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.
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