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What child support resources are available to parents in Indiana? One advocate shares insights

A child in a pink shirt walks holding two adult's hands
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How do Hoosiers get help with child support problems and questions? Many members of our audience were curious.

How do Hoosiers get help with child support problems and questions? Many members of our audience were curious.

Tracy Pappas is the managing attorney of the Indianapolis office at Indiana Legal Services.

For most problems that involve modifying or enforcing a child support order, Pappas recommends a child support prosecutor.

“They can help enforce,” she said. “They can help modify. There's a lot of things that they can do. People can get a private attorney to work on child support issues, but then they're going to pay that private attorney. So, I always suggest trying the child support prosecutor first. They don't represent either party; they're there to represent the interests of children, to be supported.”

Some members of our audience expressed concerns about one party lying about their income or using incorrect tax information to reduce child support payments. Pappas said contacting the child support prosecutor’s office in the county where the support order is located can help address these concerns.

“[The offices have] got some tools at their disposal and just going into court you can ask for tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements,” she said. “If a court sees a bank account that has a lot of money in it or a lot of the expenditures, they're going to question how someone's only earning $200 a week.”

Other Hoosiers were curious about the oversight of these payments being used on things such as drugs and alcohol. There is currently no statute in Indiana that governs exactly what child support is to be spent on.

Pappas said there is a statute in Indiana that “allows for an accounting of the child support” in the case that child support money is being used in a way that does not allow a child’s needs to be met. But, she said that this accounting is “very rare.”

READ MORE: Indiana makes changes to its child support system for the first time in more than three decades

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She said in most cases, child support is not required to go directly to the child.

“They think when they pay child support that their child should see that money or something should be purchased for their child,” Pappas said. “But child support also goes to rent, utilities, you know, all the things necessary to care for a child.”

She said if the non-custodial parent believes child support money is going toward things such as drugs and alcohol, it may be more of a custody issue rather than an issue with child support.

Pappas said prosecutors can help with issues such as parents who may lie about their income to pay less child support, or child support being spent on drugs and alcohol, instead of the child.

She said Indiana Legal Services sees several other common issues with child support. Pappas urges parents who want to change child support cases to go to court to do so, otherwise the changes will not count.

“If a support order is not modified by the court, it's not officially modified,” she said. “So if parents think they have an agreement to modify support, they should get that to the court.”

Pappas also said that child support ends once a child turns 19. However, she said if there are multiple children on the same support order and the oldest one turns 19, the support order will still require the same payments and will not automatically change until it is modified in court.

Pappas said Hoosiers can hire private attorneys, but recommends they try child support prosecutors first, as they can be available to modify or enforce child support orders without a fee.

“People, if they want to get the child support assistance from the IV-D office, they can call their local office or there is an online applicationfor that.

For general information, she said Hoosiers can call the statewide “KidsLine.”

“They can answer questions basically about payments that are being made. If someone's not getting the money they think is being paid, they can check with the KidsLine,” she said. “But, if support is not being paid or not being paid at the appropriate amount, the best place really is the IV-D child support prosecutor's office.

The statewide KidsLine can be reached at 800-840-8757.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.

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