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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ind. Decisions - Court: College costs can't impoverish father

"Court: College costs can't impoverish father. Grad school payment order leaves divorced dad with $7,070 to live on, appeals panel says." That is the headline today to this Indianapolis Star story by Richard D. Walton on the Court of Appeals decision yesterday in Bruce A. Snow v. Anita F. Rincker (3/22/05 IndCtApp). The opinion, by Judge Baker, begins: "'Poverty is no disgrace to a man, but it is confoundedly inconvenient.' Sydney Smith, from His Wit and Wisdom."

Walton writes:

Divorced parents may be made to pay a share of their child's educational expenses, but the payments cannot force a parent into poverty, the Indiana Court of Appeals said Tuesday.

The panel agreed with Madison County resident Bruce Snow, who claimed that a court order that he pay most of daughter Meghan's remaining college costs was unreasonable, given the body shop worker's annual income of $41,700. The court ordered that the amount be recalculated.

The dispute began in August 2003 when Snow's ex-wife, Anita Rincker, went to court to force Snow to begin contributing to the school costs. Until then, the burden had been borne by Rincker, who took out a $50,000 loan, and by her daughter, who obtained student loans.

A Madison Superior Court judge ordered Snow to pay 59 percent of Meghan's expenses at St. Louis University for 2003-04, or about $15,600. Snow was further told to pay for part of his daughter's effort to obtain advanced degrees in the amount, over two school years, of nearly $39,000.

The high court [court of appeals]figured that assuming Snow's wages remain relatively static, his obligation for just one of those additional years (plus a summer session) would leave him with $7,070 on which to live. This is below the 2004 poverty level for a one-person household, the appeals court said in a majority opinion.

"It was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to plunge a father into poverty to pay for a degree that could be earned at a less expensive, state-supported university," the court said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 23, 2005 10:05 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions