Child Support to End At Age 19!!
A near universal we observe is that child support is an issue that is contentious: the payor argues it is not enough to take care of the child and the payee too much support for him/her to live a decent lifestyle. And child support is applicable to almost every paternity and divorce action in which children are involved (Indiana Child Support Rule 2 (Presumption)).
Precisely, the Indiana Child Support Rules and Guidelines, with foundational support in Indiana (and federal) statutes, help parties determine how much to pay, when to pay, and when to stop paying. A recent change to Indiana Code § 31-14-11-18 (Current Indiana Code § 31-14-11-18 Termination of Child Support (The duty to support a child under this article ceases when the child becomes twenty-one (21) years of age unless….)) and Indiana Code § 31-16-6-6 (Current Indiana Code § 31-16-6-6 Termination as modification of child support: emancipation of a child (The duty to support a child under this article ceases when the child becomes twenty-one (21) years of age unless…)) will change the time frame support payments are required (potentially end) and the timing of the request for higher education expenses (This Statute has been passed by the General Assembly in the 117th Session, and is set to become effective July 1, 2012). This statutory modification has not yet been signed into law by the Governor. It is believed by this author that this will be enacted into law, as Indiana was one of only three states to terminate support at the age of 21.
The new/updated version of IC 31-14-11-18 (Paternity) will go into effect July 1, 2012, if signed into law. Before the pending change, child support was to be paid until the child(ren) reached the age of 21, unless the child was emancipated or incapacitated. After July 1, 2012, child support will cease when the child reaches age19, not including educational expenses (a component of child support).
Thus, the parent (on behalf of the child) must petition before reaching age 19 for educational expenses to be included/continued. If the child is not in school or does not petition for educational expenses, child support will end, and the paying parent will no longer be obligated to financially support the child through child support.
This change is important for both parents and children. It requires parents to be aware that the support rules have changed and draft agreements regarding child support accordingly. It also relieves some burden of paying parents to continue to support children over the age of 19.
For children, it requires that they be aware of their potential educational expenses when they reach their late teens. If a child takes two years off in between high school and college, it could mean losing out on any help/support for educational expenses from a parent.
Public policy will likely provide relief for disabled children under the umbrella of disability.
As with any statute, there are exceptions and the rule allows any current order thru June of 2012 to request educational expenses until the child turns 21. Any support obligation order issued after July 1, 2012 will need to request educational expenses before the child turns 19.
Changes are also applicable to IC 31-16-6-6 (Dissolution), with even more specifics as to emancipation. Child support still ends when the child reaches 19, but the status of emancipation is more clearly defined. Emancipation will be found if the child is on active duty in the United States Armed Service, has married, or is not under the control of their parent or an individual or agency approved by the Court.
Further, under IC 31-16-6-6, if a child is at least 18 and has not attended a secondary school or post-secondary educational institution for the prior 4 months, is not enrolled in same, and is or is capable of supporting him/herself through employment, child support may terminate.
Being aware of the status of the law allows parties to understand their future obligations and if necessary, draft or modify agreements with the best interests of the children in mind. By parties understanding that the child support obligation will end 2 years earlier (apart from educational expenses), it allows planning ahead and being armed with the knowledge of how children will be cared for or care for themselves.
These statutes do not act in isolation of other statutes and case law regarding the child support obligation. If there is more than one child that is the subject of a child support obligation, the child support does not automatically terminate at the child’s 19th birthday, and it is the best practice to file a modification of the support obligation on or before the child’s birthday to modify the remaining child support obligation.
As in most aspects of life, it’s always best to be informed and have a plan. Be aware of your child’s educational aspirations and plan accordingly if educational expenses will be necessary beyond age 19. In addition, such consideration may allow contractual provisions to be entered into to address payment of support beyond when it would normally end, although public policy prevents parents from contracting away a child’s right to support.
In addition, litigants and attorneys should be mindful that as with any new statute, there will be application differences until the Indiana appellate courts short out ambiguities and other normal issues that come along with certain domestic cases. This is because like life, domestic litigation does not always occur in a linear and organized way; but instead is usually messy and sometimes the best written statutes do not take into account every permutation of facts that might call for a judicial clarification by Indiana’s appellate courts.
Nevertheless, in domestic and other cases, the Indiana appellate courts are ready for the task at hand to bring a uniform and fair application of the law. The Indiana Court of Appeals is one of the most efficient intermediate appellate courts in the United States and the Indiana Supreme Court’s decisions are recognized as leading authoritative decisions on common legal issues that arise between states.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices law throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by Julie Dixon. If you are seeking assistance with child support termination or modifications, the attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. might be a good fit for your representation.