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Changes coming to Child Support Rules

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An order issued by the Indiana Supreme Court today amending the state's Child Support Rules and Guidelines caused two justices to dissent in part over worries a change may alter precedent. The amendments take effect Jan. 1. 2010.

Justices Frank Sullivan and Robert Rucker dissented in part from the amended guidelines because they believed they overrule Grant v. Hager, 868 N.E.2d 801 (Ind. 2007), which held there is a rebuttable presumption that neither parent owes the other support in circumstances where the Child Support Obligation Worksheet calculation produced a negative amount for the noncustodial parent's child support payment because of the application of the Parenting Time Credit. Under the amendments, there will now be a rebuttable presumption in such cases that the custodial parent must make child support payments to the noncustodial parent equal to the negative amount.

"We believe that the Guidelines' presumption in such circumstances should continue to be that neither parent owes the other support," the justices wrote. They also noted, notwithstanding this amendment, that the trial court has the authority to deviate from the Guidelines amount and order that neither parent owes the other support based on their respective incomes and parenting time arrangements if the court concludes it would be unjust not to do so, and then makes the written finding mandated by Child Support Rule 3.

In the order detailing the changes, the high court cautioned against attributing potential incomes that result in unrealistic child support obligations and may cause excessive arrearage.

"Research shows that on average more noncustodial parental involvement is associated with greater educational attainment and lower juvenile delinquency," the order noted. "Ordering support for low-income parents at levels they can reasonably pay may improve noncustodial parent-child contact, and in turn, the outcomes for their children."

Other notable changes to the guidelines:

- The order put Health Care and Medical Support, and Extraordinary Expenses into new, separate guidelines and expanded on both topics.

- A new, revised low-income adjustment sets the obligation amount for combined weekly incomes of $100 at $12 for one child; the current Guidelines assign $25 per week for one child.

- The order adjusted the schedules for weekly support payments to include combined weekly adjusted income between $4,000 and $10,000; previously a formula was provided for those incomes above $4,000. A formula will now apply to incomes above $10,000.

- Under the new guidelines, Social Security Disability benefits paid for a child are now recognized as income of the disabled parent who earned the benefits, and those benefits are included in the Weekly Gross Income of that parent. Excess SSD benefit shall be applied as payment toward an existing arrearage, and once the arrearage is satisfied, any SSD benefit that exceeds the current support obligation is considered a gratuity. The revised guidelines change the law regarding the application of SSD benefits, and the holding in Hieston v. State, N.E.2d 59 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), and its progeny, have been superseded by the change.

In addition to the Child Support Rules and Guidelines, the Supreme Court issued an order today amending the Rules of Evidence to require certain statements be recorded before they can be entered into evidence in Indiana trial courts. Click here to read more about this change.

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