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Indiana makes changes to its child support system for the first time in more than three decades

By Violet Comber-Wilen, IPB News | Published on in Family Issues, Government
Indiana’s child support system is undergoing changes for the first time in more than three decades. These changes will alter weekly payment schedules for the first time since 1989. (Barnaby Wasson/Flickr)

Indiana’s child support system is undergoing changes for the first time in more than three decades. These changes will alter weekly payment schedules for the first time since 1989.

Jennifer Drobac is a law professor at Indiana University. She said the original child support system payment schedule was created under different societal circumstances.

“This new system is trying to account for the changes in the way people need to spend money and changes in the child custody and parenting situations,” she said. “Because back in those years, you saw fewer joint custody and shared parenting arrangements.”

The child support payment formula Indiana had been using was based on data from the 1970s. Drobac said this was unsustainable given the drastic changes in the economy since then.

“That system was based on calculations, I believe, from 1970 and with an emphasis on how much a household or specific payer was paying for food,” she said. “And so things have grossly changed about, you know, where people are spending more of their money.”

Drobac said the new system will be more focused on how parents handle costs.

“This model takes into consideration the basic requirements, the basic needs of the parents, and then adjusts child support based on whether or not additional children and child support would impact their ability to care for themselves first,” she said.

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Drobac said this model is intended to still prioritize children by allowing for a “fairer apportionment” of child support expenses based off of income. She said parents who are already struggling to pay child support payments would not likely benefit from more rising child support costs.

“If a parent is paying so much in child support that they can’t afford gas and then lose their job, then the whole system breaks apart,” she said.

Drobac said this model will affect affluent Hoosiers more, as having children “doesn’t impact their need to meet their basic needs financially.”

She said she is hopeful this system will allow more children to benefit from financial support through these payments.

“As far as I can tell, this system is really not about collection,” Drobac said. “In other words, this is about calculation. And the whole goal with calculation is to make it so that people can pay and so that they’ll be more likely to continue paying and so that the children will benefit from the financial support that they need.”

The changes in the child support payment system will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.