Under the Paternity and Dissolution Acts, the proper time to file for an Indiana child support modification is set forth by statute and developed by cases applying and interpreting the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines. As a party paying or receiving child support, an upward or downward modification of child support may be sought within a year or anytime thereafter.
With child support modification Indiana, there are two important polices driving the modification statutes. The first is the rule of finality, which in basic terms, means once a court has decided something and brought closure to the case, an unhappy party should not be able to file successive child support modification motions, one after another. The rule of finality is based on the emotional and the financial toll that litigation has on the parties.
Therefore, under the decisional law of the Indiana Supreme Court in (MacLafferty v. MacLafferty, 2005) for a party to seek to modification of child support under the statute within one year, a party must allege and prove at trial by the evidence that there has been a change in circumstances since the order issued within the last year that is so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the current child support unreasonable. In these cases, the evidence will support an Indiana child support modification of the prior order, which can be retroactive back to the date the modification petition was filed.
There are many good examples in life that could support the argument that a currently issued order (within one year) is unreasonable. An example is the loss of a job or substantial pay-cut. Others are equally obvious: major health condition, catastrophic injury, or something similar. Notwithstanding, child support modification Indiana will not be sustained on the basis that the party seeking to modify the child support is simply unhappy with the recent (within one year) child support order and cannot now show some difference in child support to be paid/received under the Guidelines.
Beyond the one year mark and the requirement of showing that the child support order is unreasonable, a litigant can seek Indiana child support modification at any time if the evidence shows that the amount of child support to be paid pursuant to the Child Support Rules and Guidelines would differ by more than 20%. The policy behind the 20% rule is essentially the financial benefit to the children – that child support should be modified because it is actually the children’s money, and children should not be deprived of it if there is materially more to be paid.
This is confused by some parties as meaning that the parties must have an increase or decrease in income by 20%, but that is not the legal standard. Instead, it is that the actual amount of child support to be paid, by application of the guidelines, would result in a 20% difference in child support to be paid by the payor-spouse.
The obvious place to start with the 20% as a basis for child support modification Indiana is to determine if the difference in support to be paid justifies seeking to modify child support and the legal fees that you will incur in the modification process; it may not succeed. Next, you need to determine whether the evidence of the noncustodial parent’s income will likely prove a 20% difference in the amount of child support to be paid under the Guidelines.
An increase may be obvious if a party knows of a big promotion or similar facts. In most cases, proving a 20% increase in the amount of support to be paid will require discovery (request for information to be sent to the other side by your attorney) to validate and prepare for reaching an agreement at mediation or preparing for a trial on the issue of child support modification.
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