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College Expenses and Child Support – How the two relate

College Expenses and Child Support – How the two relate

In Indiana, children of parents who are divorced, or were never married are entitled to child support from both parents according to each parent’s respective income, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and other factors.1, 2 Child support is an obligation of both parents to the child until the child reaches the age of nineteen (19).3 Generally, the noncustodial parent pays child support payments to the custodial parent for his or her share of the child’s living and support expenses.

In addition to child support, Indiana law provides that parents may be ordered to share in the college expenses for the child.4 The Indiana courts have determined that a child support obligation and educational support for college are two separate and distinct orders. However, since the average child graduates high school around age 17 or 18, it is foreseeable that he or she would enroll in college, thereby triggering educational expenses at the same time that child support is still obligatory. Thus, a parent may face paying both child support and educational support at the same time.

When an educational support order is entered, the child support order must be reduced to ensure that support expenses are not duplicated (i.e. a parent that pays for room and board for a college dormitory via an educational support order should not also have to pay for the time the child is living in a dorm – and already paid – via a child support order).5 Therefore when educational support is ordered, child support should be adjusted to account for the time the child is living at home with the custodial parent versus the time the child is living away from home at school.

Additionally, educational support for college is not an automatic right for a child, unlike child support. Therefore, Indiana courts have held that “there is no absolute duty on a parent to send his or her child to college and that this must ordinarily be earned by the child himself.”6 Additionally, when a child has chosen to completely refuse a relationship with a parent, once an adult (18 years of age), that parent may raise the defense of “repudiation,” which, if proven would provide that the parent whom the child refuses a relationship is not obliged to pay for educational support expenses (he or she will still be required to pay child support).7, 8

In a recent Court of Appeals case, Lovold v. Ellis, the court addressed the question of if the child has effectively chosen to refuse a relationship with the parent, and thus, the parent is not obligated to pay educational support for college, may the parent’s child support obligation still be offset as if an educational support order were in place? Meaning, should child support be reduced to account for the time the child is living away from the custodial parent’s home while at college?

The Court of Appeals held that the noncustodial parent is entitled to an adjustment to child support even if he or she is not obligated to pay for college expenses due to the child’s refusal to have a relationship with that parent. The Court of Appeals reasoned that by applying the same logic where an educational support order is entered and child support order is in place, the living expenses of the child should not be duplicated. Thereby, the Court reasoned that if the noncustodial parent did not get an offset on his or her child support obligation for the time the child was living away from the custodial parent’s home, essentially, that would make the theory under which the parent is not obligated to pay college expenses moot. Meaning, if child support is not adjusted, then the parent will still end up paying the living expenses of the child while the child is not living at home, but away at college.

We hope that this blog post has been helpful in understanding the difference between a child support obligation and an educational expenses order, and how the two interact and interrelate. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Lori Schmeltzer.

  1. I.C. 31-16-6-1.
  2. Indiana Child Support Guidelines.
  3. I.C. 31-16-6-6.
  4. I.C. 31-16-6-2(a)(1).
  5. I.C. 31-16-6-2-(b)(1).
  6. McKay v. McKay, 644 N.E.2d 164, 167 (Ind.Ct.App.1994).
  7. McKay v. McKay, 644 N.E.2d 164, 167 (Ind.Ct.App.1994).
  8. Norris v. Pethe, 833 N.E.2d 1024, 1033 (Ind.Ct.App.2005).

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Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counsel. Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Dixon & Moseley, P.C.

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