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Calculating child support payments for siblings with individual parenting time arrangements
Posted in Estate Planning

The Indiana Court of Appeals found that separate child support worksheets do not accurately calculate child support payments for two children by the same parents on individual parenting time schedules. In Robert J. Banford v. Judy D. Blanford, the mother and father of two children divorced in 1998. In 2009, the trial court entertained various motions concerning modification of parenting time and child support. In addition, one of the children had a deteriorating relationship with the father. After hearing evidence, the trial court ordered that one child would divide equal time between the mother and the father, while the other child would spend full-time with the mother. The trial court used two child support worksheets to calculate the new child support level. One worksheet was for one child full-time with the mother, and no parenting time with the father. The second worksheet was also for one child, but gave the father a 182-overnight parenting time credit. The father was ordered to pay child support to the mother in the amount of the total of the two worksheets. The father appealed. The appeal highlighted a shortcoming of the child support worksheet, in that the worksheet contemplates that all of the couple’s children will have the same number of overnights with the non-custodial parent. Here, that was not the case, as the father had zero overnights per year with one child, and 182 overnights per year with the other. The Court of Appeals noted that the method used by the trial court to calculate child support was unfair because of the recognition that additional children cost only marginally more to raise. The Indiana Child Support Guidelines contemplate that, all other factors held constant, support for two children should be 1.5 times the amount of support for one child. Thus, the trial court's use of two worksheets, each with one child, treated each child as that most expensive "first child," and never gave the father the appropriate, discounted support amount for a second child. The father argued on appeal that the trial court should have instead used one child support worksheet that included two children, and then, for the parenting time credit, used an average number of overnights for the two children (that is, one child at zero overnights and a second child at 182 overnights resulted in an average of 91 overnights). The Court of Appeals declined to adopt the father's proposed method, noting that this method "might extend [father] too much or too little credit in calculating his support obligation," because the cost for the mother to have one child full-time, and a second child half-time, is not necessarily the same as having two children 3/4 of the time.   On remand, the Court of Appeals instructed the trial court to calculate support with both children on one support worksheet, and then "adjust the number of days of overnight credit to reach what appears to be an appropriate result for [father's] weekly support obligation. Because the Guidelines do not afford a basis on which to set the number of days of overnight credit, the trial court must explain the reasons for its use of the specific number of days of overnight credit in its order." The trial court's child support order was reversed and remanded.

To learn more about Michael Kohlhaas and his practice, please visit his profile.

  • Partner

    Mike is a partner in Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP’s Estate Planning Department. The Estate Planning Department seamlessly coordinates and executes a wide array of legal services that cater to the unique needs of high ...

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