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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. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  3. Don't believe me, listen to Pacino: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6bC9w9cH-M

  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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