ILNews

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. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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