Support Modifications Typically Inappropriate without Differing at Least 20% from the Prior Order

Family Law Case Review

Case: Danielle Maple v. Travis Maple
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Court of Appeals underscores the Indiana Supreme Court’s MacLafferty holding that, when entertaining a child support modification, it will very seldom be appropriate to modify support if the new support amount is not more than 20% different than the previously-ordered support amount.

HELD: When a trial court is establishing a child support order that includes a credit for “prior born” children, the trial court is required to use a prevailing child support worksheet from that prior born child’s case, and the amount of the credit for prior born children may not be re-litigated.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father married, had two children, and divorced in 2009. Mother also had one child from a prior relationship, for whom a child support order had been issued in 2005 and never modified. That 2005 worksheet established Mother’s legal duty of support for her prior-born child at $121/wk.

In the instant case, Father endeavored to modify child support for a variety of reasons, including changes of income and parenting time. However, in the course of seeking this modification, Father sought to reduce Mother’s credit for her legal duty to support a prior born child down to $66/wk. The trial court agreed and, recalculating child support, issued a new child support order which differed by only 16% from the prior order. Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the MacLafferty holding, which provides that the circumstances are rare in which child support should be modified without differing at least 20% from the prior order. The Court of Appeals concluded that no such extraordinary circumstances existed in this case, and the trial court’s modification of support was inappropriate.

Further, the Court of Appeals assigned error to the trial court’s recalculation of the amount of Mother’s credit for her legal duty to support her prior-born child. In effect, the Court concluded that a trial court calculating child support is bound to the child support worksheet of the other court that established support for the prior-born child, and the amount of that credit may not be re-litigated in the current court.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Danielle Maple v. Travis Maple

 

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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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