The Indiana Supreme Court’s decision regarding the amended guidelines included dissent by two justices who are concerned that the amendments would alter precedent established in Grant v. Hager, 868 N.E. 2nd 801.
Justices Frank Sullivan and Robert Rucker believed the amendments, set to take effect January 1, 2010, will create a rebuttable presumption in cases where a custodial parent must make child support payments to the noncustodial parent equal to the negative amount of the calculation amount on the Child Support Obligation Worksheet when the Parenting Time Credit is applied. This would be in opposition to the Court’s prior findings in Grant. In their dissent, Justices Sullivan and Rucker wrote “We believe that the Guidelines’ presumption in such circumstances should continue to be that neither parent owes the other support.” They did note that the trial court has the authority to deviate from the Guidelines and order neither parent to pay the other based on respective incomes and parenting time arrangements provided that the court enters its justification for the deviation in writing as mandated by Child Support Rule 3.
The Supreme Court’s ruling did caution about utilizing potential incomes to create unrealistic child support obligations leading to excessive arrearage. The Court focused on the research that reasonable child support levels, especially for low-income parents, “may improve non-custodial parent-child contact, and in turn, the outcomes for their children.”
Other amendments create separate guidelines for Health Care and Medical Support as well as Extraordinary Expenses and expands on the definition for both. The revisions also include a low-income adjustment to set the child support amount to $12.00 for one child in cases where the combined weekly income is $100.00 The current Guideline amount is $25.00 per week. Other changes to income calculations now allow for a formula for combined weekly incomes between $4,000-$10,000 and a new formula for those above $10,000.
Another significant change is recognizing Social Security Disability benefits paid for a child as income of the disabled parent who earned the benefits, requiring that amount to be included in the Weekly Gross Income of that parent. Excess SSD benefits will be applied as payments to any existing arrearage, and if no arrearage or it has been satisfied, the excess amount is considered gratuity. This revision supersedes the current case law regarding application of SSD benefits.
With these pending changes, it is certain that strategy will be even more crucial for divorce and paternity cases and those involving child support modifications as family law attorneys help clients determine when and if it is most advantageous to proceed with a child support modification.