A recent change to Indiana child support law has reduced the child’s cut-off age from 21 to 19, but also makes exceptions with regard to educational support (such as contributing to college).
Our Jasper County child support attorneys understand that the law will apply retroactively – meaning if you already have a standing order and your child is between the ages of 19 and 21, you stand to lose that support.
However, the parent paying the support must petition the court to be allowed to terminate those payments – it shouldn’t happen automatically.
Consulting with an experienced child support lawyer will allow you to explore all options available considering your unique situation.
The legislation, Senate Enrolled Act No. 18, was a move to amend Indiana Code concerning juvenile law and family law – specifically, IC 31-13-11-18. The statute was amended to say that effective July 1, 2012, a parent has a duty to pay for child support until the child becomes 19 (instead of 21), unless one of the following two conditions is present:
1. The child is incapacitated, in which case the court would determine how long support should continue;
2. The child is emancipated prior to 19 years of age, excepting for educational needs. Emancipation would be determined by some of the following criteria: the child is at least 18 years-old, isn’t enrolled in school, is capable of supporting him or herself, is on active duty in the U.S. Armed Services, is married, or is no longer under the control of either parent or any individual or agency approved by the court.
With specific regard to educational needs, the new law indicates that any child support orders that were issued prior to the effective date (July 21st) may petition the court for educational coverage until he or she the age of 21. However, any child who is receiving support for an order issued after that date can file a petition for coverage of educational needs only until the child reaches the age of 19.
Indiana legislators reportedly chose age 19, as opposed to age 18, because a small percentage of high school seniors – about 1 percent – are 19 years-old.
But why this move, why now? The main reason for the change is that fathers often didn’t pay past age 18 anyway. Most mothers did not file petitions in court to make them pay, though they legally could have done so. However, this failure to pay rate affected the state’s overall child support payment success rates, often lowering the state’s eligibility to receive federal funding for the program.
There has been some speculation, however, that there may be many legal challenges ahead, specifically as it relates retroactively to cases. The primary argument would be that it may illegally invalidate contracts between parents – particularly agreements that specifically say that one parent must pay the other child support until the child is 21 years-old. It may not have much bearing for individuals whose agreements are more generally worded.
The move is not a major shock, especially considering that Indiana was always among the small percentage of states that allowed child support to go beyond 18 or 19 years-old. In fact, there are now only two remaining states and the District of Columbia that have the 21-year cut-off.
Still, a number of family law judges are expecting a surge of petitions for modifications from both sides – parents who are seeking to have their support amended to the new cut-off age, and those who may seek other modifications to boost payments now in anticipation of the new cut-off.
The implementation of this measure is expected to be somewhat confusing. If you have questions about your rights in light of this new law, please contact our offices. We’ll be happy to help.
Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce and child custody matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.