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Modification of Child Support

It is very important that all modification of support are approved or ordered by the court. DO NOT rely upon an informal agreement with the other parent to pay or receive a different amount of support. As far as the legal system is concerned, child support will continue to accrue at the rate set forth in the most recent order.

The entry of a child support order does not mean it can never change. In fact, it is common for a child support obligation to change throughout the course of a child’s life. Incomes and circumstances will change. The question is when can child support be modified.

Indiana law sets forth two situations when it is appropriate to change child support. The first situation is what can be referred to in shorthand as the 12/20 rule. This law sets forth that child support may be modified if 12 months have passed since the most recent child support order AND there is a twenty percent difference in the child support obligation. The 12 month part of this law is straightforward – one year must elapse since the prior court order. The second part of the statute means that the child support calculation must result in a 20 percent change up or down in the child support number. For example, if the child support obligation is $100 per week, then to obtain a modification, child support must either increase to $120 per week, or decrease to $80 per week.

The second situation when child support can be modified when there is a substantial change in circumstances. What does that mean? Well, the statute in question does not define what exactly constitutes a substantial change in circumstances. However, in practice, this will usually mean that there has been a significant change in the income of one or both parents. The most common situation is when one parent becomes unemployed and can no longer afford the current obligation.

Emancipation

When does child support stop? The short answer is when the child turns 19 years of age. However, this is not an automatic occurrence. It is important to obtain a court order or submit an agreement between the parties to the court which sets forth that the child should be deemed emancipated.

So if your child turns 19, it’s all done, right? No. The obligation to contribute to college expenses survives the emancipation of the child.

An exception to the emancipation age of 19 is if the child is disabled in some fashion. In that circumstance, a court can find that it is appropriate that child support continue.

Extracurricular Expenses

Who pays for soccer fees? What if your child wants to take violin lessons? Can both parents be expected to contribute?
Generally speaking the answer is yes. It is expected that a child will participate in extracurricular activities and that both parents should contribute to those expenses. Unless there is a specific activity in question at the time of the agreement or order, it is very difficult to predict what activities in which a child may want to participate. The common language in agreements and court orders is that parents will divide “agreed upon” extracurricular expenses.

So that’s that, right?
Unfortunately it is not always that easy. Situations arise when one parent believes that an activity is too expensive or otherwise objectionable (e.g. too dangerous, too time consuming, etc.). The difficulty arises when one parent refuses to contribute to an activity. Given the vague “agreed upon” language, there is no set rule that a parent must contribute. The choices available are to either shoulder the entire cost or petition the court for an order.