By Richard A. Mann, Richard A. Mann, P.C. Attorneys at Law
In 2012, Indiana law underwent a significant change regarding the children of divorced or never married parents. I.C. 31-16-6-6 was changed to make the age of emancipation for child support 19 instead of the previous 21. As a result of this change, the child support duty terminates automatically at age 19. While the duty terminates, if the support is being withheld from one (1) parent's wages, a court order is necessary to terminate the support. If there was more than one (1) child covered by the child support order, it does not change or end the support order unless it is changed by the court (or if they are twins, triplets etc.)
Before you run off to file to get the support changed, you should make sure that the change is in your favor. I've seen numerous times where a person goes to change support, thinking it will go down and it goes up, or vice versa. If you are the party receiving support, you might say, "Why would I stop it?" First, because it's not due to you, and second, you might have to pay it back. See Matson v. Matson, 569 N.E.2d 732 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991). However, if you are paying it and do not file to stop the payment or overpayment believing you will get it back, most cases are against you. See Eisenhut v. Eisenhut, 994 N.E.2d 274 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013). In this case, the court refused to order the repayment of $19,250 which was a result of a voluntary wage assignment. The best practice is to seek out legal advice from a lawyer who regularly practices family law months before the date is to occur.
Another issue affected by the change in the law is post-secondary education expenses. Post-secondary education includes college, trade school etc. Is your child going? If you're divorced or under a paternity decree, then what does that order say? The law provided for a grandfather clause for decrees before the effective date of the law, i.e. before July 1, 2012. The problem is that if there's no provision for post-secondary education and your support order has been modified since July 1, 2012, the grandfather clause may no longer apply. See Neal v. Austin, 20 N.E.3d 573 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014). If your child turns 19 before you file, you may not be able to look to your child's other parent for contribution. Putting these matters off until after graduation and prom may end up costing you a lot more than graduation or prom. If you are the parent who may have to pay the majority of the costs and do not want to be court ordered to contribute, then you should still seek out legal advice but not raise the issue with you ex-spouse until after you have obtained that advice. The Indiana Child Support Guidelines were also modified effective January 1, 2016. They too can significantly affect the contribution a parent may be ordered to make toward post-secondary education.
As in all legal matters, the individual facts may have a significant part of what occurs.
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