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Bill would change child support statute

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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. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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