Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Using Indiana's New Online Child Support Calculator

As noted in All Things Family Law - Indiana Divorce & Family Law Blog's Indiana Child Support - New Child Support Calculator and Divorce Law Indiana's New child support guidelines now in effect, Indiana has a new online child support calculator.

Having botched a save on a child support calculation from last year, I found myself on January 4 using the new child support calculator.

I noticed first how there is now only one calculator (no more downloadable one - which had been the only doing the parenting time credit correctly).

Secondly, I noticed that is very much geared towards the DIY crowd - lots of disclaimers and warnings and buttons to click showing that the person understands the disclaimers and warnings.

Third, the interface changed - and may even be improved. It starts with asking the child's first name and date of birth. So far so good but I put the date in as yy instead of yyyy. Somehow I started back at the disclaimer and warnings page. Great.

Then I get to this page: Step One: Add Child(ren) Information. Lots of instructions here but having only one child and that one not being in post-secondary education, I moved on.

What once was step one (if my memory serves - it often does not any more) is now second - Step Two: Weekly Gross Income of Both Parents. Five paragraphs of instructions here - including one of one sentence. Not sure how understandable it will be to all non-lawyers (I can see some people I know getting stumped by "imputed income").

Somehow I get kicked back to the start page. I get thinking you cannot pause or it kicks you back. Which is an excuse not to answer the wife's telephone calls again.

Then I get the pages with adjustments - prior born children, other support orders, work-related child care expenses, health insurance, overnight parenting time. The insurance pages are new and there is also a page asking for out-of-state child support/maintenance orders.

Then I am done with the calculations. I see a button to save and I click. Back to the beginning - the pause was as long as it took me to write the above paragraph. "Once more into the fray, dear friends, once more into the fray."

Whiz through it again. Not that I am getting that used to it but what I entered is still there mostly. The adjustment pages are like check boxes and not too hard to get them done.

Ah, the thing does not create a form automatically and after saving the program takes me to a page to put in the case information. If you used the old calculators this is exactly backwards to the old process. Which leaves me with the idea that its creator meant to give up the child support number first for the non-lawyers doing their calculations. Not a bad idea, really.

Tip - when it says save pay attention to the next page. It gives a number for the operation. That way if you were to leave the computer for a while, you got a shortcut through all the questions. No place to input that identification number on the form, so I copied it and went back to - maybe - getting through this thing. (Another tip - when you have all the form information inputted do not leave - regardless of how much you have ingested of liquids - until you have clicked the submit button.

The next screen gives you links to the child support worksheet and health insurance worksheet. Make sure you got Adobe Reader or an analogous application. I do not recall a warning that this software was needed but I did go through some of the screens quickly.

All done, the PDF's downloaded to the hard drive soon to be e-mailed to the client.

Thoughts so far - better than the old online version except for this time limit thing. Wondering if it will do this one has not filled in the page's blank fields before pausing. See that as a problem for anyone who does not read the instructions quickly. Otherwise, I think used once teaches one all needed to know.

(By the way, for the technically inclined I use Firefox 3.5.5 to access the calculator. No problems noted. I assume that the calculator is compatible with Internet Explorer).

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