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Non-custodial parent must still pay arrearages to cover funeral expenses

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An emancipated child will be able to collect child support arrearages to pay for her custodial parent’s funeral but she and her sibling will not be allowed to accept the remainder of the accrued support payments, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

When Dean Buchanan died, his ex-wife Debra Roop owed about $9,400 in child support payments. The trial court granted the oldest child Tina Buchanan’s request that she be allowed to collect the arrearages to cover the expenses of her father’s funeral and that the rest of the money be divided between her sibling and herself.

Roop appealed, asserting the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered her to continue to make payments toward her child support arrearage even though the recipient was deceased. Because no estate has been established, the court improperly earmarked the support arrearage to pay for Dean Buchanan’s funeral expenses that had been incurred by the adult child.

In Debra A. Roop v. Dean A. Buchanan, 88A01-1304-DR-171, the Court of Appeals concluded the trial court properly ordered Roop to pay the accrued child support obligation to cover the funeral costs.

The COA pointed out that Dean Buchanan likely could not save for his funeral because he had to use his own money to offset any deficit caused by Roop’s unpaid child support while the children were minors. Now, since Tina Buchanan has to assume the funeral costs, the Court of Appeals did not find that the lower court abused its discretion.

However, the appellate court did reverse the award of the arrearages leftover after the funeral expenses are paid to the emancipated children. It ruled in the absence of an estate, the trial court abused its discretion in allowed the siblings to receive the rest of the unpaid debt.

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