In Indiana, divorced parents can1 be ordered to contribute toward their adult child’s college expenses.2 While parents have argued that this violates equal protection, because married couples are free to choose not to contribute toward their children’s college, Indiana appellate courts have rejected this argument.13 In fact, Indiana trial court judges have broad discretion to determine what is included in an educational support order.4 However, parents are not required to contribute toward their child’s graduate degree.5 That said, this blog focuses on a narrow exception when a parent is not required to contribute toward college when his or her child has “repudiated” the relationship with one of their parents.
So you may be asking what is repudiation? Indeed, most divorced parents have times where they have difficulties in parenting and communicating with their children. In fact, some parents may choose to have little to no contact with his or her child after divorce for a myriad of reasons, such as moving away or because of a remarriage and starting a new family. This is not repudiation and a basis for obviating the duty to pay under and educational support order for college.
Instead, repudiation of a parent focuses on the child’s participation with his or her parent. Clearly, in some cases, a custodial parent my go to great extremes to alienate the children from the other parent. In other situations, the child on his or her own may elect not to interact with his or her parent after a divorce. Maybe it is a combination of parental alienation and the child’s own decision, but if repudiation is established in the evidence in response to a request for an educational support order, it obviates the estranged parent from contributing toward college expenses.
These are difficult cases where you need a good lawyer to develop the evidence. The evidence may come from your own testimony. You may also need to call the adult child as a witness to establish repudiation. To prevail, you must show “a complete refusal [by the child] to participate in a relationship with his or her parent.”6 The reasoning behind this (and why this argument does not work for payment of child support for a minor child) is because by college age, children of divorced parents are expected to take responsibility for his or her actions. In other words, if an adult child harbors biases and resentments towards a parent and elects not to have a relationship with that parent, he or she cannot expect that parent to underwrite their educational pursuit of a college degree.
Has your child repudiated his or her relationship with you? If so, then in response to any filing for you to contribute toward college expenses, you need to identify the evidence to establish repudiation and present it in the evidence at the hearing on educational support. If the court finds true repudiation, you should not be ordered to pay toward college expenses. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle divorce (and paternity) cases of all types throughout the State, including repudiation cases. This blog is intended to provide general educational background on the topic of repudiation. It is not legal advice, nor is it a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- Under Indiana law, there is no absolute legal duty on the part of parents to provide a college education for their children. However, under the Divorce Act, the trial court is vested with the authority to make such an order.
- Indiana Code section 31-16-6-2.
- Gill v. Gill, 72 N.E.3d 945 (Ind.Ct.App.2017).
- Myers v. Myers, 80 N.E.3d 932 (Ind.Ct.App.2017).
- Allen v. Allen, 54 N.E.3d 344 (Ind.2016).
- Norris v. Pethe, 833 N.E.2d 1024 (Ind.Ct.App.2005).