Thursday, January 8, 2009

Legislative Recommendation: Automatic Emancipation at 21; Child Support Account

Previously I have addressed changes that should be made in Indiana's family law. Today, I would like to focus on a couple in particular.

Last week, I was going through security in one of the government buildings. When a guard found out I was an attorney he asked me if I did family law. I told him I did though I was not very fond of it. He proceeded to tell me how he was paying child support for his two children, one of which was now 25 years old, married and living in Florida, and gainfully employed. It was a story I have heard all too many times. Even though the "child" passes Indiana's emancipation age of 21 (47 of 50 states use 18 as the emancipation age), the child support orders continue. It is up to the non-custodial parent, who is usually the father, to hire an attorney to go to court to point out that the "child" is past 21 and should have been emancipated by the courts.

The birth date of a child is in every child support court file. Rather than the burden being on the non-custodial child to hire an attorney to file a motion for the court to recognize that the child is 21 per the information in the court's files, the emancipation of the child should be automatic by the court, upon notification to the custodial parent. The burden should be on the custodial parent to prove that the child is disabled or otherwise eligible for support beyond 21.

My additional recommendation is that child support paid by a non-custodial parent should be paid into a separate account which the custodial parent uses to pay bills and for expenses associated with the child. Via modern technology, the non-custodial parent would have the right to go on-line and review money going into and out of the account. This would give the non-custodial parent some peace of mind that the expenditures from the child support payments are actually benefiting the child rather than the money being spent spent frivolously by the custodial parent on things unrelated to the child. This would make an enormous difference in encouraging non-custodial parents to pay support.

Just a couple thoughts this Thursday morning.

The Indianapolis Star Beats A Dead(beat) Horse - My Ten Ideas on Reforming Our Divorce & Child Support Laws (10/20/2008)


Diana Vice said...

I think everyone has a story. These ideas should become legislative priorities. Can you find a sponsor?

Paul K. Ogden said...

No. There isn't much of a poliitcal lobby for non-custodial parents. Fortunately I have never been in the situation of having to pay child support or being divorced for that matter. My views come from seeing what happens in court to people.

I just think things need to be more balanced between custodial and non-custodial parents. Indiana is only 1 of 3 states in the country that has 21 year old emancipation and only 1 of 3 states in the country where divorced parents can be forced to pay for their children's college. Heck in Indiana you can be forced to pay college even beyond 21.

We are a very pro-custodial parent state. There just needs to be more balance.

Diana Vice said...

I have a friend who is being forced to pay child support for an adult "child" who is in college in Michigan. The ex-spouse took the child when she was two years old and moved to Michigan to prevent the father from having a relationship with his daughter. She filed for divorce in Indiana right before she left because she knew she could get child support until the adult "child" was 21. Parents who remain married are not required to pay college expenses for their children. The system is flawed and it's about time that someone addresses the problems that currently exist. In my friend's case, the "child" received a full ride scholarship to college in Michigan and no longer lives with her mother. She has no need for the father to pay college expenses; however, he's still forced to send a check each week. The mother, who actually makes more than the father, spends it on herself. It's her "play money". It's outrageous, and I'm sure there are many more stories like this one.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I hear those stories all the time. This is an issue where it's hard to have balance because all the political clout is on one-side...against the "deadbeat dads."
There's another side though and you stated an example of it well.

Leslie Sourwine said...

Suspending the license of a non-custodial parent or putting them in jail just defeats the purpose of getting child support. When you see “dead beat dad” goes to jail or “dead beat dad” loses his license in a news article you don’t always see the whole story. Sad but true often times the court don’t give a hoot what the circumstances are and will persecute the parent who is unable to meet his/her child support obligations. I like your idea of holding the custodial parent accountable for how the support money is spent. Too often the money goes for expenditures not necessarily to the child. I’m not sure I agree on your idea of connecting the payment of child support with the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent. If I understand what you are saying the non-custodial parent if they were laid off, unemployment benefits exhausted without a job in sight under the conditions you stated that parent would lose visitation. I would rather see the custodial parent who is using his/her child as a “weapon” to punish the non-custodial parent forfeit custody to the non-custodial parent. Because of today’s moral standards I’m not sure your idea on making it harder to get married would be effective for the simple reason so many young people simply live together. I think we will see the divorce rate go down, not because there are less divorces but because there will be less marriages. I do think there needs to be some adjustments in the law because many of those so called “dead beat dads” are unable to live after the custodial parent is awarded child support. Maybe all couples who plan to marry or to live together need to have to draw up an agreement pertaining to child support, child custody and visitation should the relationship fail.


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

I found your blog when looking for some help on emancipation. My ex and I filed our own agreement and had it filed in open court in Indiana. The filed agreement has no end date and no other info other than how much I pay, when I pay and that I am responsible for medical. I have paid support directly to the mother for several years now. Our son is now 21.

My question is this. Since the court is no longer involved in the support payments, do I (the non custodial father) still have to file for emancipation?