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Circumstances That May Warrant Modifying A Child Support Order

by Brandy M. Kumfer September, 2012

So, your paternity case or divorce was settled a long time ago, the kids are now in high school, and everyone has moved on. Are you still paying or receiving the same amount, week after week, in child support? Did you know that Indiana law allows child support obligations to be adjusted or modified under certain circumstances? If you have been paying (or receiving) the same amount of child support for the past several years and you or your ex-spouse have since changed jobs or had additional children, you may qualify for a modification of your child support order.

Indiana law provides that child support can be modified upon a showing of (1) changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the current order unreasonable; or (2) if a party has been ordered to pay an amount in child support that differs by more than twenty percent (20%) from the amount that would be ordered by applying the child support guidelines; and the order requested to be modified was issued at least twelve (12) months before the petition requesting modification was filed. A change in income, additional children born to either parent, or if a parent no longer exercises parenting time may all be considered substantial changes in circumstances entitling a parent to either pay or receive a different amount in child support.

To illustrate: Jane and John were married in 1995 and had their first child, Joe, in 1998. After Joe was born, the marriage began to fail, and the parties were divorced in 2000. At the time of the divorce, Jane made $200 per week and had physical custody of Joe; John made $700.00 per week and had parenting time pursuant to Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. At that time, John ordered to pay $80.00 per week in child support. Now, in 2012, even though John has the same job as before, he remarried and has two more children with his current wife. Jane, on the other hand, went back to school after the divorce and earned her Master’s Degree; she now makes $1,000.00 per week. Given the changes relating to the size of John’s family and Jane’s new income level, John’s child support obligation should be reduced to adjust for those changes.

If you identify with the above or a similar situation, it may be time to consider requesting a modification of your child support. In order to modify a child support order, a party must file a petition for modification with the court where the initial support order was issued. The petition can be filed by either the custodial parent or the non-custodial parent. It is important to note that a modification can increase or decrease the support obligation depending on the changes that have occurred in the lives of the parents.

After filing for a modification, the key aspects that need to be determined are (1) the current incomes of the parties, (2) whether there are any subsequent born children to either parent, and (3) whether there have been adjustments in health insurance, child care expenses, or the number of overnights the non-custodial parent spends with the child. This information can be obtained from the parents or even from third parties after the petition for modification is filed. The most important document you should bring to the first appointment is your original decree which states support was ordered, and any documents filed with the court or orders issued by the court after that decree was issued.

If you are a parent interested in seeking an adjustment to your child support obligation, the first step is to consult an attorney who is knowledgeable in family law. Several of the attorneys at Allen Wellman Harvey Keyes Cooley, LLP, regularly practice in this area of the law and would welcome the opportunity to discuss your options with you.