At this point in the blog series, it addresses one of the most controversial and on-going types of domestic litigation: “child support.” The driving policy behind child support is to maintain the lifestyle the children were accustomed to prior to the divorce. However, it costs more money to operate two households than one. This creates the common position lawyers hear from their clients, which is a variant of “I cannot get by on that low amount of support” or “I cannot afford to pay that much and survive.”
To determine the proper amount of child support each person should pay (which the non-custodial parent will receive), the child support formula begins by using each parent’s gross weekly income and makes adjustments (credits and debits). Even irregular income is included in gross weekly income. There is flexibility in the Rules and Guidelines to deviate (increase or decrease) to reach a just result. However, the parents must properly present the evidence, generally accomplished by a skilled attorney.
When a payor party does not timely pay child support, the other party may file a contempt motion to force payments. One of the black and white rules of child support is a payor may only modify child support back to the filing of a petition to modify. So losing a job normally necessitates that a party file a modification action. Failing to do so may create an arrearage that cannot be addressed at a later time.
Assuming this is filed, and the payor cannot find substitute employment, he or she may not be held in “contempt.” Contempt requires a showing of a knowing or intentional failure to pay child support. A party found in contempt may be incarcerated to enforce payment. In addition, when an arrearage reaches a certain threshold, a professional license may be at risk and/or a felony non-support charged brought by the prosecutor. Thus, a party who owes child support should constantly monitor his or her situation and respond to any changes in work or decrease (or increase) in income with this in mind).
The final two common “C” words in divorce and/or paternity cases are “Child Protective Services” (CPS) and “custody evaluations.” They are not necessarily related terms. CPS is the agency that investigates allegations that a parent is neglectful or abusive toward a child. If this is substantiated, then services will be offered to a parent(s) to the end of reunification with the child. However, CPS investigations can lead to criminal charges being lodged against a parent or termination of the parent-child relationship.
A custody evaluation is generally conducted by a third party such as a LCSW or Ph.D. child psychologist. A custody evaluation involves the evaluator interviewing each party and the children in different configurations, performing psychologist testing, and consulting with or reviewing collateral sources.
Collateral sources are those that tend to validate or invalidate the allegations or situation that may weigh to or against the parent’s contention for custody or parenting time. Ultimately, the evaluator makes a report and recommendations to the court on what is in the children’s best interests as to custody and visitation.
Child support determination and modification, CPS investigations, and custody evaluations are useful to meeting any specific legal objective (such as a non-custodial parents desire to modify custody); but they are complex legal concepts that are best deployed with the guidance of a skilled attorney.
Hopefully, this blog provides you with some insight as to these matters. If so, it has met its educational goal. This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who practice all types of domestic cases throughout the State of Indiana. It is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice or a solicitation for legal services.