Court: child support can include medical costs

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Parents can be ordered to pay medical expenses for college students as part of child support obligations, even past age 21, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today.

All five justices agreed in Michael Cubel v. Debra Cubel, 32S04-0707-CV-283, which is authored by Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and involves two conflicting rulings from the state's appellate court on this issue.

The Hendricks County case involves the two parents who divorced in 2005, but have a daughter attending college in the state. She is currently 21 years old, past the age when child support is generally cut off. Hendricks Superior Judge David Coleman ordered that father Michael Cubel maintain medical, dental, and optical insurance for his daughter until age 23 or she's otherwise emancipated.

But the father argued those insurance payments should be considered child support that ceases at age 21, rather than educational expenses that can be extended past that age. He cited as authority Sebastian v. Sebastian, 798 N.E.2d 224 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003), where the appellate court held that health insurance is in the nature of child support, not educational expenses, and should be terminated at age 21.

However, an earlier appellate decision conflicts with that authority. In Schueneman v. Schueneman, 591 N.E.2d 603 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992), the court held that a trial court can include health insurance payments in a post-secondary educational order, even if those payments continue beyond the child's 21st birthday.

Chief Justice Shepard wrote, "In this case, we are asked to determine whether the General Assembly intended the child support statutes to include insurance coverage for children during college, in accordance with the Schueneman holding, or whether it did not intend to provide for a child's health care costs beyond age twenty-one regardless of whether the child is attending college, in accordance with the Sebastian holding."

Nothing about the history of the educational support statute suggests that the legislature intended to end a child's medical insurance because of college, Chief Justice Shepard wrote, citing Indiana Code 31-16-6-2(a)(2) that provides orders can include "special" medical, hospital, or dental expenses.

"We do not interpret the inclusion of the word 'special' as a constraint on the court's authority to order payment for medical insurance while a child is attending college," he wrote. "If we interpreted the inclusion.... To preclude the trial court (from doing that), many full-time college students would be unable to obtain or afford medical insurance. Our interpretation is further enforced by the practices of the insurance industry that commonly permit a child to remain on a parent's health insurance plan until the time he or she finishes college."

Lower courts can use discretion to establish whether this is appropriate for specific cases, the decision says. The Supreme Court affirms Judge Coleman's decision, except for remanding the case so that the court can consider the child's ability to contribute to her college education and directing that any post-age 21 medical coverage provisions be worked into part of the decree on educational expenses.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues