How to Apply for Child Support Indiana

Child Support Indiana

Child Support Indiana: Child support refers to the financial aspect of taking care of a child’s needs. It is the legal responsibility of both parents, regardless of the couple’s relationship status.

If a child’s parents are married to each other when that child is born and both parents’ names go on the birth certificate.

Then it is already established that both parents assume fiscal responsibility for the child.

In cases of divorce, financial support obligations are generally included along with the custody agreement.

However, when a child’s parents are not married at the time of the child’s birth or paternity has not yet been established.

It may be necessary to apply for court-ordered child support.

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Understanding Child Support

Understand the purpose of child support.

Child support is designed to allow a child to enjoy a standard of living that is approximate to what he or she would have enjoyed had the parents lived together.

Child support may be ordered when the parents are separated, have never lived together, or are in a divorce, dissolution of marriage, annulment.

Or in the midst of paternity and legal separation cases. 

Typically, it is paid to the parent with whom the children spend the majority of their time.

  • Child support is not alimony. The purpose of alimony is to rehabilitate or support a former spouse. Though the other parent may financially benefit from child support payments, the purpose of the payments is to benefit the children who no longer live with you.
  • Child support payments are set by a court or are agreed to by the parents themselves, who then have their agreement approved by a court.
  • Once set, child support payments can only be amended by court order.

    Child Support Indiana

Read your state laws on child support.

Each state has formulas for determining child support payments, typically found in statutes.

You may find your statute by typing “child support” and your state into a web browser.

These formulas consider the child’s needs and the parent’s ability to pay.

These formulas, however, are often only “guidelines,” which a judge can deviate from. 

Typically, courts can consider a variety of factors when setting child support payments:

  • The parents’ income. Some states consider only the non-custodial parent’s income, while other courts consider both. Also, some states use “gross” income while others consider only “net” income (income after taxes and allowable deductions, such as taxes and/or union dues).
  • Child support or alimony that either parent receives or is paying from a previous marriage.
  • Which parent is paying for childcare and health care?

    Child Support Indiana

  • Whether either parent is responsible for children other than the children from the current marriage.
  • The number of children each parent is supporting and their age. This factor is important because the expenses of raising children do not double for each child you add.
  • Whether either parent lives with a new partner or spouse who contributes to household expenses.
  • If the child is disabled. If your child is disabled, support payments could continue indefinitely if the child is not capable of self-care.

Meet with an attorney.

An experienced attorney will be able to estimate child support payments.

An attorney can also help you if you want to negotiate child support with the other parent.

  • To find an experienced family law attorney, you can visit your state’s bar association website. States often run referral services, which you can call or email.

Obtaining Child Support by Agreement

Consider creating an agreement outside of court.

Parents have the right to meet and try to work out child support payments between themselves.

If you can come to an agreement, you would then need to submit your proposed child support payment schedule to the court for approval.

  • If one of the parents has been the victim of domestic violence, this may not be an option. However, other parents can save themselves time and money by trying to reach an agreement.
  • Your state’s formula can help act as a guide when deciding the amount of child support. Although you can deviate from the formula, the judge will undoubtedly compare your proposed child support plan to the state’s formula in order to get a sense of how fair the proposal is.

Gather financial documents.

You and the other parent should come up with a support agreement that takes into account the finances of both.

 To do this, you will need to gather financial information for the two of you:

  • current pay stubs or evidence of self-employment income
  • other sources of income, such as disability benefits, retirement benefits (including a pension), or money from trust funds or estates.

    Child Support Indiana

Calculate expenses.

You will also need to calculate the children’s expenses, including health insurance and childcare. Other expenses include the cost of feeding, clothing, and housing your child.

  • You may also want to consider the expenses of the non-custodial parent.
  • For example, if he or she has large expenses for student loans, personal loans, or a mortgage, then you may want to take that into account when deciding his or her support payments. However, many states no longer consider expenses unless they relate to the child.

Estimate the amount of support independently.

Both parents should take the financial information and independently assess how much child support a court would order in the absence of an agreement.

If you come up with similar amounts, you may want to agree to that amount.

  • You can get a rough estimate of what your state guidelines would mandate by using your state’s calculator. You can find a state calculator on AllLaw’s website.
  • If your number is far apart from the other parent’s number, then try to figure out why.
  • It’s possible that you were not using the same numbers.

Consider mediation.

Mediation is a process where a third party “neutral” discusses the case with you and the other parent.

You discuss disagreements that you are having around child support and work toward a resolution that is agreeable to all parties.

  • Mediation may be court-ordered.
  • Even if court-ordered, you may still be required to split the cost of mediation.
  • The average cost of a mediator can be $100-200 an hour. 
  • If you are indigent, you should request a fee waiver or reduction in fees.
  • The mediator cannot force any side to accept a solution.
  • Therefore, you don’t gain anything by stretching facts to get the mediator to agree with you.

Draft an agree£ment.

If you and the other parent can come to an agreement on child support, then you should work on drafting an agreement.

Be sure to include the amount the non-custodial parent will pay, how the payment will be made, any non-monetary support (such as health insurance).

And who will pay for special expenses such as school tuition and extra-curricular activities.

  • Before signing, you may want to have an attorney look at the agreement.
  • Ask if the attorney can spot anything you may have missed.
  • Finalize the agreement. Any agreement you reach should be signed by both parties and notarized.

Get a form to file a motion.

All agreements must be approved by the court, which must decide that the agreement is in the best interests of the child.

Accordingly, you need to file a motion in court.

Ask the court clerk for the appropriate form, or look for it on the court’s website.

  • Because both parents agree to the child support plan, you will need a “Joint Stipulation” motion. It may go by a different name, such as a “Petition for an Order upon Support Agreement.”Simply tell the clerk that you and the other parent have agreed to child support payments and ask for the correct form.
  • If you are going through a divorce, then the form should be in the packet of information that you received. A court will not approve a divorce without a child support agreement in place, so a form should be included.

    Child Support Indiana

Complete the form.

Although each form is different, common information you must provide includes:

  • the amount of support to be paid
  • when the support will be paid
  • whether the paying parent wants payments withheld from paychecks
  • who will provide for the children’s health insurance
  • whether the agreement is temporary or permanent

Gather your forms.

Attach a copy of the signed agreement and any worksheets.

Even if you and the other parent reach an agreement, you need to fill out all necessary paperwork.

Many courts require worksheets on which each parent lists their income.

  • Sign all forms and make a copy for each parent.
  • File the forms. Take all forms to the court clerk and file.
  • You may have to pay a fee. Get every copy stamped.

Attend the hearing.

At the hearing, the judge will question both parents closely to assure herself that both parents agree to the stipulation.

If the judge agrees that the proposed joint stipulation is in the child’s best interests.

Then she will approve it and issue an order.

  • Be aware that even joint child support agreements must have court approval to be modified at a later date.

Getting Child Support by Court Order

Consider why you need to go to court.

If the other parent will not agree to child support, then you may have no choice but to get a court order for child support payments.

Some reasons that warrant going to court include:

  • The other parent is not reporting all of his or her income.
  • Also, a parent may refuse to work a better-paying job, which artificially depresses his income.
  • Your child has special needs and therefore needs additional support, which the other parent refuses to pay.
  • Your income is so high that the state’s formula would require you to pay much more than is necessary to support the child comfortably.

Find the forms to petition the court.

You will need to initiate a proceeding by filing a motion in court.

Most courts have pre-printed “fill in the blank” forms for family law cases.

You will need to find the appropriate form depending on your circumstances:

  • If you are seeking child support as part of a divorce proceeding.
  • Then you should have a form already as part of your divorce packet.
  • It may be called something like “Complaint for Support of Spouse or Child.”
  • If you are married but only separating (no divorce), then you should ask for the form specific to your situation. It may be called a “Complaint about Separate Support.”
  • If you were never married to the other parent, you can pick up a form from the court. It goes by different names depending on the court, such as “Complaint about Support-Custody-Visitation” or simply “Support—Petition.”
  • If the father denies parentage, then you will need to establish paternity before you can get child support payments. Many courts have combined motions for child support with a motion to establish paternity.

    Child Support Indiana

Complete the form.

You will need to provide the information requested.

Generally, the forms will ask for your personal information (name and address).

Your child’s name and date of birth, as well as the other parent’s name and contact information.

Seek assistance.

You may get confused filling out the forms or have questions.

If you do, you should contact a family law attorney.

If you can’t afford an attorney, then you may seek legal help from the following:

  • A self-help center. Many courthouses have self-help centers or family law facilitators who help people complete their forms. Call your local courthouse to check if these services are available.
  • An attorney who offers “unbundled services.” Instead of agreeing to do all of the legal work for you, an attorney will agree to perform discrete tasks.
  • For example, you could have the attorney help you fill out forms, but you would be responsible for going to court by yourself.
  • Unbundled services are less expensive for the client.
  • Remember that the court clerk cannot give legal advice; however, she should always be able to point out which forms you need.

    Child Support Indiana

File the forms.

After completing the forms, you should make 3 copies: 1 for the other parent and 2 for you.

Then take all of your copies to the court clerk, where you will file them.

  • There may or may not be a filing fee.
  • You should call the court clerk ahead of time to ask about a fee and acceptable methods of payment. If you cannot afford a fee, ask to fill out a fee waiver form.
  •  The court clerk should have the form.

Serve notice on the other parent.

Once you file, you must notify the other parent of your motion so that he or she can respond.

You must send a copy of your motion and a summons.

Also, you may need to send blank forms for the other parent to fill out, such as a blank Response Form. Ask the clerk if you need to send forms.

  • There are many different methods of giving notice. Check with the court as to what is acceptable. The most popular is personal service and through the mail.
  • Personal service can be given typically by either the sheriff or a professional process server.
  • If you use the sheriff or a process server, you will have to pay a fee.
  • The standard cost is typical $45-75 for process servers. Sheriff’s fees average $15 less.
  • If personal service is made, the server must fill out an Affidavit of Service (or similar) form. You should get this from the clerk and attach it to the papers. After delivery, the Affidavit will be returned to you. You must make a copy for your records and file the original with the court.

    Child Support Indiana

Prepare for your hearing.

You should gather all of your paperwork and review it in anticipation of your hearing.

Ask the court clerk if you will need any other paperwork other than what you filed.

  • A hearing is more informal than a trial. Some states even hold hearings by telephone.
  • You should ask the clerk when filing your motion how hearings are held.
  • Be sure to bring to the hearing a document that established paternity, e.g., a signed birth certificate, a signed acknowledgment of paternity, or a court order.

Dress appropriately.

Remember that a courtroom is a professional place.

Accordingly, you should dress in a respectable fashion.

As a rule of thumb, dress as you would if going to church.

  • Men should wear slacks and a dress shirt or a nice, solid-colored polo. 
  • You should have facial hair trimmed and neat.
  • Women should dress business casual: a blouse with a mid-thigh skirt or slacks.
  • Dresses are fine if not too revealing. No loud jewelry.
  • Do not wear T-shirts, jeans with holes in them, halter tops, or shorts.

    Child Support Indiana

Speak respectfully.

When addressing the judge, say “Your Honor.” Stand when speaking to him or her.

  • Do not chew gum while in court, no matter how nervous you may be.
  • Also do not bring in food or drinks, and turn cell phones off.

Answer questions.

The judge will probably ask you questions about the paperwork you filed.

If paternity has not yet been established, you will be asked why you think the defendant is the father.

Be prepared to answer questions without taking too long to riffle through your papers.

  • Remember that the other parent will probably be at the hearing.
  • No matter how angry you are, you should comport yourself in a professional manner.

Follow the court’s order.

At the end of the hearing, the judge will either order child support or not.

You must follow the order, even if you do not like it.

  • If you want to appeal the judge’s order, then ask how to do so.
  • Be mindful that you cannot appeal simply because you don’t like the judge’s determination. Instead, you must identify an error of law or fact.

Child Support Indiana

More tips

  • It is well documented that protracted fights over divorce and child support issues are much harder on children than an amicable agreement.

  • Also, if you do go to court to fight for child support, it will cost time and money.
  • For example, most uncontested divorces with children involved can be completed in less than a year.
  • A fight in court, however, will take at least 1 year and could cost each spouse between $10,000-50,000.

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