Question: My husband has joint custody (per divorce decree) of his 19 year old and 14 year old. The 19 year old recently started college. My husband went to his lawyer to adjust child support to account for the student going away for college. Instead, his child support requirement went UP. His ex-wife only makes $20,000 a year and her income literally has not changed since their divorce 11 years ago. She has chosen this income, as she continues to reduce her hours at her convenience. My husband’s salary, however, has gone up over time, commensurate with cost of living, etc.
The current child support requirement was agreed upon by both parties via a mediator eleven years ago. Based on their discussion with an attorney, his child support (based on the Indiana scale) will go up. Support laws are obviously made to benefit the mother. I can go into many reasons why this is not equitable, based on her behaviors, her lack of parenting time with the children, etc., but that’s all irrelevant. How can we make this more equitable? Why is she allowed to continue to have a low salary and he continues to have an improving salary, yet he is the one penalized for this?
Answer: I am not licensed in the State of Indiana so I am only able to answer this question based upon general practice. Therefore, the specific answer in Indiana may differ. Please note that Cordell & Cordell P.C. does have offices in Indianapolis and Carmel, Ind., and the attorneys in those offices could provide you with specific advice concerning the law in Indiana.
Generally it is possible to impute income to someone that has voluntarily reduced income that would affect the child support paid. The reasons for the lower income or in the ex-wife’s case a reduction in hours would be relevant. Once the incomes of the parties are agreed upon most jurisdictions have a set formula for the calculation of support. Basically if you agree the numbers going into the calculation are correct, you must agree with the final calculation. Therefore any equitable adjustment should be made arguing about the numbers going into the support calculation, not the final number.
Spencer E. Williams is the Team Leader over St Louis, St Charles, Indianapolis and Arnold (Jefferson County, MO) offices of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. where he practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Mr. Williams has tried numerous cases dealing with complex custody issues, maintenance, business assets and personal asset division.