Indiana couples with children typically obtain a child support order as part of their divorce decree, but often the order must be modified after the divorce to meet the family's changing circumstances. In Indiana, a court can modify a support order only in certain situations, including when a parent has experienced a substantial and continuing change in circumstances.
Following an Order
Until a court modifies your child support order, your old order remains in place and legally enforceable. Thus, you are responsible for following your most recent child support order. You cannot reduce the amount of payments until the court issues a new order that modifies them. Even if you think you have a good reason for failing to pay -- perhaps a job loss or illness -- you might be penalized if you don’t pay.
You and your ex-spouse can agree to change your child support order, but you must still obtain court approval to officially replace the old one. If you cannot agree with your ex-spouse, you can ask the court to decide on a modified amount. Indiana courts use Indiana’s child support guidelines to determine a reasonable child support amount, though they can deviate from the amount in the guidelines if the guideline amount would be unjust.
You can begin your modification case by filing a petition with the appropriate court, usually the court that issued your most recent support order. The Indiana Judiciary website offers several petition forms. The form required will depend on the circumstances of your case. For example, if you and your former spouse have reached an agreement on modification, you will use a certain form and a different form if you have not. If you wish to modify or terminate support because your child has become a legal adult or for another reason, you will also use a particular form. Once you file the appropriate petition, you must provide a copy to your ex-spouse.
Change of Circumstances
In your petition, you must establish that the court has authority to modify your support order. In Indiana, the court can change your child support order only in two situations. One is if your circumstances have changed so significantly, and continuously, that your child support order is no longer reasonable. Or the court can make a change if a new order, created under Indiana’s guidelines, would change your existing order by more than 20 percent and your previous order is at least one year old. You must be prepared to provide evidence of the claims you make in your petition. For example, you might provide tax returns or pay stubs showing your reduced income or a letter of termination from your employer.