INDIANAPOLIS – Parents paying child support in Indiana are set to save two years’ worth of payments under a new law lowering the emancipation age for children to 19 instead of 21.
It is just one of hundreds of laws taking effect today from the 2012 legislative session ranging in topics as varied as public intoxication, motorcycle sales, hunting and nepotism.
The child support bill is one of the more significant public policy changes going into effect and likely will bring some confusion with it.
Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, offered Senate Bill 18 after it came up in a summer study committee about child support issues. He said Indiana is one of only two states and Washington, D.C., to have 21 as the emancipation age. This means parents owing child support stop paying at that age.
Steele said the vast majority of the other states use 18 as the emancipation age with a few at 19. He said Indiana lawmakers settled on 19 to cover cases in which a child might have been held back in school and would still be in high school when turning 18.
There was nothing magical about 21, he said.
There have been conflicting reports on whether the law will affect custody support orders issued before July 1, but Steele said it is retroactive.
That means if someone is paying support now for a child he or she can stop at the age of 19, he said.
There is a provision still requiring payment of educational expenses for children older than 19, which Steele said is defined in previous court precedent as the equivalent of room, board, tuition, books and lab fees at a four-year state-supported college or university.
And the Indiana Court of Appeals has already ruled that parents can’t seek reimbursement of support previously paid for a child between the ages of 19 and 21.
Local family law attorney Mark Thoma said even though the law might help a few of his clients, it is an unnecessary change in law.
He said current law already allows a parent to petition to emancipate the child if he or she is 18, not in school for several months and capable of supporting themselves. Thoma believes there are more 19-year-old seniors than people think and it’s odd to have a person stop paying support when the child is still in school.
It’s just nuts, he said. One problem with the law is many people won’t know it and will just keep paying until 21. And Mom’s not going to tell them they have to stop.
Thoma also said it’s not as simple as just stopping payments at age 19 – especially if the parent is paying one lump sum for multiple children. They would then have to go back to court and recalculate the proper child support amount for the remaining child.
And businesses that are ordered to withhold child support from a paycheck won’t stop without a court order.
Sunday cycle sales
Another slightly contentious change that takes effect today will allow dealers to sell motorcycles on Sundays. Right now Indiana has a blue law prohibiting the sale of most motor vehicles on Sunday.
Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, said he offered Senate Bill 192 when approached by a constituent who owns four motorcycle dealerships around the state.
He said it makes no sense that the dealership could be open on Sunday and sell all the parts to a motorcycle – but not the motorcycle itself.
It’s about economic development and commerce, Charbonneau said. At an average price of $15,000 if we sell one on Sunday that’s $1,000 in sales tax in the state coffers.
He isn’t interested, though, in pushing the change to all vehicles.
Not everyone likes the new law.
Don Ehlerding, who owns Ehlerding Motorsports and River City Harley-Davidson on Indiana 930 between Fort Wayne and New Haven, opposes the bill. He said both his shops are closed on Sunday while a small retail store in Glenbrook Square is open.
Ehlerding said Sunday sales won’t cover the additional overhead because he thinks the same sales will spread over seven days instead of six.
I thought the blue law, while being ancient, made sense, he said. I don’t think it’s necessary to be open. I have never had a customer ask about Sunday.
Ehlerding fears dealerships will bring in subpar employees on the weekend to sell motorcycles that might not be the best for a customer. He is not going to change his business days or hours while he monitors to see whether the change affects his sales.
Best of the rest
Here are a few other interesting new laws to look for:
Legislators refined Indiana’s public intoxication law so that it’s harder for police to arrest and charge someone. Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, offered Senate Bill 97 after seeing friends and clients get arrested for simply walking home after drinking too much or being in a car with a designated driver that is pulled over by police.
He said residents shouldn’t be punished for trying to be responsible and not drive. The new law limits public intoxication arrests to people putting their life or someone else’s in danger, or if they are causing a public disturbance.
I think the law now reflects more what we want in society, he said.
Nepotism limits in local government also take effect via House Bill 1005, which was written by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City. This generally means local officials can’t hire a relative for a job under their direct supervision. There are many exemptions, including volunteer firefighters; a jail matron can be the sheriff’s wife; township trustees can pay one family member not more than $5,000 if the office is in their own home; and those already in the position before July 1 are grandfathered. Local officials can pass stronger nepotism laws if they choose.
The annual update bill for the Department of Natural Resources contained a few curious hunting changes. For instance, it’s now legal to catch certain fish using a crossbow. And state or local officials conducting controlled hunts can allow participants to use gun silencers to dampen the sound.
House Bill 1279, authored by Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, also creates a 10-year disabled veterans license to hunt and fish. It doesn’t save any money but doesn’t have to be renewed every year.