By Haley Loquercio, Intern | Office of Communication, Education, and Outreach
NOTE: On April 2, 2019, the Domestic Relations Committee began seeking comments on proposed changes to Indiana’s Child Support Guidelines. Read the press release »
In August 2018, the Domestic Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference of Indiana held a public hearing in the Indiana Supreme Court Courtroom for parents, judges, attorneys, and others to comment on Indiana’s Child Support Guidelines.
The Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines were adopted on October 1, 1989. The Guidelines are used to make decisions about child support in divorce, legal separation, paternity, Title IV-D, and other court proceedings. Every four years, the Domestic Relations Committee conducts a hearing seeking public input on the Guidelines and discusses possible revisions.
To start the August 2018 event, Fulton Circuit Court Judge and Committee Chair Christopher Lee promised to consider each and every comment made here at the hearing, as well as written comments submitted.” Twenty-one speakers made their voice known to the Committee in the Supreme Court Courtroom. Topics discussed included child support arrears, technology updates, enforcement, parenting time guidelines, and fathers’ rights. The hearing was webcast live and is available via the Indiana Courts YouTube Channel.
The hearing focused on the important need for Child Support Guidelines to be in the best interest of the child. Miami County resident Marilyn Malaw said, “One size does not fit all for child support.” Morey Sasher, a father from Shelby County, lamented long court proceedings: “Custody battles pit one parent against the other and put the child in the middle.”
In addition to the in-person comments, the Domestic Relations Committee sought input on the Guidelines through written comments, which were accepted from June 22 to August 27.
After the 67-day comment period closed, the Domestic Relations Committee received 445 written comments to review. Many of the written submissions discussed the importance of creating the best environment possible for the child, from the beginning of the divorce proceedings to equitable interactions with both the custodial and non-custodial parent.
One commenter lamented, “All too often, a divorce has a winner and a loser. We call them custodial and non-custodial parents, but even a kid can see which is which. The winner gets the children, the house, and the child support, and the loser does not. Children are the real losers because they lose an essential relationship with their non-custodial parent.” Another commented, “They [the children] are home in one household and visitors in the other. This does nothing to encourage a healthy relationship with both parents.”
The Committee met immediately following the 90-minute hearing to discuss both the verbal and written submissions. In addition to considering the public comments, the Committee previously discussed proposed revisions to the Guidelines suggested by the Child Support Bureau of the Department of Child Services and Notre Dame University.
In the Committee’s upcoming meetings, it will further consider all recommendations and can recommend further amendments to the Guidelines. Domestic Relations Committee proposed revisions will be posted online for public comment. Recommended changes will be made to the Indiana Supreme Court, who has the final authority over the Guidelines.
As Chief Justice Loretta Rush said in the 2019 State of the Judiciary, “We have many effective tools in place to address the challenges facing our Indiana families,” and the regular review of Child Support Guidelines is just one of those important tools.