Justices dismiss Ball State from mother’s action seeking college expenses from ex-husband

March 18, 2015

Ball State University should not have been added as a supplemental defendant in a woman’s petition to modify child support and seek postsecondary expenses from her ex-husband for her daughter, the Indiana Supreme Court held Wednesday.

Jennifer and Scott Irons’ daughter, Jordan, was enrolled at Ball State University for the 2011-2012 school year, but withdrew before the end of the spring semester and had an outstanding tuition bill of more than $9,000. She sought to enroll at Indiana University Northwest but could not do so with her BSU transcript, which Ball State refused to release until her owed tuition was paid.

Jennifer Irons successfully had the trial court add Ball State as a supplemental defendant under Indiana Trial Rule 19 on her child support modification petition, arguing that the trial court could not determine Scott Irons’ financial obligation for expenses at IUN until their daughter was able to enroll there. Ball State claimed it would be willing to release the transcript, but not until the tuition was paid. The trial court denied Ball State’s motion to deny and ordered the school to release the transcript.

It appealed, but Jennifer Irons argued Ball State’s appeal was an impermissible interlocutory appeal; Ball State said it was an interlocutory appeal of right. A divided Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jennifer Irons.

In Ball State University v. Jennifer Irons; In Re the Marriage of: Jennifer Irons and Scott Irons, 45S03-1503-DR-134, the justices held that Ball State was correct; it properly pursued an interlocutory appeal of right under Appellate Rule 14(A)(3) because the order to deliver the transcript is akin to compelling the delivery of any securities, evidence of debt, documents or things in action, Justice Robert Rucker wrote.

The justices also agreed with Ball State that it should not have been added to Jennifer Irons’ action seeking postsecondary expenses from her ex-husband. They adopted the abuse of discretion standard for reviewing decisions to join parties under T.R. 19 as outlined in Rollins Burdick Hunger of Utah Inc. v. Bd. Of Trustees of Ball State Univ., 655 N.E.2d 915 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996).

“Joinder then turns on whether Ball State was a necessary party to determine future education expenses. The record is devoid of any evidence that Mother attempted to obtain financial information from IUN or any other source before seeking to join Ball State in this action,” Rucker wrote. “There is also nothing in the record before us suggesting that without Ball State as a party, Mother would be unable to provide the trial court information relating to future college expenses at IUN or any other institution for that matter.”

The case is remanded with instructions to dismiss Ball State from this action.  



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