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“Negative” Child Support In Indiana: Fact Or Fiction?

Is it true a custodial parent can be ordered to pay the non-custodial parent child support?

At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. we field a wide array of child support questions. These range from advising clients about collecting large child support arrearages to what to do with erratic income as a parent-payor.

Most of these issues are ones the general legal consumer will never encounter, and which are frankly, not that interesting and downright boring. There are exceptions. One is “negative” child support.

This is where the custodial parent (the parent who has the children the majority of time) might have to pay the non-custodial parent child support. Indiana child support is computed by a formula adopted by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Sometimes where there is great disparity in incomes or one parent has no income the computation yields a negative number. This is sometime called “negative” support. This can be particularly confusing and a sore spot for both parents in this situation.

The answer seems clear. Under the Indiana Supreme Court’s Child Support Rules and Guidelines, the application of the formula to determine child support creates a rebuttable presumption that the amount of the child support awarded from their application is the amount to be paid. This is set out in Indiana Child Support Rule 2.

For good reasons, focusing on the best interests of the children, a trial court may deviate from the presumed amount if it states its reasons in writing and a higher court does not overturn the rationale for the deviation. Therefore, it would appear, that if the child support number comes out where the custodial parent pays the non-custodial parent, that is the way it is.

That appears to be the a legal fact. But not so fast. This precise legal issue was brought to the attention of the Indiana Supreme Court in 2007.

In the Grant v. Hager decision, the Indiana Supreme Court judicially limited this outcome and ruled where this outcome results from the application of the Indiana Child Support Rules, the Indiana Supreme Court agreed with the lower Court of Appeals support should be zeroed.

However, a paramount purpose of the divorce and paternity laws is to ensure a child has access to both parents. For this reason, the Indiana Supreme Court anticipated situations could arise where negative support might be necessary to ensure the non-custodial parent’s relationship with the child.

Thus, it made it a rebuttable presumption that neither parent owes where their incomes and parenting time would make a negative support obligation. Nevertheless, the Indiana Supreme Court left the door open to negative support in the right situation:

“Given . . .deviation authority, a court could order a custodial parent to pay child support to a non-custodial parent based on their respective incomes and parenting time arrangements if the court had concluded that it would be unjust not to do so and the court had made a written finding mandated by Child Support Rule 3.”

The fact is “negative” support could be ordered. However, it is fiction that this is widespread. No decisional law in Indiana has specifically set forth how this presumption is rebutted. It is clear this will not be a substitute for alimony, but in the right case it just might be appropriate.

“Negative” child support is both fact and fiction.

At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., we represent clients on the full spectrum of child support issues. Is this your case? We are here to help.


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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counsel. Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Dixon & Moseley, P.C.

Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. of Indianapolis, Indiana, offers legal services for Indianapolis, Zionsville, Noblesville, Carmel, Avon, Anderson, Danville, Greenwood, Brownsburg, Geist, Fortville, McCordsville, Muncie, Greenfield, Westfield, Fort Wayne, Fishers, Bloomington, Lafayette, Marion County, Hamilton County, Hendricks County, Allen County, Delaware County, Morgan County, Hendricks County, Boone County, Vigo County, Johnson County, Hancock County, and Tippecanoe County, Indiana.