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What You Need to Know About Child Support, College Expenses, and Extraordinary Educational Costs

What You Need to Know About Child Support, College Expenses, and Extraordinary Educational Costs

In an important case decided today by the Indiana Court of Appeals,1 it carefully delineated for attorneys and litigants when and what are the differences between child support and educational expenses and extraordinary educational expenses.  Critically, it drew the line where expenses are not related educational expenses.

Generally, divorced parents or those with children born outside of marriage believe their financial duties to children end when they turn 18; but this is not the case if the child has the ability for and wishes to go to college.  This blog addresses the key differences between child support and college expenses so parents understand their obligations and can make prudent financial decisions.

The biggest distinction is to note is a child support order, for weekly child support, and an education expense order is different.  A child may be emancipated by age, but still, a parent may be ordered to pay for the child’s education for a college degree (but not a graduate degree, such as dental school).

What is included in a college educational expense are set for in the Indiana Child Support Guidelines?  They include tuition, books, lab fees, course related supplies and student activity fees.  Room and board may also be included when the child does not live with a parent.  Also, a post-secondary educational order may include mental, dental, and optical insurance costs, as well as other health care costs, where the court finds the costs appropriate.

A college expense fee award ordered against a parent may include extraordinary educational expenses as well.  However, these are less common. They may include transportation, car insurance, clothing, entertainment and incidental expenses.  This may leave many readers to wonder if there are limits to college and extraordinary educational expenses.

There are.  Expenses that are not connected in fact and evidence (if disputed at a hearing) with the college are not and cannot be post-secondary expenses or extraordinary educational expenses.

In the case decided today on appeal, the Mother requested reimbursement from Father at hearing for their daughter’s competitive weight lifting. However, this was an activity she did outside of college, not as a student and without competing on a college team. Thus, it was a non-educational expense that Father was not required to reimburse as a post-secondary expense or extraordinary educational expense. The Court of Appeals reversed Father’s ordered contribution.

Ultimately, college expenses can be quite broad but do have limits.  It is important to understand this to budget for college expenses ordered for a student as well as analyze with your counsel where this is in dispute—educational or non-educational as the sums can be significant.  Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle domestic cases of all types throughout Indiana. This blog is written for general informational purposes and is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services.  It is an advertisement.

  1. Myers v. Myers, 29A02-1701-DR-77 (Ind.Ct.App. August 2, 2017).

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