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Parents lose constitutional challenge of post-secondary school expenses

March 22, 2017

Bound by precedent, the Indiana Court of Appeals declined to find the statute allowing courts to impose post-secondary educational expenses on divorced parents is unconstitutional. The parents had argued the statute needs another look.

In this consolidated appeal, divorced parents from Elkhart, Kosciusko and Marion counties challenged the trial court’s order that a parent pay a portion of his or her child’s college expenses. The parents maintained the statutory authority is unconstitutional because it violates a divorced parent’s equal protection right because it places the divorced parent in a different position than married parents. The divorced parents also claimed the statute interferes with a parent’s fundamental right to determine his or her child’s upbringing and education.

The Indiana Supreme Court in 1991 previously rejected such claims and upheld a substantially similar prior version of the statute in question in Neudecker v. Neudecker, 577 N.E.2d 960 (Ind. 1991). But the divorced parents in the instant case argued because that case is more than 25 years old, the court “should review this issue anew as prior law is outdated and not in sync with our current society.”

“[I]t is well-established that as Indiana’s intermediate appellate court, we are bound to follow Indiana Supreme Court precedent,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote, declining the parents’ request to overturn Neudecker.

The Court of Appeals also ruled with respect to father Jasen Simcox that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in crediting him with nonconforming child support payments made to ex-wife Amy Likes or in basing his financial obligation for his daughter’s college expenses on the cost of a public university rather than a private one.

The case is Lisa Gill v. Jeffery B. Gill; In Re the Marriage Of: Jasen Simcox v. Amy S. (Simcox) Likes; and Paul King v. Jennifer Devine, 20A03-1607-DR-1569.
 

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