NJ Court Orders Divorced Parents to Pay Estranged Daughter's College Expenses… Could This Happen to Me in Indiana?
A New Jersey case between 21 year old, Caitlin Ricci, and her divorced parents reached its conclusion on Monday, December 8, 2014 when a Judge ruled that Ricci’s parents must pay $16,000 a year towards her college expenses even though Ricci and her parents have been estranged for almost two years. The Ricci case is similar to another New Jersey case, that of 18 year old Rachel Canning, which made headlines earlier in 2014. Rachel Canning claimed to have been “thrown out” of her family home on her 18th birthday and soon after sued her parents for her private school tuition and impending college expenses. A New Jersey judge denied Canning’s request for an emergency order that would have required her parents to pay her expenses. Canning later reconciled with her parents and quietly withdrew her complaint. The judge in the Canning case was quoted as saying, “Do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in basic fear of establishing rules of the house?” The Canning case treaded on uncharted territory with the request that married parents support children beyond the age of emancipation, something that is already done in Indiana for children of divorce or paternity.
While there are numerous differences between the Ricci case and the Canning case in NJ, the difference to focus upon is that fact that Ricci’s parents are divorced and Canning’s parents were still married. Ricci’s father, Michael Ricci, submitted an article to Yahoo! Parenting on December 10, 2014, and in his article he states, “Do you realize that if you are married in the state of New Jersey, you are not under any legal obligation to pay for college? But, if you get divorced, you must contribute?” Unbeknownst to many, the same can be said for the State of Indiana.
Indiana Code section 31-16-6-6 states that a parent or guardian, or the child, may file a petition for education needs until the child becomes twenty-one (21) years of age if a child support order was issued before July 1, 2012. If a child support order was established after June 30, 2012 the parent or guardian, or the child, may file a petition for education needs until the child becomes nineteen (19) years of age. Similar to the state of New Jersey, Indiana may obligate parents of children of divorce or parents of children in paternity actions to pay post-secondary education expenses while married parents do not have the same legal obligation.
However, for these cases, trial courts, in accordance with Indiana Code section 31-16-6-2, may take into account the following when determining the obligation of the parents: (1) the child’s ability and aptitude, (2) the child’s ability to obtain loans and other sources of financing, (3) the ability of each parent to obtain additional financing, (4) special medical, hospital, or dental expenses of the child, and (5) current child support payments already being made. Courts also attempt to determine what the family would have done had the parents stayed intact when determining how much of a child’s post-secondary expenses should be allocated to the parents. Indiana Courts can also order the child to pay a percentage of his or her own post-secondary educational expenses, and can place limitations on these expenses, such as limiting the costs to that of a four-year in-state university.
If you pay or receive child support under an Indiana order and have children approaching the age of nineteen (19) or twenty-one (21) take note of the law in Indiana regarding post-secondary expenses and govern yourself according. Call the Law Offices of Anna K. Christodoulakis at (219) 776-2662 for a FREE consultation!