In Indiana, child support is determined by the Indiana Child Support Guidelines. Under the Indiana Child Support Guidelines, the number of overnights that one parent has with the children is an important consideration in determining support, but not the only consideration. The court also looks at the incomes of the parties, health insurance costs , daycare costs (if any), and whether a parent is supporting other children.
Generally, the parties (the parents) must prepare a child support worksheet even if they have equal parenting time. If the parties are going to deviate from the presumptive child support worksheet, they must explain why they are deviating from the presumptive amount. An agreement to share all expenses would likely be sufficient for such an explanation, but such agreement may have problems (as discussed below). The child support guidelines may well show that one party owes support to the other even though they have equal parenting time. Many clients don’t understand why that should be the case if they are sharing the child time evenly, but there are good reasons for this approach.
There are many reasons why one parent may pay support to the other parent even though they have equal time with the children. One parent may be paying all of the daycare or health insurance for the children. Either of those expenses can be substantial in some cases.
The parents’ incomes may be substantially different so that one parent has considerably more financial resources than the other parent. The court may find that this means that the children would have very different financial resources in each household if neither parent paid support. As an example, a parent who is paying groceries and utilities for themselves and one child half the time on a salary of $20,000 a year is going to have a much more difficult time providing basic necessities than the other parent who may be making $100,000 a year.
The child support guidelines generally assume that one party is paying the “controlled expenses” for the child if a party is receiving support. Controlled expenses means that one parent is responsible for paying a certain amount of uninsured medical expenses every year before the other parent has to contribute.
Controlled expenses also means that one parent is responsible for providing essentially all of the clothes, school registration book fees, and school lunches for the children even if the parties are having equal parenting time. In the case of essentially equal parenting time, either party could agree to be responsible for controlled expenses. The child support would be lower for the person who’s paying the controlled expenses.
Over the years, we have had several parents who want to agree that, notwithstanding what the child support worksheet may say, that they are going to share all expenses evenly and no one pays support. We generally discourage this approach. As a practical matter, this requires the parties to exchange a large amount of financial information over what may be minor expenses.
Are the parties going to be requesting reimbursement over a $15 medical co-pay or weekly school lunches? If one party pays $100 for a pair of sneakers and the other party pays $20 for a pair of sneakers for the same child does the parent who paid for the more expensive shoes expect reimbursement from the person who bought a pair of shoes but at a substantially lower price? If one parent thinks the child needs five pairs of jeans and the other person feels that the kid only needs two pairs of jeans does the other parent have to reimburse for the additional jeans?
If parents want to take this approach, they need to be very clear about what specific expenses are going to be shared. The child support guidelines do not consider cell phone expenses, for example, at all. If the parties are sharing expenses evenly is that going to include cell phone expenses? What about paying for extracurricular expenses or special expenses such prom or graduation? I generally find it’s just easier to run the worksheet and use the support numbers so that one parent is paying essentially all of these defined expenses without having to work out reimbursements.
It will be advantageous for both you and the other parent to develop a clear support plan at the outset, rather than having to try to work out these matters in the future. Please feel free to call our firm to learn how we can help.