A common misconception between parents of young children during divorce is that “child support” stops when the child(ren) turn 18. This is not the case necessarily in Indiana, which is the subject of this blog.
First, it is important to note that Indiana is one of the few states that has a statute in the Divorce and Paternity Act providing that a parent may be ordered to pay educational expenses once a child has reached the age of majority (i.e., eighteen).1 Most states have repealed the laws requiring divorced parents to pay and provide for college expenses. The minority of states that do have such laws, limit higher educational expenses to a certain age.
Second, there are time limits for seeking higher educational expenses in Indiana, and typically, the child has to show the ability, desire and plan for attending college. This may be modified or terminated if the child receives this and does not do well or drops out of college. Indiana trial courts have broad authority on how they determine what amount a parent should pay; skilled attorneys have many arguments for or against this if a case is properly developed for trial, depending upon the parent’s legal desire.
Third, in a new Indiana Supreme Court case, and consistent with the trend in the majority of states, the Court, as a matter of first interpretation (never decided in Indiana), held that the term “post-secondary” education does not include graduate or professional school expenses. Thus, this is limited to bachelor’s degree or trade school immediately following graduation from high school.2
Fourth, a lingering question in Indiana is whether any child support or duty to support a child after high school or the age of majority is constitutional. Under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, which applies to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, married parents are treated differently than divorced parents because they are free to decide not to provide support for their children after age 18.
Fifth, in rare cases, where a child has totally repudiated a relationship with a parent he or she may be relieved and have no duty to pay higher education expenses.
This is the complex area that makes up higher educational expenses in Indiana. Given the costs of higher and wide discretion of the court in how it apportions such expenses, it may be wise to consult with counsel if this is your situation. A significant step in reaching your legal goal on paying toward higher educational costs is being able to tell your legal and factual story through skilled counsel. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle cases that involve higher educational support in Indianapolis and across the State of Indiana, as well as all other issues related to divorce and paternity and post-divorce matters. This blog is not intended as a solicitation for legal services or legal advice. It is an advertisement.
- This is nineteen in Indiana to account for high school seniors who may turn 19 during their senior year. Ind.Code 31-16-6-6 (this statute was modified effective July 1, 2012 to lower the presumptive age for termination of child support from 21 to 19 years old).
- Allen v. Allen, 2016 WL 3088158 (Ind. July 1, 2016).