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College Expenses

“Do I have to pay towards my child’s college; my friends in other states don’t? How much can I be ordered to pay in post-secondary expenses? Other than room, board, books and tuition, what else could I be required to pay for?”

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

While some parents find it surprising, Indiana is in the minority of states where divorced parents or those who have a child born out of wedlock can be ordered to pay for higher education expenses. The reason this is surprising is because married parents are free to decide not to contribute toward their child’s post-secondary education expenses. 

The Indiana appellate courts have rejected this different treatment of parents does not violate the equal protection clause and is constitutional.

Indiana Court of Appeals Published Opinion on Constitutionality of Different Treatment of Married and Unmarried Parents Regarding to Higher Education Expenses

This noted, a petition for higher education expenses must be filed with court not earlier than the date on which the child becomes seventeen (17) years of age and not later than the date on which the child become nineteenth (19) years of age. If the request for higher education expenses is filed past the child’s nineteenth (19th) birthday, the child is barred. If this is the case, your counsel likely will file a motion to dismiss the request for higher education expenses.

Assuming you are litigating a higher education request you do not agree with, you, through counsel, should carefully prepare your evidence, as the court simply cannot grant a request without the requisite showing. Specifically, the court may order a spouse to contribute to a post-secondary education after the following in account:

  • The child’s aptitude and ability.
  • The child’s reasonable ability to contribute to educational expenses through work, obtaining loans, and obtaining other sources of financial aid reasonably available to the child, such as scholarships and grants.
  • The ability of each parent to meet the expense of post-secondary education.

Through counsel, a parent who opposes the higher education award has two significant ways to challenge such an award. The first would be to demonstrate the child does not have the aptitude or ability to be successful in college. High school grade transcripts would be a good source of evidence to prove same, but they have to be certified with a statement of the record-keeper to be admissible. In conjunction with or independently of the child’s aptitude, the parent opposing the higher-education award may also put on evidence of his or her income and budget to show that contribution is not financially feasible.

So, at this point, many parents are asking their counsel what is included in higher education expenses and what types of schools (public versus private, in-state versus out-of-state schools). The answer is most courts order each parent to pay one-third of the cost of an Indiana state supported school’s room, board, tuition, and books. However, the court has vast discretion to craft any reasonable award.

This noted, there are two significant limits on educational award that may apply in any given case. The most significant is the trial court has the discretion to make the post-secondary educational order cover medical, dental, and optical costs. However, the expenses must be connected with the child’s college education. So, for example, a private gym to work out at would not be a valid post-secondary education expense. The second is a trial court cannot issue an educational order for graduate school.

Indiana Court of Appeals Published Opinion on Education Expenses

Ultimately, there is a vast amount of lawyering that goes into preparation for a hearing for post-secondary education. Does the child have the ability to succeed in college? Can a parent afford to make a contribution? Are private schools with high tuition, room and board costs included? What are acceptable post-secondary education expenses? Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. handles educational expense order, which are separate and distinct from child support orders, across Indiana.

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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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