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Bill would change child support statute

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

Indiana is one of only a handful of states that requires parents to pay child support until a child’s 21st birthday, but that may be about to change.

On Jan. 10, the Indiana Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters voted 7-2 in favor of Senate Bill 18, which would change the age of emancipation for minors from 21 to 19. Family law attorneys say that under current statute, many parents have unknowingly fallen behind on child support payments, assuming that their duty to pay support ends with the child’s 18th birthday.

Jason Hopper, an attorney with the Noblesville office of Cordell & Cordell and whose primary clients are men, said he has encountered many fathers who have accidentally run afoul of the law.

melissa avery Avery

“I can’t begin to tell you how many prospective clients that I interview that have the displeasure of finding out that they have a child support arrearage,” Hopper said.

In the dark

Merryn Gluys, family law attorney for Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, said about 80 percent of the cases she handles involve child support. Of those cases, she said about half involve clients who have accumulated arrearages because they assumed the duty to pay ends when children turn 18.

Under current law, parents who are paying support may file an emancipation petition for a child who has left high school and doesn’t intend to go to college. Unless the parent files an emancipation petition, the obligation to pay support continues until the child’s 21st birthday.

“The expectation is that the average child support paying person would just know that they need to file an emancipation petition,” Gluys said. “It’s not a logical conclusion to make.”

Hopper said that if a noncustodial parent has an attorney, that attorney should be the person who advises his or her client about the specifics of child support obligations. But when parents do not have an attorney, they may be on their own in interpreting child support obligations.

Melissa Avery, partner at Avery & Cheerva, explained that child support orders don’t necessarily spell out obligations, either.

“Usually the orders just say you have to pay so much per week, and most do not explain when the obligation terminates – I’ve seen some that do, but most do not,” Avery said.

Intent vs. reality

Gluys said that the intent behind Indiana’s current law is to ensure that custodial parents have some assistance if their children want to go to college. Because even if a divorce decree contains provisions for a child’s college education, that decree could always be challenged in court. But Gluys said that in families of modest means, children may not attend college, but noncustodial parents continue paying support until children turn 21.

“The whole public policy behind the law is largely defeated by what I have observed,” Gluys said. “No law can accommodate everybody, but this one swerves so far away from what it is intended to do.”

While Gluys’ clients – who typically cannot hire counsel – may be the parents who most often unknowingly fall behind on child support, wealthier clients can accumulate serious arrearages quickly.

Under Indiana Code 35-46-1-5, a person who knowingly or intentionally fails to support a dependent child commits a Class D felony; ignorance of the law is not listed as a possible defense. And parents who accumulate more than $15,000 in arrearage under this statute commit Class C felony nonsupport, punishable by two to eight years incarceration, with an advisory sentence of four years.

Hopper said that high-income parents may be at greater jeopardy of accumulating an arrearage that results in a Class C felony charge simply because they’re paying a higher dollar amount in support. He also said that his clients may be less likely to receive notices about accrued child support, whereas families receiving Social Security Act Title IV-D funding would likely receive notices that they are in arrears.

jason hopper Hopper

State penalties

For parents who receive public assistance, Title IV-D funding provides free services, including assistance with finding absentee parents, establishing paternity, establishing and enforcing support orders and periodic review and adjustment of those orders. But if a state cannot show that it is able to enforce support orders, it risks losing some of those Title IV-D funds.

Hopper said Indiana has earned low marks for its ability to enforce support orders.

“I think the legislative intent behind the bill is all about money and increasing the state’s IV-D funding,” Hopper said. “When I look at this bill and how the states and counties are awarded IV-D funding, it’s all competitive.”

Changing the state law in a way that prevents unintentional arrearage could therefore ensure the state’s funding is not negatively affected.

Why now?

Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said while he voted against similar legislation two years ago, he thinks the time is right for SB18. He said he’s heard more and more stories about young adults who are taking advantage of continued child support when they could be working.

Avery said she has a few concerns about the legislation.

“I would be more in favor of a bill that said 19 and graduated from high school, because some kids are not graduated when they turn 19,” she said. “And my other concern is it’s not giving me direction on those children who right now are between 19 and 21, as to whether they can still request college expense orders.”•

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  1. Good luck, but as I have documented in three Hail Mary's to the SCOTUS, two applications (2007 & 2013),a civil rights suit and my own kicked-to-the-curb prayer for mandamus. all supported in detailed affidavits with full legal briefing (never considered), the ISC knows that the BLE operates "above the law" (i.e. unconstitutionally) and does not give a damn. In fact, that is how it was designed to control the lawyers. IU Law Prof. Patrick Baude blew the whistle while he was Ind Bar Examiner President back in 1993, even he was shut down. It is a masonic system that blackballs those whom the elite disdain. Here is the basic thrust:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackballing When I asked why I was initially denied, the court's foremost jester wrote back that the ten examiners all voted, and I did not gain the needed votes for approval (whatever that is, probably ten) and thus I was not in .. nothing written, no explanation, just go away or appeal ... and if you appeal and disagree with their system .. proof positive you lack character and fitness. It is both arbitrary and capricious by its very design. The Hoosier legal elites are monarchical minded, and rejected me for life for ostensibly failing to sufficiently respect man's law (due to my stated regard for God's law -- which they questioned me on, after remanding me for a psych eval for holding such Higher Law beliefs) while breaking their own rules, breaking federal statutory law, and violating federal and state constitutions and ancient due process standards .. all well documented as they "processed me" over many years.... yes years ... they have few standards that they will not bulldoze to get to the end desired. And the ISC knows this, and they keep it in play. So sad, And the fed courts refuse to do anything, and so the blackballing show goes on ... it is the Indy way. My final experience here: https://www.scribd.com/document/299040062/Brown-ind-Bar-memo-Pet-cert I will open my files to anyone interested in seeing justice dawn over Indy. My cases are an open book, just ask.

  2. Looks like 2017 will be another notable year for these cases. I have a Grandson involved in a CHINS case that should never have been. He and the whole family are being held hostage by CPS and the 'current mood' of the CPS caseworker. If the parents disagree with a decision, they are penalized. I, along with other were posting on Jasper County Online News, but all were quickly warned to remove posts. I totally understand that some children need these services, but in this case, it was mistakes, covered by coorcement of father to sign papers, lies and cover-ups. The most astonishing thing was within 2 weeks of this child being placed with CPS, a private adoption agency was asking questions regarding child's family in the area. I believe a photo that was taken by CPS manager at the very onset during the CHINS co-ocerment and the intent was to make money. I have even been warned not to post or speak to anyone regarding this case. Parents have completed all requirements, met foster parents, get visitation 2 days a week, and still the next court date is all the way out till May 1, which gives them(CPS) plenty of to time make further demands (which I expect) No trust of these 'seasoned' case managers, as I have already learned too much about their dirty little tricks. If they discover that I have posted here, I expect they will not be happy and penalized parents again. Still a Hostage.

  3. They say it was a court error, however they fail to mention A.R. was on the run from the law and was hiding. Thus why she didn't receive anything from her public defender. Step mom is filing again for adoption of the two boys she has raised. A.R. is a criminal with a serious heroin addiction. She filed this appeal MORE than 30 days after the final decision was made from prison. Report all the facts not just some.

  4. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

  5. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

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