An amendment to Indiana Code last year lowering the age child support may be terminated to 19 trumped a previous dissolution decree that said a father must pay support for his son until he turns 21, the Indiana Court of Appeals has decided.
In David A. Turner v. Debbie L. Turner, 85A02-1208-DR-704, David Turner argued that based on the July 2012 amendment to Indiana Code 31-16-6-6, the trial court should have granted his petition to terminate child support for his 19-year-old son Cody. The amendment says the duty to support a child, which does not include support for educational needs, ceases when the child becomes 19, with some exceptions not applicable to the Turners.
When David Turner and his wife Debbie divorced in 2000, the final dissolution decree said that David Turner would pay child support for Cody until he reached the age of 21, or is married, leaves home or is emancipated. After the amendment that decreased the age for termination of child support took effect, David Turner sought to stop paying support for Cody.
Debbie Turner believed the dissolution decree entered in 2000 should remain in place. The trial court noted that the language in the decree was “boilerplate” and reflected Indiana law at the time, but denied David Turner’s petition.
“Indeed, the language used by the trial court in the decree, which tracks most of the situations that would trigger the termination of child support, makes clear that the trial court took its lead from the legislature and followed the existing law at the time of the decree regarding the duration that Father would be required to pay child support for Son,” Judge Rudy Pyle III wrote. “However, the trial court ignored the changes in the law regarding the termination of child support. The trial court’s failure to follow the law as set forth by our legislature was an abuse of discretion.
“The trial court had no discretion to go outside the law set out in the termination of child support statute and to extend Father’s duty to pay child support beyond what is required by the law.”
The judges remanded to the trial court to enter an order granting David Turner’s petition and to terminate child support effective July 1, 2012.