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In test of 2012 emancipation law, COA affirms denial of college expenses

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A statutory change in the age of emancipation for child support, except for educational support, does not preclude courts from modifying educational support obligations when parents demonstrate changes in their financial circumstances, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

An appellate panel affirmed a Hamilton Superior ruling denying a mother’s petition for allocation of college expenses in  Lisa Svenstrup v. Thomas Svenstrup, 29A02-1206-DR-452.

Thomas Svenstrup was granted a modification in weekly child support obligations after the couple’s son began attending Indiana University in 2011. Lisa Sventstrup later filed a petition for allocation of college expenses that the court denied.

While the son’s grants, college aid and student loans more than covered the cost of education, the mother’s brief claimed that there is no caselaw allowing her to modify a denial of post-secondary education expenses and allowing her to modify a denial after the child would be emancipated, leaving her no recourse if a change in circumstances occurred.

“In this regard we note that Ind. Code § 31-16-6-6(a) was amended effective July 1, 2012” to set the emancipation at 19 except for educational support.

“Under these circumstances, where Mother petitioned for an educational support order PRIOR to (the son’s) emancipation at age nineteen but which petition was denied by the trial court’s order, we hold that the order is subject to modification,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court.

“We affirm the trial court’s order denying Mother’s petition for allocation of college expenses, which order may be modified upon the requisite showing of changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the existing order unreasonable.”


 

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