A new Indiana child support law lowering the age of emancipation will affect current and future child support orders implemented by Indiana courts.
Effective July 1, 2012, children are now considered emancipated for purposes of child support at age 19 as opposed to age 21. This affects two statutes, Ind. Code 31-14-11-18 (Paternity actions), and Ind. Code 31-16-6-6 (Divorce actions).
Specifically, the law changes two major aspects of support for children: 1) payment of child support to the custodial parent, and 2) contribution to post-secondary education expenses for children.
Under the new law, a parent paying child support may modify their order to terminate support for a child once the child reaches age 19. This change puts Indiana child support guidelines in line with surrounding states that have used age 18 or 19 as the age of majority for some time now.
For the average child support payor, this means that you will not be obligated to pay support to the opposing party for your minor child after age 19, even if that child is in college and still dependent on his or her parents for financial support.
This new law takes into account the circumstances of many families where the child lives at college away from home and spends very little time living with the custodial parent throughout the year.
This change may not be a huge impact on a child support payor’s obligation if he had filed a petition to modify his child support order when his child moved out to attend college (usually age 18), as child support owed directly to an ex for the limited weeks the child is home from college during the year is often minimal.
However, even a minimal weekly payment can add up over two years, so it can be beneficial to file a Petition to Emancipate the child and modify your child support order (or terminate it if your order is only for one child) if your child is age 19 or above.
If you have a current support order, and your child will soon be age 19 or older, you should consult a mens divorce attorney to review your options regarding emancipating your child and modifying your current support order once the new law takes effect July 1.
Please remember that you should file a Petition to Emancipate in order to officially have your child declared emancipated and modify your Indiana child support order. Your child support will not be modified by the court unless you request that the court does so.
Regarding college expense contributions, the new Indiana child support law requires children and parents to petition the court for contributions of college expenses from the non-custodial parent before the child turns 19. This, however, will NOT impact children who are age 19 or older when the new law takes effect. The law allows for children who are 19 prior to July 2012 to petition the court for college expenses until they reach age 21.
For all children under age 19 at the time the law is enacted, the child or either parent must file a petition with the court requesting contributions from the parents for college expenses before age 19, or they will lose their ability to request those contributions from the parents.
Thus, it is important for any parent with a child approaching college age to think now about how they are able to pay for college, and discuss their options with an attorney in order to plan accordingly.
Previously, parents and children could petition the court for contribution to college expenses until the child reached age 21. If the parents and children cannot agree on a solution, either parent (or the child) may file a petition with the court to determine the division of post-secondary education expenses.
Even if you do agree with the other party on how to divide college expenses, it is important to file the agreement with the court, in case either party decides to revoke their informal agreement. If the informal agreement is revoked, and the child is over age 19, you cannot pursue contribution to college expenses moving forward under the new law.
In summary, the new law changes the age of emancipation to age 19 for child support orders in effect after July 1, 2012, and also requires children under age 19 to request contribution for college expenses through the court by the time they reach age 19 if they want their parents to be obligated to contribute to those expenses. The change in Indiana child support payments may be minimal on a weekly basis, but the amount saved can add up over a two-year period.
With proper planning, the provisions of the new law regarding payment of post-secondary education expenses can help families look ahead on college costs, avoiding one party seeking retroactive contribution to college expenses from the other party, and thereby allow all parties involved to pay for those expenses as they arise for the minor child pursuant to whatever order or agreement they reach regarding those expenses.
If you have any questions regarding how the new law will impact your specific case and child support order, Cordell & Cordell has several offices in Indiana serving clients in all Indiana counties.