In 1975, Congress enacted legislation under the Social Security Act (Title IV-D) to require the states to establish programs to establish paternity and establish and collect child support orders for both AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and non-AFDC cases. The State of Indiana contracts with local county prosecutor’s offices to provide these services. In addition to paternity duties and establishing and enforcing child support, this office also establishes orders for health insurance where appropriate and regularly deals with other issues related to child support such as modification of support, emancipation questions, locating absent parents, review and adjustment of support orders, support in foster care cases, collection of medical reimbursement for parents and criminal felony nonsupport cases.
Establishment and Enforcement Tools
Delinquent child support may be enforced either through civil administrative remedies, civil judicial remedies or, last but not least, criminal charges for Nonsupport of a Dependent Child.
Civil Administrative Actions
Paternity can be established through a Paternity Affidavit. Once certain time periods have passed, the affidavit has the same effect as a judicial finding of paternity and can be enforced as such. In a child support action, pursuant to Indiana law, the Court is required to issue an immediate Income Withholding Order to collect child support. Therefore, every case must have an Income Withholding Order to take the support out of the person’s pay, unless the Court makes certain findings of fact, including a finding that it is in the best interest of the child for income withholding not to occur. Almost all cases have income withholding and once child support has been established, child support caseworkers directly issue Income Withholding Orders to the employer of a payor, without going through the Court System. Through the Indiana State Child Support Computer Network, the child support caseworkers automatically implement various enforcement tools such as interception of tax refunds, interception of lottery winnings, unemployment withholding, and denial of passport applications, implementation of automobile liens and reporting of delinquencies to the credit bureau.
Paternity can also be established by the filing of a paternity action in Court. The parties are given the chance to have a DNA test and if paternity is established, the Court may order the payment of reimbursement for Past Public Assistance to the State of Indiana, establish a current child support order that is made retroactive to the date of the filing of the Petition for Paternity, establish a health insurance order and deal with such issues as custody, visitation, name change, etc. The State of Indiana is, of course, only involved in those issues related to child support.
In situations where paternity is not an issue, then child support may be established through the filing of a Petition for Support. If a child support order has already been issued, a Petition to Modify Support may be filed in order to change said support. In Indiana, support continues until the child reaches the age of 21 years. Prior to that time, the support can only be changed by court order upon application of either party.
Child Support may be enforced through the judicial remedy of Contempt of Court. If a delinquent payor is found to be in contempt for failure to pay support, the Court may order the person to serve time in the Monroe County Jail, require the person to do Road Crew, or use any other sanctions within the Court’s powers. In addition, if the delinquency meets certain criteria, the Court must suspend the driver’s license of the person. However, the license suspension may be placed on hold on condition that the person complies with the child support order in the future.
Criminal Nonsupport of a Dependent Child
According to Indiana Code 35-46-1-5, it is a Class D Felony if a person fails to support a dependent child. The crime is elevated to a Class C felony if the support delinquency is over $15,000. The child support division files and prosecutes cases of Nonsupport of a Dependent Child on a regular basis. The sentence in such cases depends on the facts of that particular case; however, defendants are normally placed on probation under detailed terms, including, of course, the requirement that they pay current support as well as an amount toward the support arrearage. If a Defendant fails to abide by the terms of probation, that defendant may serve time in the Monroe County Jail or the Indiana Department of Corrections.
Application for Services
TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) recipients do not need to file an application since part of the TANF procedure is an assignment of support rights to the State of Indiana. TANF cases are opened automatically through an interface with the Office of Family and Children and persons involved will be contacted. Recipients of Child Medicaid or Hoosier Healthwise may be referred if they so desire at the time of application for those benefits. Other persons wishing to use the child support services must fill out an application.