In a small percentage of divorce and paternity cases, some children completely reject a parent and become estranged from this parent and effectively deny they are the child’s parent. Do these parents have to pay for higher education? This blog addresses the legal doctrine of a child repudiating a parent’s relationship and implications if he or she seeks contribution from the estranged parent toward college expenses.
In Indiana, there is no absolute legal duty on the part of a parent to provide a contribution to a child’s college expense. However, the Divorce Act authorizes Indiana trial courts to pay sums toward their children’s college education if the request is filed before the child turns 19 and is emancipated as a matter of law. Most Indiana trial courts will enter a post-secondary education order if the child has the ability and aptitude to succeed in college. The trial court has wide discretion to make a college expense order the parents must pay.
However, in some cases a child, despite the non-custodial parent’s best efforts and strong attempts to have a relationship with the child, refuses to interact with the parent. If this child subsequently seeks a post-secondary education order and seeks to have that parent pay toward his or her college, repudiation may bar this duty even if the child is gifted otherwise meets the evidentiary showing for a college expense award. This is the legal doctrine of “repudiation”.1
Repudiation of a parent is “a complete refusal to participate in a relationship with his or her parent.”2 Under certain circumstances, repudiation will relieve a parent’s obligation to pay certain expenses for the child, including college expenses. The reason for this is because by college age, children of a divorced parent (or children born out of wedlock) are expected to come to terms with the reality of their family situation. In other words, they are treated as adults and their attitudes and actions are their individual responsibilities. So if they have rejected a relationship with a parent, their actions dictate they should not be expecting the parent who has so desperately desired to have a relationship with them to pay for their college.
If this is your case and you want to challenge paying for college by the de facto defense of repudiation, you need a skilled lawyer to help you determine the evidence to prove such and get such into a format to make it admissible in court. Without this, you may well lose your case and have to pay toward the child’s post-secondary expenses. The reason is repudiation is much different than a strained relationship with a child; this is not enough to avoid paying toward college expenses. Without the right evidence presented, the case may just look as if the relationship is strained. With the right evidence, it should be crystal clear the child has rejected your relationship. Is this your case?
This blog is written by advocates at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle the full spectrum of child custody and domestic and paternity cases, from trial or defense or repudiation claims to appeals. The firm works throughout the state. This blog is intended for general educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice, or is it a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.