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Must Indiana divorced parents pay grad school tuition for child?

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2016 | Child Custody

When a divorcing couple has children, custody and financial matters related to the kids is often a major focus of the divorce settlement. Just how the needs of the children will be covered financially depends on the couple and the expenses that arise. Health and education are two areas in which plans must be made for expenses.

While married parents in the state of Indiana are not required to pay postsecondary education expenses for their children, there is a different standard for divorced parents. Laws in the state address parents paying for expenses related to education even after children reach the age of majority. Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court provided some clarity to this issue.

The case involved a divorced couple that, eight years after their divorce, modified their agreement so that the mother would pay their daughter’s health insurance and the father, the daughter’s educational expenses. When the daughter later attended dental school, the man sought another modification, requesting that his ex help to cover the costs of the graduate program. After lower courts disagreed on whether the mother was required to assist with the graduate school payments, the matter was brought before the state’s high court.

Ultimately, it was determined neither parent was required to cover expenses related to the graduate school program. In reaching this decision, the justice that wrote the opinion pointed to Indiana Code 31-16-6-2. He determined that the term “postsecondary” referred specifically to programs “of collegiate grade directly creditable toward a baccalaureate degree” and did not include graduate programs.

This decision does not mean that divorced parents can’t be held responsible for paying for their children’s graduate school expenses. Rather, it’s still possible a court could enforce an agreement of this nature that was previously entered into by the couple.