A topic Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. has blogged about before is the new emancipation statute effective July 1, 2012, the new child support statute inIndianagoes into effect. However, there has been a recent case decided by the Indiana Court of Appeals which gives into how the Indiana Court of Appeals may view and apply this new law.
To recap, the new child support emancipation differs from the current version mainly due to the change in the child’s age to terminate child support. Under the current (soon to be old law) children generally receive child support until they turned twenty-one (21). Under the new law to take effect July 1, 2012, with the exception of education expenses, child support will end when the child turns nineteen (19) years old.1 and 2
However, just as with the current, there are exceptions to the general rule. For example, a child can become emancipated before age nineteen (19) and not require support. However, the child still may receive money for educational expenses.
In the noted recent case, the Indiana Court of Appeals case addressed further issues with the new law. In Sexton v. Sexton3, the case falls under the control of the current law, so the emancipation age is twenty-one (21).
At age twenty (20), Father sought to have Daughter emancipated as she had become pregnant, had a son, received her CNA license and had worked in a nursing home in high school, attended college, and received government and financial aid.
During her pregnancy, Daughter stopped working and attending classes, but she enrolled for the next semester. Daughter also refused to have a relationship with Father or allow him to see her son. Her son’s father provided necessities for their child, and Daughter lived with her Mother rent free.
The lower court held Daughter was emancipated and Mother appealed. The court found that Daughter had put herself outside her parents’ care or control, one way to determine emancipation.4 The Court of Appeals affirmed noting that the actions of Daughter, including raising a child, receiving governmental assistance, and having a relationship with the child’s father showed decisions an adult would make.
The Court then went on to provide some observations about the new child support law. First, it noted that it is unwise to simply stop paying support if the support payer has a child nineteen (19) or older once the new law goes into effect. This is because educational support will likely be determined on a case-by-case basis, so support may become educational support and more or less continue.
Second, the Court noted that Father had requested that the statute apply retroactively, and he could recover/get a refund of money paid towards child support after Daughter turned nineteen (19). The Court did not agree with this, noting that generally, laws are prospective and begin to apply the date they go into effect. The same is true here.
Therefore, if a parent has a child who is over nineteen (19) for which they have been paying child support, there is no refund for that money under the new law that might be “overpaid” until a hearing terminates child support and/or addressed educational support. What a parent can do is petition the court to terminate child support and determine what, if any, educational support is necessary.
As the new child support law goes into effect and cases begin to define the parameters of the law, it will become more and more defined, and allow for more understanding into educational expenses and the child support duties of parents.
If you have an existing child support order or are confused about how to move forward with educational expenses, consult an attorney. By ending child support without clarification, you could be on the hook for back support, and cause problems for yourself and your child in court.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices law throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by Bryan Ciyou, esq. and Jessica Keyes.