One of the most adversarial family law cases involves a situation where one parent is not making their court-ordered child support payments on time or at all. In re Paternity of D.M.Y., an appeal from the Supreme Court of Indiana, dealt with the issue of child support arrearage.
In 1999, the trial court found father to be the biological father of two of mother's children. The court ordered that mother would have full physical custody and father would pay $146 per week in child support. In November of 2010, the court declared that father owed more than $21,000 in unpaid child support. Family law attorneys and judges refer to past due child support as “arrearage.”
The court ordered $15,000 of the money in father's bank account be transferred to mother. This money was given to mother three days after the court order.
Father filed a motion to determine his arrearage at this point. The Court held an evidentiary hearing in June of 2012. The court determined that the state had taken an additional amount totaling more than $7,000 from father's bank account and provided it to mother in January of that same year.
Mother filed a pleading in which she calculated the arrearage to be approximately $6,500. This amount did not take into account the $7,000 taken by the state. Over father's objections, the court agreed with mother's figures. Mother then moved to hold father in contempt of court when did not pay the additional amount. At this second hearing, the court determined that the original amount of $6,500 plus the money that he had not paid in child support after the prior hearing was the new arrearage, totaling approximately $13,000. This time father appealed, and the intermediary appellate court affirmed the trial court's findings.
On appeal to the state supreme court, the court looked at whether the trial judge had erred in reaching the new arrearage amount. The court noted that that there was no basis for the calculations given in the order and no reason provided to show that the money taken by the state and given to mother was not part of that calculation.
Mother had not given any alternative calculation in her appellate brief that would justify the figure at which the judge arrived. The court determined that father should be granted a credit by the court in the amount seized by the state, reversed the trial court's calculation of the arrearage, and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with their opinion.
Our Birmingham child support lawyers understand that calculating a child support arrearage can be a very complicated mater. Parties will try to spin the facts in a way that best serves their interests. An experienced attorney can work with his or her financial experts and forensic accountants, if necessary, to demonstrate to the court what the appropriate figure should be. It is important to carefully go through all financial records so that the judge can have an accurate and complete picture of any payments that have or have not been made, rather than relying on the unfounded assertions of one party to the action.
In re Paternity of D.M.Y., October 1, 2014, Indiana Supreme Court