On October 17, 2023, the Indiana Supreme Court enacted changes that are set to modernize how child support is calculated and enforced. These changes are not just incremental; they represent a paradigm shift in the approach to ensuring that children’s financial needs are met fairly and in accordance with current economic standards.
As of January 1, 2024, families in Indiana will navigate child support matters under revised guidelines that aim to reflect more current economic realities and ensure fairness in support-related obligations.
The new guidelines moved away from the dated income shares model, which relied on the 1972 and 1973 Consumer Expenditure Survey and Thomas J. Espenshade’s research. The Engel methodology, which previously informed our payment schedules based on food expenditure, is being replaced.
Now, the Rothbarth methodology, utilizing data from 2013 to 2019, will recalibrate payments to reflect actual spending on children by analyzing reductions in parental personal expenditures. This is expected to raise weekly child support payments by 4% to 22% across various income brackets.
Moreover, the guidelines now mandate specific deviation language in orders and agreements. This precision in language ensures that child support deviations are clear, justified, and documented.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of examples in which a deviation may be justified under the new amendments:
The outdated “6% Rule” is now a thing of the past. We’ve recognized that this rule, which required the recipient of child support to cover a portion of uninsured health care expenses, did not reflect current costs and created undue burdens.
The guidelines also provide clearer definitions of uninsured healthcare expenses and give courts the discretion to scrutinize the use of out-of-network providers more closely. Additionally, there’s a new expectation for timely contributions to health care expenses—within 30 days of documentation.
Under the amended law, fathers are now required to cover at least half of the necessary expenses related to the birth of their child, a significant step towards acknowledging the costs incurred during this critical time. This includes pre-natal care, delivery hospitalization, postpartum, postnatal, and other necessary and reasonable expenses related to a child’s birth.
The amendments also redefine ordinary uninsured health care expenses, which are no longer considered “controlled expenses.” This shifts how these costs are allocated between parents.
Indiana also introduced a specific methodology for calculating the child support parenting-time credit, which is particularly useful for families with varying parenting schedules.
For families with split or divided custody, the guidelines suggest a methodology for support calculation that should alleviate some of the complexities we’ve encountered with these arrangements in the past.
Finally, we’re anticipating new Child Support Obligation Worksheet formats, which will further assist in simplifying the process.
These substantial changes will streamline the child support process, reduce disputes, and, most importantly, provide a support structure that’s in line with the economic realities of today.
The Indiana Supreme Court’s commitment to keeping the child support guidelines relevant and fair is evident in these comprehensive changes. As we adapt to these new guidelines, it’s essential to consult with legal professionals to understand how these changes might impact individual cases.
If you have questions about how these changes might affect your child support situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Mattox & Wilson. Our team is well-versed in the new guidelines and is ready to provide you with the insights and assistance you need. Contact us today to ensure that your child’s financial future is secured.