Paying child support is an integral part of sharing child custody as the non-custodial parent. The law requires the parent with less responsibility for the day-to-day duties and expenses of childrearing to pay to help financially support his or her children until they become legal adults. Providing this support puts a strain on the budgets of many divorced parents, but most accept that this obligation is part of sharing custody. However, the formula used to allocate child support is based upon both income/expenses and the amount of parenting time each parent has with the children. Thus, there is an underlying assumption that the parent paying child support has physical responsibility for the child for much less time. If the number of overnights changes, either increasing or decreasing, the paying parent may see his or her child support amount modified to reflect this change in time with the children.
Earlier this year, an Indiana court of appeals looked at applying child support credits to missed parenting time, and found that the credit needs to match both the time awarded under the parenting time guidelines and the amount of time the parent will have with the children, not necessarily the number of days missed. In order to better understand how parenting time credits fit within the child support guidelines, an overview of how child support is calculated, and where parenting time credits specifically fit within this framework, will follow below.
Child Support Formula
A parent’s child support obligation is based upon his or her weekly gross income, certain expenses, and specified credits. Weekly gross income is based upon the amount paid by employer, earned by a self-employed individual, or potential earnings for parents who are unemployed. From this amount, the following deductions are permitted:
- Later born or adopted children;
- Legal duty to support prior-born children;
- Court-ordered child support for other children; and
- Alimony or spousal maintenance.
Once this baseline is established, the next step is to add certain expenses, including:
- Child care; and
- Health insurance for the child.
Each parent’s adjusted weekly incomes and applicable expenses are added together to calculate the basic child support obligation, which is then allocated according to each parent’s income. The custodial parent is presumed to be directly providing this support, and the non-custodial parent obligated to pay his/her share.
Parenting Time Credit
To ensure the non-custodial parent is not responsible for paying the other parent for the child’s support when he or she is providing childcare, Indiana child support guidelines allow for a credit for the non-custodial parent’s overnights with the child, typically 90-100 per year, or 27% of all overnights in a year, which comes out to approximately every weekend. Parenting time credit is supposed to account for duplicated and transferred expenses that each parent incurs from maintaining a household and caring for a child, and requires the non-custodial parent do more than merely provide a child a place to sleep, such as providing food, transportation, and help with schoolwork. The credit is based upon the actual number overnights exercised, and can be lost or reduced if the non-custodial parent does not comply with the parenting plan. Note that this credit is not automatic, which is a pressing reason to work with an experienced family law attorney to ensure this important adjustment is made so the allocation of support is fairly divided.
Speak with an Indiana Family Law Attorney
Child support is not something a parent can avoid paying if divorced, but this does not mean a parent should pay more than his or her fair share. If you have questions about your child support obligation, talk to Christopher L. Arrington, P.C. about legal requirements. Children do need this support, but non-custodial parents should not be forced to pay more than an appropriate amount. Contact the Plainfield family law firm today at (317) 745-4494 to schedule an appointment.