Betancourt v. Betancourt – Indiana Child Support Arrears Dispute

Enforcement of child support orders are essential to ensuring the needs of Indiana’s youth are met. Parents seeking to enforce or modify these orders should seek legal counsel.

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In some cases, when parents do not pay, the court can order interest on the arrears, to account for the time single parents had to struggle to make ends meet without support.

On the other hand, sometimes economic circumstances of the non-custodial parent change and they are no longer able to continue paying support at the same level. Even so, they cannot simply stop paying. They must petition the court for a modification of child support payments, or else risk being charged interest and other fines and penalties.

The Indiana Supreme Court recently considered the case of alleged child support arrears in Betancourt v. Betancourt. Here, mother appealed a lower court order finding her ex-husband was not behind on his child support payments and thus in contempt of court.

Court records indicated the pair married in 1998, had a child later that year and divorced in 2003. Pursuant to the divorce agreement, mother was granted physical custody and father was ordered to pay $100 a week in support, plus $20 a week in arrears from a temporary support order when they first split up.

Father was in a motorcycle accident in 2006 and the following year started to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments. Soon after, the mother began to receive SSDI payments via the father’s checks on behalf of the child. These payments totaled $210 a week. However, the father only sporadically paid toward his $20-a-week arrears.

At a hearing in 2009, mother asserted father was $10,200 in arrears in total support. The court agreed and imposed an 8 percent interest rate, ordering him to pay $40 weekly, plus his income tax returns every year until the balance was paid off. Father was also found in contempt of court. His parenting time was restricted for four months and he was ordered not to drink alcohol for 24 hours prior to weekly engagement (with mother allowed to require father to take a breathalyzer at any time). He was also ordered to pay half of all medical and daycare expenses not covered by insurance.

At the time, the court stated the SSDI support would satisfy the father’s full obligation for future support.

Then, in 2014, child was dropped off for scheduled parenting time but father refused to return the child to the mother. Mother filed an emergency petition and father was found in contempt.

Despite the circumstances, both parties agreed to transfer primary physical custody to father several months later. Father began to receive SSD payments on behalf of child.

The following year, at another hearing,  it was determined father was nearly $22,000 in arrears for child support, uninsured medical expenses and interest.

However, the trial court declined to find in favor of mother because the amount she received from SSDI was nearly double father’s required weekly payments. For the length of time she received these payments, the arrears was satisfied, and mother’s support was set at $80 weekly.

The appeals court affirmed.

Matters of child support can be contentious and complex, and it’s important to hire an experienced family law attorney who you know will fight for you.

Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce and child custody matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:

Betancourt v. Betancourt, Feb. 18, 2016, Indiana Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:

Carr v. Carr – Survivor Benefit is Marital Asset, Indiana Appeals Court Rules, Feb. 20, 2016, Hammond Child Support Lawyer Blog