Indiana Divorces and the Kid's College Fund: A look at a S.C. Supreme Court Decision

March 10, 2012

In an interesting case that highlights a frequent issue in an Indiana divorce, the supreme court in South Carolina has ruled that divorced parents may have to pay for their children's college.

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Indiana child custody attorneys understand that going through a divorce is trying, and often made even more difficult when one parent attempts to shirk responsibility for their children by putting the other parent in the position of having to cover major expenses - from dental work to education. This is where having an experienced attorney can be a tremendous advantage. Sorting through all of these details long before a child reaches college age will put everyone on the same page and save you from future headaches, heartaches - and a precariously low bank balance.

The Associated Press reports the South Carolina Supreme Court has decided that divorced parents who pay child support could also be made to pay for their children to obtain a higher education. Justice voted 3-2 in favor of the decision. The justices decided that because education is so vital to a child's success, the state holds an interest in ensuring the child is not at a disadvantage.

This case had been entangled in the system for the last five years.

According to media reports, the plaintiff is a single mother who runs a day care, making about $40,000 annually. Her ex-husband, whom she divorced in 1993, had made about $30,000 when they separated. But his income soon shot up to about $250,000 annually. Still, the father's child support payments for his two children stayed less than $200 weekly.

When the couple's oldest son expressed a desire to go to college, the father said he would repay his son's student loans and help with other expenses. The father also said he decided he would halve his child support payments.

But the mother said her ex didn't hold up his end of the agreement. So she sued him. Originally, the court decided in his favor, saying that parents can't be forced to pay for higher education. That court also officially reduced the amount of child support he would be made to pay and wouldn't make him pay for his ex-wife's attorney.

Then the state Supreme Court changed all that. It reversed the original ruling - and all related prior rulings.

One justice was quoted as saying that although the decision of whether to send a child to college is a personal one, it is not one that should be denied to a child just because his or her parents are divorced. While the court did say that not every parent who pays child support should have to also cover college expenses, some justices were annoyed that the father in this case gave no real explanation as to why he was suddenly going back on his word and refusing to pay. Another justice said that when marriages go sour, a divorce could cloud a parent's filial or maternal sense of obligation. Children shouldn't suffer for that, she said.

In this case, the son eventually did graduate from college without his father's help, and is now a fingerprint analyst for the FBI. His mother was quoted as saying that it's important for judges to at least take into consideration whether a parent is able to pay.

This victory, while only valid in South Carolina, could foreshadow the push for a similar case to be brought forth in Indiana.

Highland Child Custody Attorney Burton A. Padove offers free and confidential appointments on family law matters throughout Northwest Indiana, including Munster, Lansing, Porter and Crown Point. Call 219-836-2200.

Additional Information:
Divorced parents may have to pay for college, The Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
Fathers Rights in Indiana: Census Shows More Dads as Heads of Household , Indiana Child Custody Lawyers Blog, Sept. 2011