By Joseph Fischer, Staff Attorney • Office of Court Services, Children & Families Division
Next year, a new version of the Indiana Child Support Guidelines will become effective, and it’s the most substantial revision to the guidelines since they were first established. The changes embody a significant shift in methodology for determining child support, an adaptation to the evolving landscape of modern families, and a deeper understanding of the economic realities faced by families and co-parents in Indiana.
In addition to using recent economic data and updating the economic theory on which the guidelines are based, the revision addresses, clarifies, or eliminates a number of other issues to help streamline the process of establishing child support for Indiana’s families.
Child support obligation worksheets and deviations by agreement
The revisions emphasize the requirement of both filing a child support obligation worksheet and including it in the court’s record, regardless of parties’ agreement. In addition, when the court deviates from the recommended amount on the worksheet, the parties must supply a justification or explanation for the agreement beyond stating “parties agree to deviate.” This clarification ensures the court receives and records the reasons behind any deviation from the support owed to the child. This is vital for future modifications as well as future child support guideline revisions.
Calculating parenting time credit
The updated guidelines introduce a new and more precise method for calculating parenting time credit when a parent spends a varying number of overnights with different children. This change acknowledges the intricate dynamics of modern families and ensures the child support system accurately accounts for these nuances.
Removal of the 6% rule
The committee removed the 6% rule for uninsured health care costs, which had caused confusion that led to its limited usefulness. Instead, the committee notes uninsured health care expenses should be considered an “add-on” in the same way health insurance premiums are currently treated under the guidelines, with parents sharing the cost in proportion to their incomes. The weekly support schedule was adjusted to remove the expenses from the basic support obligation. These adjustments simplify and clarify the handling of medical expenses without changing the pre-existing obligation on either parent.
Revisions to weekly support schedules
The economic model underpinning the current child support schedule relies on family economic theories and consumer data from the 1970s. The revised weekly support schedule reflects more current child-rearing costs and is calculated using the Rothbarth economic model. In general, the adoption of these new estimates has led to increased obligations for parents across all income levels, except for those falling under the low-income adjustment. The low-income adjustment in the shaded portion of the weekly support schedule is now based on the combined income of both parents, rather than one.
2024 Child Support Guidelines
Order amending the guidelines effective January 1
The Indiana Judicial Conference Domestic Relations Committee, chaired by Judge Thomas Hallett, is responsible for maintaining the guidelines. Dr. David M. Betson, Professor Emeritus of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Notre Dame, advised the committee. The changes they proposed are the culmination of an exhaustive review process—required by the federal government every four years—during 11 full committee meetings over 18 months. The process involved intensive research, case file evaluation, economic analysis, input from the judicial and legal communities in Indiana, and feedback from the public.
The Indiana Supreme Court approved the new guidelines, which are effective January 1, 2024.