Trial Court Erred When Child Support Calculation Deviated from ICSG

Case: James Bogner v. Teresa Bogner
Case Summary by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court erred when its child support calculation deviated from the Indiana Child Support Guidelines calculation without supporting circumstances to do so.

HELD: Trial court erred when it modified the claiming of the child for tax purposes without analyzing the financial ramifications of doing so.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father divorced, with one Child, in 2007. Father was ordered to pay child support of $162/wk, and the parents were to alternate claiming Child for tax purposes.

In 2009, by agreed entry, Father’s child support was reduced to $135/wk. Then, in 2011, Father moved closer to Mother and Child, enabling Father to informally increase his parenting time. This included parenting time before and after school that obviated the need to pay for child care.

In 2013, Father petitioned to modify support. The parties stipulated to all of the inputs of the support calculation – incomes, parenting time, etc. – which resulted in a joint child support worksheet that calculated support at $59/wk. Father argued in support of this modification, but Mother opposed it on the basis of valuable tax credits apparently enjoyed by Father, and potential uninsured medical expenses to be covered by Mother.

After the hearing, the trial court essentially agreed with Mother, concluding that $59/wk was too little to cover a reasonable share of Mother’s expenses for Child. The trial court set support at $105/wk, instead of the $59/wk indicated by the parties’ joint worksheet. The trial court also changed the tax exemption, from alternating years between the parents, to Mother being able to claim every year.  Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Father on the issue of weekly child support. The Court concluded that the trial court erroneously determined that the $59/wk shown on the joint child support worksheet would be the totality of Father’s financial contributions to raising Child. Doing so overlooks all of the expenses for Child that Father paid directly, including during Father’s fairly liberal parenting time.

On the issue of the tax exemption, the Court of Appeals referenced the Guidelines and related case law that a trial court should engage in a careful analysis before making a decision on awarding a dependency exemption. Here, since there was no evidence in the record concerning the financial implications of modifying when each parent could claim the exemption, it was error for the trial court to make a change.

The trial court’s order was reversed. On remand, the trial court was instructed to use a support amount of $59/wk per the worksheet. On the issue of the tax exemption, the trial court was instructed to engage in the analysis set forth in Child Supp. G. 9 concerning how the exemption should be allocated.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: James Bogner v. Teresa Bogner

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James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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