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Educational Support Orders

Married parents get to choose whether they will (or whether they can) finance their child’s college education.
For divorced parents, however, that choice is one of the luxuries they often have to sacrifice.

Nearly everyone is familiar with the concept of child support in divorce and custody cases. The court can (and nearly always does) order one parent to pay child support to the other parent. Child support is a contribution toward the child’s basic needs: a roof over his head, food in her stomach, clothes on his back. Child support ends at a certain age by statute or upon certain life events, such as marriage or enlistment in the military.

When the parents don’t have a combined household, how do you pay for college? Who’s “responsible”? Is anyone responsible? As with all parenting decisions, Mom and Dad can simply agree on how to handle paying for college. Perhaps they started a 529 savings plan years ago. The parents could have already agreed to the terms in their divorce settlement. Maybe Grandma left Susie some money. It’s even possible that one or both parents can easily afford it, and just do it. More often, however, neither parent is willing to take on that responsibility alone, nor can they agree on how to handle it. It then becomes a matter for the courts to decide, if that particular state will decide that issue.

Indiana provides for educational support orders by statute. A parent can file a petition asking the court to determine who should pay for the child’s college education, whether the cost should be shared between the parents, and in what proportions. The attorneys will exchange the parties’ financial information to determine who is in a better position to pay. It’s not uncommon for the parents to reach an agreement without the judge’s intervention, and it may include terms that require the child to chip in, too. Kentucky statute does not provide for educational support orders, and it’s not likely that a Kentucky court will order either parent to pay those expenses.

A recent Indiana Supreme Court decision, Allen v. Allen, 54 N.E.3d 344, indicates that there are limits to how much parents can be required to contribute to their child’s education. The Allens had agreed that Dad would pay for daughter’s college. Daughter then decided to go to dental school. The Court ruled that educational support orders apply only to post-secondary education, defined as undergraduate classes that work toward a baccalaureate degree. Graduate school doesn’t count. Theoretically, a “child” could go to school indefinitely. Indiana has decided that the parents won’t have to foot the bill for that.

Among all the other considerations in a divorce or custody case, you must also think about future educational costs. The family law attorneys at Church, Langdon, Lopp, Banet Law are experienced in helping you with all aspects of your case. Based in New Albany, Indiana, we proudly serve communities throughout Kentucky and Indiana, including, but not limited to, Jefferson County, KY; Floyd County, IN; Clark County, IN; and Harrison County, IN. Contact us by calling (812) 725-8224 or using our online form.

Attorney Steve Langdon

Attorney Steve LangdonLicensed to practice in both Indiana and Kentucky, Steve Langdon is an experienced elder law and trial attorney. In addition to his litigation and trial work, Steve’s practice includes wills, trusts, probate, Medicaid planning, guardianship, powers of attorney, and advanced directive planning, including living wills and health care surrogate designations. [ Attorney Bio ]

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