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College Expenses and the Repudiated Parent

Higher education is practically a necessity in today’s job climate, but paying for it is increasingly out of reach for many families, unless they take on massive loans. Divorced parents may have an even harder time finding money for college, and typically, the parents’ obligation to financially support a child end at the age of 19. However, Indiana law allows a court to order contribution by a parent toward post-secondary education, using the assumption that attending college does not allow the child to seek employment, until a degree is granted, that would allow him/her to live independently. Typically, each parent is expected to cover one third, with the child being responsible for the remaining amount. This post-secondary contribution is not standard, as child support is typically ordered until the child reaches the age of emancipation, and actions by the child to reject the parent can serve to create a defense to the obligation.

A recent Indiana court of appeals case looked at the effect of repudiation on a parent’s responsibility to contribute toward college expenses, and found that the child’s complete rejection of the parent in her life, though understandable, did relieve the mother from the obligation to cover these costs. An overview of the factors courts examine when considering whether to include an obligation to cover college expenses, and the specific repercussions of a child repudiating a parent on the parent’s obligation to pay for post-secondary education costs, will follow below.

When Will a Court Order Support for College Expenses?

As noted above, parents are mandated to financially support a child only to the age of 19, which is several years shy of college graduation for most people. Thus, covering the large cost of this education is not automatically a parent’s legal responsibility. However, Indiana law does allow for the inclusion of a provision in a child support order for college-related expenses, based upon an evaluation of the following factors:

  • The child’s aptitude and ability;
  • The child’s ability to contribute to education costs through loans, work, and other financial aid resources; and
  • The ability of each parent to cover these costs.

If awarded, the payor parent’s child support obligation for this child would be reduced to account for the contribution.

Effect of Repudiation of the Parent on the Obligation

Each child will deal with the news of their parents divorce in different ways, and some have a very hard time accepting the end of the marriage, particularly if one parent appears to be the primary reason for the breakdown. Some children will go so far as to completely cut the parent out of his or her life, referred to as repudiation for legal purposes. If the child is a legal adult, and an action for contribution to college expenses is filed, the court can decline to approve due to the absence of the parent/child relationship. Furthermore, even if this provision is included in a standing order, if the child’s repudiation is willful and voluntarily chosen, the parent has the right to use this decision to dictate whether to contribute to the child’s college education. Repudiation is only applicable if the relationship is completely severed on the child’s sole volition, and in contrast, a parent deciding to cut off relations does not eliminate his or her obligation to support the child if the court orders a contribution to college expenses.

Speak to an Indiana Family Law Attorney

Paying for college is a daunting task, and parents who can contribute to the child’s education can help the child avoid significant financial burdens through this support. If you have questions about how the facts of your situation would apply to the current law, talk to a family law attorney today. Christopher L. Arrington, P.C. knows the stress child support can place on a parent and is here to help you get the best possible result. Contact the Brownsburg family law firm at (317) 745-4494 to schedule an appointment.

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