Daughter’s emancipation leads to reduction in child support

A trial court should have reduced a father’s child support obligation to his three children because his daughter’s emancipation constitutes a substantial and continuing change, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Friday. The trial court denied the father’s motion because the amount of child support offered differed by less than 20 percent of the amount dictated by the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.

Wayne Patton sought modification of his parenting time with his son W.P. as well as the reduction in $160 in weekly child support for W.P., Ja. P. and Ju. P. In July 2011, Jessica Patton filed for divorce; in 2012, Wayne Patton was convicted of child seduction for fondling Ja. P.’s breasts when she was 16.

Father wanted to no longer have to have supervised visits with his son. He was evaluated by a clinical and forensic psychologist, who found indications of defensiveness and poor judgment and decision-making. The psychologist also expressed doubts regarding father’s psychological functioning.

The trial court denied father’s motion, finding that supervised visits should continue based on the psychologist’s opinion and the nature of graphic comic books given to W.P. by his father. The judge allowed father’s mother to act as supervisor of parenting time or Wayne Patton could continue to visit with his son at the Children’s First Center at his expense.

The judge also denied father’s request for the child support reduction because the amount of child support calculated in the child support obligation worksheet, $136.42, did not differ by more than 20 percent of the support presently calculated.  

“[W]e have little trouble concluding that Ja.P.’s emancipation warrants a modification of Father’s support obligation. Father’s current obligation is based on support for three children, whereas he is now obligated to support only two. The Child Support Obligation Worksheet prepared for this case, based on Father’s support of Ju.P. and W.P, and attached to the trial court’s order recommends a support obligation of $136.42 per week. Mother does not argue that the recommended obligation is based on incorrect calculations or faulty assumptions, and we see no other reason to depart from it. Consequently, we remand with instructions to modify Father’s child support obligation to $136.42 per week,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

The judges affirmed the decision to continue with supervised visits with W.P.

The case is Wayne Patton v. Jessica Patton, 17A04-1503-DR-137.

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