The court uses a Child Support Worksheet and Child Support Guidelines to decide how much child support to order. The Child Support Guidelines were established by the Indiana Supreme Court. You can read these Guidelines at Child Support Guidelines: https://www.in.gov/courts/rules/child_support/. The Guidelines include comments, which help explain the Guidelines.
The Child Support Guidelines apply to all cases where child support is ordered. This includes divorce cases, paternity cases, guardianship cases, legal separations, juvenile proceedings, petitions to establish support and Title IV- D proceedings.
Basically, the Guidelines try to keep the child in the same financial situation the child would have been in if the parents had stayed together. The Guidelines look at both parents’ gross incomes and the number of children to determine the child support amount.
The Guidelines also consider other expenses such as work-related child-care expenses, (child care costs due to working or looking for a job), extraordinary medical and educational expenses, and the children’s health insurance costs. The Guidelines also consider how often the non-custodial parent visits with the child. If the non-custodial parent visits the child often, that non-custodial parent will pay less child support.
The following website may help you estimate your child support: https://www.in.gov/courts/services/child-support-calculator/
Of course, this will give you an estimate only. The court will have the final word on the amount of child support that is ordered. The court can choose a child support order that is different from what the child support worksheet says if the court has a good reason to change from that guideline amount.
Here are 2 examples of when a court might order a different amount of child support:
If the non-custodial parent routinely buys school clothes and pays for the children’s extra activities.
If the non-custodial parent has to pay a lot of expenses for visitation (such as travel fees or long-distance phone bills).
Extraordinary educational expenses can include the costs of sending the child to private or special schools. The court can consider whether only one parent wants the child to go to the school or if both parents agree on the educational expense. The court can also consider whether the expense is reasonable and necessary.
Here is an example of the 6% rule: Assume the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay $100 per week in child support. This would be a yearly support order of $5,200 (52 weeks x $100 = $5,200). 6% of $5,200 is $312 (.06 x $5,200 = $312). So the custodial parent would have to pay the first $312 per year in uninsured medical expenses. After that, the parents are usually ordered to split the children’s uninsured medical expenses in relation to the parents’ incomes. Thus, if mom earns 40% of the total parental income and dad earns 60%, mom will pay 40% and dad will pay 60% of the uninsured medical expenses (after the custodial parent first pays $312).
If the court believes the parent could be working, but chooses not to, the court can “impute” income to that parent. This means that for purposes of the child support worksheet, the court will pretend the parent is working and will put in income for that parent on the worksheet.
The court will usually impute at least minimum wage full time employment. (The court will do this even if that parent is receiving TANF). However, if a parent has worked in the past and made more money than that, the court can impute a higher amount of income.
If a parent’s only income is SSI (Supplemental Security Income), the court cannot impute income to that parent. So if a parent’s only income is SSI, that parent cannot be made to pay child support.
Parents who get SSI cannot be ordered to pay child support. Parents who get SSD might be ordered to pay child support.
SSI is a government benefit paid to the elderly and disabled. It is for people who have not earned enough in the past to get Social Security Disability (SSD). SSI pays a set monthly amount. This amount is $914 per month in 2023.
If a parent’s only income is SSI, that parent cannot be ordered to pay child support. A court should not enter a child support order against a parent whose only income is SSI. The Child Support Guidelines specifically say that SSI is not counted as income on the child support worksheet. By definition, someone who is getting SSI is unable to work, because to be eligible for SSI you must be unable to work.
If you are the parent getting SSI, you should tell the court that your only income is SSI and you are unable to pay child support. You should get a statement from the Social Security Administration that you receive SSI, and give this statement to the court. If you have already been ordered to pay child support and then you began receiving SSI, you can ask the court to change your child support to $0.
SSD is also a social security benefit paid to the elderly and disabled. The amount of SSD a person gets is based on how much the person has earned in the past. The more work history you have, the more SSD you can receive.
A parent getting SSD can still be ordered to pay child support. Because SSD is based upon work history and how much you have earned in the past, SSD is considered income. According to the Child Support Guidelines, SSD is counted as income on the child support worksheet.
When a parent is getting SSD, the dependent children of that parent may be able to get SSD dependent benefits directly from the Social Security Administration based upon the parent’s benefits. The custodial parent should apply for dependent benefits on behalf of the children. The amount the children get depends on the disabled parent’s work history.
The court will count the benefits the child gets directly from the Social Security Administration as payment of the child support obligation. Sometimes the court will also order the non-custodial parent to pay some child support in addition to the amount the child receives directly from the Social Security Administration. Usually, the parent will be ordered to pay additional money only if the amount the children get directly from the Social Security Administration is less than the amount the child support worksheet says should be paid.
Sometimes if a person has earned some money in the past but not too much money, the person will get some SSD and then enough SSI to bring that person to the minimum SSI level of payment. This person will thus be getting only the minimum amount of monthly benefits (the SSI level). If you are getting a combination of SSI and SSD, you can argue that you are like the parent who gets only SSI, and thus should not be ordered to pay child support. If you are supposed to be paying child support and you are receiving a combination of SSD and SSI, you should explain this to the court. You should ask the court not to make you pay child support because you are getting only as much as a person on SSI gets.
If you do not pay child support as ordered by the court, you can be brought back to court. Read this article to see what can happen to you, and what you should do.
If you do not pay child support that the court has ordered you to pay, the court could find you in contempt of court. The court could order your employer to take part of your paycheck to pay for the child support. (If you are currently supporting a spouse or another dependent child and you are behind in support, up to 55% of your check can be garnished. If you are not currently supporting a spouse or another dependent child and you are behind in support, up to 65% of your check can be garnished). If you are found to be in contempt of court, you also could lose your driver’s license or other professional license, your tax refunds could be taken, a lien could be placed against your car or your home, and you could be reported to a credit bureau. If you are behind by a lot of support and the court finds you willfully failed to pay, the court could put you in jail.
You should make sure to go to court on the date the court ordered. If you do not appear, the court could issue a warrant for your arrest.
You can ask the court to appoint an attorney to represent you if you can’t afford to hire an attorney. The court must give you an attorney if there is any chance that you may be put in jail for contempt and you cannot afford to hire an attorney. If there is no chance that you will be put in jail for contempt, the court does not have to appoint an attorney for you, although you can still ask for one. If the court mentions the possibility of you serving jail time, you should certainly ask the court to appoint an attorney for you.
If you are unable to get an attorney, you should still go to court on your own. You can try to show the court that you were not able to pay the child support. You may want to do the following:
Collect any proof of income that you have had since the last time you were in court. This evidence might include tax returns, paycheck stubs, or unemployment/TANF receipts.
Make a list of all employers, their addresses, and the dates of your employment since the last time you were in court.
If you are unemployed or have had periods of unemployment, make a list of every place you have looked for work since the last time you were in court, including names, addresses and dates that you applied for jobs.
Make a list of all your essential living expenses that you have had since the last time you were in court. These might include your rent or other house payments, utilities, medical expenses, food expenses, and transportation expenses.
If you have not been able to work because of a disability, bring a note from your doctor explaining what your disability is and that it prevents you from working.
The above information should be as specific as possible and should be written down so that you can refer to it when you are in court.
The Court is going to want to know that you have been trying to pay support. Therefore, if you can afford to do so, you should try to pay some money toward your support, even if it is less than your weekly amount.
If you can’t pay your child support because of illness or unemployment, you can ask the court to change the amount of support. The court can change the support order if the court finds there has been a substantial change in circumstances. If the court does not change your support order, then your current order remains in effect.
If you have a serious illness that will last for at least a year, you could also apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If you get SSD, you and your dependent children may get payments from the government. Sometimes the court will allow SSD payments to your dependent children to count toward your child support obligation. If you get SSI, then the court cannot make you pay child support.
If your child comes to live with you, you should notify the court and ask the court to stop your child support order. If you don’t, you may still have to pay child support even though your child was living with you. You would also probably want to the court to modify the custody order to give you custody. You can find forms to modify custody and child support at www.indianalegalhelp.org.
Usually, you can stop paying child support when your child turns 19 if you are current on your child support. However, if your child support order is for more than one child, you should not stop paying part of the order without the court’s approval. You will need to go back to court and explain that one of your children has turned 19 and you would like your support order to be lowered. This would be a modification of the child support order.
The court can order you to pay child support for a child older than 21 if that child is disabled.
Even if you think the child should not get support anymore (because the child is too old or living on her own), you should not stop paying support until the court gives its approval. There are some circumstances when the court can stop the child support order before the child turns 19 but you have to ask the court to issue an order to stop the support.
For example, if your child is 18, is not in school and has not been in school for the last 4 months and is capable of supporting himself, the court might stop the child support order. The court can also stop the support order if your child is married or has joined the military. The child would be considered “emancipated” for the purpose of child support.
You will need to notify the court that you believe your child is emancipated and that your child support obligation should stop. If you owe back support, the court can order that you continue paying the back support even if the court says your child is emancipated.
Yes! Child support and visitation are two separate things. You can’t stop paying support because you aren’t getting parenting time. Your ex can’t stop parenting time because you aren’t paying child support. You must continue paying your child support as the court has ordered you to do. You can go back to the court to try to get the visitation going.