Can I Be Required to Contribute Toward My Kid’s College Expenses If We Have Had No Relationship After the Divorce1?
Maybe? Maybe not! Under Indiana law, there is no absolute duty for a divorced parent to be ordered to contribute toward his or her adult child’s college expenses. Generally, Indiana divorce courts order divorced parents to pay toward their adult child’s college.2 However, where repudiation can be established—that there is no relationship between the adult child and parent--the court may determine the child has repudiated the relationship with the parent and relieve him of his or her obligation to contribute toward college. This is the topic of this blog—what you need to know to establish/fight repudiation.
By way of additional background, Indiana is in the minority of states where a parent may still be ordered to pay toward his adult child’s college. Indiana has, in fact, rejected the claim this violates equal protection because it treats married parents differently than divorced parents;3 married parents are free to choose not to pay anything toward college. Divorced parents are not. Therefore, repudiation is an important legal tool available to some divorced parents who have not had a parent-child relationship with his or her child. Thus, the policy is if the parent has been denied the parent-child affections, why should he or she be forced by a court to help pay toward college?
However, where repudiation is the case, careful lawyering must come into play. It is not enough that the parent has not had a relationship with his or her child. Instead, the child (sometimes with the help or direction of the custodial parent) must have repudiated the relationship. This seems easy enough, but what if a non-custodial parent simply gives up on having a relationship with his or her minor child because of parenting-time interference with the relationship by the custodial parent? This may not be sufficient to show repudiation to avoid paying college expenses.4
“Repudiation” is defined under Indiana law as a “complete refusal” by the adult child to participate in a relationship with the parent. Thus, if this is your case, through counsel you must carefully show that despite serious efforts to have a relationship with your child, he or she refused your parental attempts. To make this evidentiary showing likely requires proof of attempts by unanswered phone message, returned or unanswered mail, texts, and/or social media efforts by the non-custodial parent. Such cases are very fact sensitive and trial courts are given great discretion to judge who is presenting the more accurate story.
If repudiation is established, the trial court cannot order a repudiated parent to contribute to college expenses, which may be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Instead, the repudiated parent can then dictate what effect that rejection of the relationship has on the parent’s contribution toward college expenses. He or she may make the decision about contribution as any married couple would do so and can contribute in any way s/he sees fit. The trial court has no authority to order a repudiated parent to pay college expenses.
Repudiation is a powerful tool to avoid the injustice of requiring a parent—a parent who has been deprived of being involved in his or her child’s life—from paying for (this unknown child’s loss of love and affections on the parent) college. This is the law of repudiation in Indiana. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle child custody cases of all types throughout Indiana, including college expenses and the de facto defense of repudiation. This blog is written for general educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- Repudiation also applies to paternity cases.
- This does not include graduate degrees.
- Gill v. Gill, 72 N.E.3d 945 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017).
- Koontz v. Scott, 60 N.E.3d 1080, 1083 (Ind.Ct.App.2016)