Title IV-D Child Support Program
Purpose & Function of the Title IV-D Program
The Title IV-D Child Support Program is a federally-funded agency that operates in every Indiana county and in every state in the nation. In Tippecanoe County, the Title IV-D Program is administered by the Office of the Prosecutor through a contract with the Indiana Child Support Bureau. Prosecutor Pat Harrington is in charge of the program, and Deputy Prosecutor Cynthia Cook is the supervisor.
The Title IV-D Program has 2 primary purposes:
- To help ensure that children receive adequate financial support from the non-custodial parents.
- To help the government receive reimbursement from non-custodial parents for TANF benefits paid to their children.
The Title IV-D Program has 4 functions.
- Assists in the establishment of paternity for children born out of wedlock
- Assists in the establishment and modification of orders for child support and medical support
- Enforces order for child support and medical support
- Locates absent parents
Eligibility for the Program
The Title IV-D Program provides services upon request to any person who has legal custody of a child and to any man who believes he is the father of a child born out of wedlock. People who wish to use the services of the Title IV-D Program must apply for them. Custodial persons who receive TANF or Medicaid assistance are required to apply to, and cooperate with, the Title IV-D Program. There are no fees for the Title IV-D services.
One of our intake workers will help determine whether paternity and/or support has already been established, whether support needs to be modified or enforced, and whether the other parent needs to be located. The applicant will be asked to provide proof of their identity along with birth certificates and social security cards for the child(ren). Other information may be requested, depending on the case.
If the non-custodial parent lives outside of Indiana, we will work with the Title IV-D Program in the state and county in which the non-custodial parent lives. The custodial parent and child will not need to travel to the non-custodial parent's state to obtain court orders for paternity and support.
If paternity has not been established, and the other parent requests a genetic test, our office will make arrangements to collect DNA samples from both parents and the child(ren). We collect these samples at our office by taking cheek swabs. Then we send the samples to a certified genetics laboratory for analysis.
It costs $68.25 to obtain a DNA test through our office, and in many cases we can make payment arrangements. However, we cannot provide DNA testing services in any cases where paternity has already been established, unless a Court first sets aside the paternity establishment according to Indiana law. We also do not provide DNA testing services to anyone who applies to the Title IV-D Program solely for that purpose.
Agreements for Paternity and Support
Once we have located the other parent, we will file a petition and invite both parents to attend a conference at our office. If both parents choose to come to the conference, our staff will spend about an hour explaining how child support is determined. We will calculate what child support should be in that case, based upon both parents' earning capacity and other factors. If the parents agree to this amount, we will draw up an agreement and submit it to the Court for approval. Many people choose to handle their child support matters this way because it avoids having to go to Court.
If the parents don't attend the conference at our office, or can't agree on paternity and child support, the Court sets a date for a hearing, and all parties are notified. It usually takes 3 months or longer to get a hearing with the Court.
If a party is served with notice of the date and time of a hearing and fails to appear as ordered, the Court may issue a writ for the arrest of that person. The Court may also issue an order for paternity and support without that person being present.
Enforcement of Support
Once an order for the support of a child has been established, we will work to ensure that the non-custodial party pays the support as ordered. We can enforce support orders by withholdings from income, liens on property, suspension of licenses, interception of tax refunds, credit bureau reporting, and court action.
The last resort is filing a petition for contempt against the non-custodial parent. We don't take this step until the non-custodial parent is at least 4 weeks behind in support. Even then, we may not take this step if we think that other, less coercive means will work. At a contempt hearing, the Court can sanction the delinquent non-custodial parent in a variety of ways, including incarceration for up to 180 days. However, the Court will usually try other options to get the non-custodial parent to pay support before resorting to incarceration.
Emancipation of the Child
Once a non-custodial parent is ordered to pay support, that order remains in place until the child is emancipated, unless the court terminates a support order earlier. The age of emancipation in Indiana is 19; however, children may be emancipated earlier under certain circumstances. A child who marries or enters active duty with the armed forces is automatically emancipated. A child who is at least 18 years old and meets certain other criteria may be emancipated, but only after a court has held a hearing and determined that the legal requirements of emancipation have been met. In certain cases, a court may order a support obligation to remain in place after the child's 19th birthday; e.g., if the child is mentally or physically disabled, educational expenses are completely separate from child support and are not enforceable by the Title IV-D office.
Modification of Support
Upon request, our office will also review a child support order to see whether the amount of support order is consistent with the Indiana Child Support Guidelines. A change in financial or other circumstances in either parents' households may trigger the need to increase or decrease the original child support order.