« Courts - Unusual sanction by bankruptcy judge in a Fair Finance proceeding | Main | Courts - "As governor, Mitt Romney backtracked on promised reforms in appointing judges" »

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Ind. Law & Decisions - "New Indiana law cuts off child support at 19"

Yesterday, June 8th, the Anderson Herald Bulletin carried this story by Maureen Hayden of CNHI. The story begins:

INDIANAPOLIS — A new state law that drops the cutoff age for child support in Indiana is raising questions about how the courts may interpret it.

On July 1, the age of emancipation in Indiana moves from 21 to 19, automatically terminating child support payments for almost anyone who has turned 19.

Family law experts predict a period of confusion as judges, lawyers and families figure out how to apply the new law to existing child support orders and agreements.

Drew Soshnick, past chair of the Indiana State Bar Association’s family law section, said the new law will likely trigger a wave of calls to attorneys and a rush of requests to judges to modify child support orders and agreements.

One area of possible contention: the law exempts support for the “educational needs” of a child over 19 but doesn’t spell out exactly what falls into that category.

“We expect a lot of discussion about ‘educational needs’ as people try to broaden that definition,” Soshnick said.

Another area ripe for debate: Does the new law cancel out existing child support agreements involving children over 19?

Melissa Avery, current chair of the state bar association’s family law section, said the law is written to apply retroactively. But she expects some debate on that issue from lawyers and their clients who may question whether the Legislature can unravel child support agreements that have been crafted or approved by the courts.

“There is some lack of clarity (in the law),” Avery said.

As it happens, also yesterday, June 8th, the Court of Appeals handed down a decision in the case of Tricia L. Sexton v. Travis Sexton (ILB summary here), holding that "the amended child-support statute does not apply retroactively such that obligors may be reimbursed for past support payments made for children beyond age nineteen."

Here is a brief story on yesterday's opinion, reported by Dan Carden of the NWI Times. Some quotes:

A state law that takes effect July 1 that knocks two years off the maximum age a parent must support his or her child does not apply retroactively, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday. * * *

Most Hoosier parents believe they can stop paying child support at age 18, according to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council. The difference between common practice and the law has led to a backlog of unpaid child support cases, subjecting parents to potential criminal penalties and reducing the state's share of federal funds to support low-income families.

At the appeals court, Travis Sexton, of Howard County, argued the change in law entitled him to a refund of child support payments he made while his daughter was between ages 19 and 21.

In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court ruled the Legislature deliberately set a July 1 effective date for the new law, did not intend for it to apply retroactively and Sexton is not entitled to a refund.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 9, 2012 09:49 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions | Indiana Law