The methods used to calculate child support in Indiana can be confusing. Though the primary considerations are outlined in the Indiana Child Support Guidelines, many specific factors come into play. Social Security benefits are one of those factors. When it comes to understanding Indiana child support and Social Security benefits, consulting with an experienced Indiana child support lawyer is a smart move.
How Do Indiana Child Support and Social Security Payments Affect One Another?
The impact of Social Security benefits on the amount of child support Indiana parents are responsible to pay varies. Factors that come into play include the type of benefit, the person to whom the benefits are paid, the age of the child or children receiving benefits based on a parent’s disability or retirement, and the specific custody arrangement.
Additionally, Social Security Disability (SSDI), Social Security retirement, and benefits awarded through other government programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are all treated differently by the courts when calculating the impact of these payments on child support in Indiana.
General Calculation of Indiana Child Support Payments
Title 31 of the Indiana Code requires a determination of a parent’s obligation to pay child support to be calculated on the basis of the following factors:
- The financial needs and resources of each parent;
- The standard of living that the child or children would have been expected to have if no divorce occurred or if the parents still cohabited;
- The mental and physical condition and capacity of the child or children; and
- The educational needs of the child or children.
The Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines use the Income Shares Model to calculate parental child support needs and obligations in accordance with Indiana law. This model uses the gross income of each parent, sometimes with adjustments, to determine the percentage of financial support each parent is obligated to cover and the total estimated costs of caring for the child or children. Costs related to child care while parents are working and health insurance expenses are included in the total estimated cost of care. Finally, each parent’s child support payments are calculated based on these total costs and their proportionate share based on weekly gross income.
Indiana Child Support and Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a government program that is funded by workers who pay into the system throughout their working years. If a person becomes unable to work due to disability, SSDI benefits may be available. Social Security disability benefits paid directly to a parent due to his or her disability are included in that parent’s gross income for child support calculations in Indiana.
SSDI benefits also extend, sometimes, to a disabled worker’s dependents. Social Security disability payments made for the benefit of a disabled worker’s child are also included in the calculation of the disabled parent’s gross income. However, benefits paid to the child (or the other parent on the child’s behalf) are automatically credited to the child support obligations of the parent upon whose disability the payments are made. So, ultimately, these benefits reduce the final Indiana child support payments—or obligation—of the disabled parent.
If the SSDI payments made for the benefit of a child or children exceed the total Indiana child support payments the disabled parent is obligated to pay, the excess is considered a gratuity for the child or children’s benefit and is not returned to the disabled parent or otherwise credited to him or her. If there is an arrearage—unpaid Indiana child support payments that are overdue—the rules about calculations, credits, and obligations related to Indiana child support and Social Security become more complex.
How Social Security Retirement and Other Benefits Impact Child Support in Indiana
As noted previously, Social Security disability and Social Security retirement are not the same, and the benefits are treated differently under the Indiana Child Support Guidelines. If a child or children are receiving benefits based on a parent’s entitlement through the Social Security retirement program, it is up to the court to determine if those payments will be credited toward that parent’s child support obligation.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is sometimes confused with SSDI. The distinction between the two is important, in the area of child support and otherwise. SSI is a means-based program that pays benefits based on both need and disability. Like other means-based, government-funded programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and SNAP food benefits, SSI benefits are not included when calculating a parent’s gross income and do not affect obligations related to Indiana child support payments.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Child Support Matters?
It’s clear that there are a lot of factors at play in determining the amount of child support Indiana parents are responsible to pay. There are also rules related to whether a petition must be filed, and when, in order for certain benefits to be applied or not applied to the various calculations involved in determining Indiana child support payments. And matters become even more complex when there is an arrearage—overdue child support payments owed by a parent—or in the event of a lump-sum payment of benefits.
The best way to ensure your rights are protected when it comes to Indiana child support and Social Security benefits is to consult with an experienced Indiana child support lawyer who knows the system and cares about helping families sort these issues out fairly and in the best interest of the children. You’ll find that attorney at Camden & Meridew, P.C. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 317-770-0000 or completing our online contact form.