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Indiana Family Law Case Update: Parents’ regional cost of living disparities to be considered in child support calculations

| May 17, 2021 | Child Support

Shane Wierks v. Heather (Corey) Mazellan, et al. (May 14, 2021)

When calculating child support, Indiana courts should consider whether one of the parents lives in a location with an unusually different cost of living than Indiana, so held the Indiana Court of Appeals recently.

In Wierks v. Mazellan, Father lived and worked in New Jersey, while Mother lived with the parties’ child in Indiana. As part of a child support modification in Indiana, Father asked the trial court to give consideration to the fact that New Jersey had a much higher cost of living than Indiana, which would have the effect of making Father’s income level seem greater than its actual purchasing power. Father presented evidence that his cost of living in New Jersey was about 20% higher than Indiana, and Father requested a deviation in the child support calculation to reflect that. The trial court rejected the argument, stating that the evidence was speculative, and that Father’s circumstances reflected a choice made by Father to live in New Jersey.

The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed, pointing out that New Jersey’s higher cost of living than Indiana’s was uncontroverted, and that Father was a lifelong resident of New Jersey. Relying on the Guidelines’ provisions that trial courts should not adhere to its formulas blindly, and that each unique situation considered carefully, the Court of Appeals held that it was clearly erroneous to deny a cost of living adjustment here.

The issue was remanded for the trial court to determine and apply an appropriate adjustment.

The Indiana Family Law Case Update is a free service provided by Michael Kohlhaas and James Reed of Cross Glazier Reed Burroughs, PC. Case summaries, with a link to the full case, are regularly provided to the service’s nearly 300 subscribers: attorneys, judges, court staff, and other professionals across Indiana, and beyond. If you wish to receive these updates via email, please send your request to [email protected].

James Reed and Michael Kohlhaas 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. Cross Glazier Reed Burroughs, PC is the premiere boutique family law firm in the state of Indiana.