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Economy adjusts child support

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It used to be fairly easy to prove someone wouldn't pay child support because they didn't want to. But it hasn't gone unnoticed that there are more people who want to pay child support but simply can't.

Legal aid attorneys said they have noticed more people can't afford child support more often since the downturn in the economy started a few years ago They're also seeing it more frequently among clients who had no trouble paying child support when they were making more money or had better jobs a few years ago.

This is also reflected in changes to the child support guidelines that took effect earlier this year, including how to calculate potential income and the previous wording of how to determine support for couples with combined weekly adjusted income of less than $100, which used to be worth more than it is today.

"Economic data indicate one hundred dollars, which is half of the 2008 federal poverty level for one person, is not sufficient for a person to live at a subsistence level today. The prior obligation amounts at combined incomes of $100.00 per week are $25.00 per week for one child and $50.00 per week for two children. These amounts absorb 25 and 50 percent, respectively, of the parents' gross income. Most states set their minimum child support order at $50.00 per month, which is about $12.00 per week," the revised guidelines state. "Therefore, the revised low-income adjustment sets the obligation amount for combined weekly incomes of $100.00 at $12.00 for one child."

The revised guidelines also address how it is better to have realistic child support obligations than to overwhelm the non-custodial parent.

"However, attributing potential income that results in an unrealistic child support obligation may cause the accumulation of an excessive arrearage, and be contrary to the best interests of the child(ren). Research shows the non-custodial parent's involvement increases the child's educational attainment and reduces juvenile delinquency. Since parent-child contact and child support payments are highly correlated, ordering support for low-income parents at levels they can reasonably pay may improve non-custodial parent-child contact; and in turn, the outcomes of their children," the revised guidelines state.

Tom Frohman, an attorney for the Bloomington office of Indiana Legal Services, said he has had a steady stream of non-custodial parent clients who just can't pay what is asked of them.

"The guidelines are predicated on the concept that children should receive the same proportion of parental income as if the parents still lived together," he said. "That concept is sometimes completely ignored by child support orders."

He also said that calculations of potential income don't always add up in reality.

He gave the example of a client making $7.55 per hour, but could only get 25 hours a week. However, the client's support order might be based on a 40-hour workweek, even if that wasn't what he was able to work.

"Even intact families struggle to find and keep work," he said. "I hate that children sometimes have to do without, and sometimes times are tough for families, but that doesn't change when families split up. When a non-custodial parent was a part-time, low-income worker in the household to make ends meet, it doesn't make sense to think he's now a money-making machine," just because he no longer lives with the family.

Frohman added that wasn't to say there aren't bad parents out there who are just avoiding their support obligations, but there are a number of parents who want to pay but just can't.

John Floreancig of the Legal Aid Society of Indianapolis said he noticed similar issues. He said the clientele of legal aid has changed dramatically in recent years and includes more people who had middle-class lifestyles but recently lost their jobs and are now unemployed or underemployed. He said those people may not ever be able to find a job at the rate they were making before.

"You might have a guy who may be a professional, for instance an engineer, who is educated and on the ball, has a good work history and a good earning history, but then his whole department is eliminated, and there aren't any more jobs in that field," he said.

It's then up to the court to decide if it is truly temporary that he won't make the same amount he did before he was laid off.

Like Frohman, Floreancig said there were still some who just refused to pay, but that isn't always the case.

The courts also have noticed a change and are approving modifications as needed.

Allen Circuit Magistrate Craig J. Bobay said in the past three years he has noticed more people who can't pay child support.

"I'm seeing ... modification of support and contempt for non-payment cases. I've found that given the economic climate, it's a lot more difficult to prove contempt. Five or 10 years ago, you could just say if you're not employed it must be because you're not looking and don't want to be employed."

He has also noticed fewer contempt cases have been filed.

"That may be surprising to some," he said, "But people seem to understand the economic reality of what happens when someone's employment is cut or eliminated, or their income is reduced. I'm seeing parents who are working together more with an understanding of the economic reality."

He added the revised child support guidelines emphasize why it's important not to assume someone is capable of getting a minimum wage job if they're not working.

"You have to look behind the scenes," he said, adding the parties in his court have seemed reasonable.

"Maybe it's a little counterintuitive but we've been in the economic downturn long enough that parents on the other side understand," he said.

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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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