Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Child support and parents not working

A reader asked about what Indiana law says about a parent not working and child support. That is, can a parent be made to work?

The short answer is this: The State of Indiana cannot make a parent get a job. Now, explaining why this is so takes a bit longer to answer.

Starting with the Indiana Child Support Guidelines, the child support calculations impute income to a non-working parent. See Guideline 3, A. Determination of Child Support Amount:

3. Unemployed, Underemployed and Potential Income. If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on a determination of potential income. A determination of potential income shall be made by determining employment potential and probable earnings level based on the obligor's work history, occupational qualifications, prevailing job opportunities, and earnings levels in the community. If there is no work history and no higher education or vocational training, it is suggested that weekly gross income be set at least at the federal minimum wage level.
The Child Support Guidelines have Commentary to explain and amplify the rules. Regarding the question put to me, the following paragraph provides some explanation for the the preceding quotation:
(1) When a custodial parent with young children at home has no significant skills or education and is unemployed, he or she may not be capable of entering the work force and earning enough to even cover the cost of child care. Hence, it may be inappropriate to attribute any potential income to that parent. It is not the intention of the Guidelines to force all custodial parents into the work force....
I added the emphasis to the third sentence. As I will explain later, the Guidelines lack not only the intention but even the ability to force a person to work.

Go to the online child support calculator here and try this: calculate child support with father having weekly gross income of $400.00 and mother at $210.00. Give them one child. Skip the deductions and additions such as child care and parenting time. Father pays mother $68.85. Doing the same calculations but with mom having no income has Father paying $79.00 per week

I give you these examples to make the point that as a practical matter there is not much to be gotten even when the non-working parent goes to work.

As I wrote above, I think Indiana courts lack the power force a person to work because the Indiana Bill of Rights forbids forced labor. The following is Section 21 of the first Article of Indiana's Constitution: "No person's particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation...." We cannot be forced to work or forced to work a particular job by the State of Indiana. As with most things legal, this protection has a double-edged quality about it. And, thus, ends the long answer to the reader's question.

No comments: