatment for custodial parents, such as whether credits are being recognized and filtered down to child support guidelines; being able to pay for college expenses directly through the school, rather than through the custodial parents; and how to decide support relating to extracurricular activities, such as soccer or hockey expenses.

A parent, Donald Beatty from Wabash, said he wanted to see some change to allow both parents, not just one as currently happens, to claim health insurance premiums and receive credits.

Attorney Tom Frohman with Indiana Legal Services in Bloomington had written suggestions for the committee to consider and delved into his experience giving free legal help to low-income parents in 14 counties.

"The main thrust is that the problem isn't the guidelines, it's the application of those guidelines and the confusing inconsistencies," he said. "Most trial judges think the worksheet is the guidelines, not part of them or one tool to be used in the guidelines. Worksheets give a presumptive amount that should be ordered, but it's not the end of the story. Trial judges almost invariably stick to the worksheet of the guidelines to tell the whole story."

For example, the guidelines say that no minimum support order exists but they also note that judges can set a $25 to $50 a week range, he said. Frohman also noted that guidelines say a person paying support shouldn't be denied his own self-support, but other language says minimum wage should be applied if a person isn't working.

One committee member asked about having an income calculation worksheet for the judges to see to help draw out other information, such as rental expenses that can affect support payment.

The committee said it's been having significant discussions about an Indiana Supreme Court decision that came down last year involving child support rules. In Lambert v. Lambert, 861 N.E.2d 1176, 1177 (Ind. 2007), justices held that "incarceration does not relieve parents of their child support obligations," but that trial judges should not impute potential income to an imprisoned parent based on pre-incarceration wages or other employment-related income.

Changes likely will be made in the guidelines to reflect that holding, according to Steuben Superior Judge William Fee, who chairs the committee. He said the committee hopes to finish its review by the end of this year and make recommendations for the Indiana Supreme Court to consider in its rulemaking session next year.

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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