Trial Court Erred Dismissing Petition for Post-Secondary Education Expenses

Family Law Case Review
Case: Richard Littke v. Laurie Littke
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court committed error when it dismissed a petition for post-secondary educational expenses for untimeliness when it was filed after the child’s 19th birthday but before her 21st birthday.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Mother and Father divorced in 2001, with Daughter one of two children. By way of a 2008 agreed modification of the Decree, the parties stipulated that Father would have primary physical custody of Daughter, and Mother would pay weekly support to Father. The original Decree and subsequent modifications were all silent as to the payment of Daughter’s college expenses.

In July 2012, days after the Indiana Code changed the presumption emancipation age for child support from 21 to 19, Mother filed a motion to terminate child support. Weeks later, Father filed a motion to allocate Daughter’s post-secondary educational expenses. Mother moved to dismiss Father’s motion on college expenses, arguing that a motion for college expenses must be filed prior to the child’s emancipation. The trial court agreed with Mother, and ordered Father’s petition for post-secondary educational expenses dismissed. Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals visited the legislative history of Ind. Code 31-16-6-6. This statute was amended in 2012 and then again in 2013. The 2012 amendment lowered the presumptive emancipation age for child support from 21 to 19. Then, the 2013 amendment – which included an emergency retroactive date of July 1, 2012 – included a “grandfather clause” that permitted a college expense petition to be filed until age 21 for any child subject to a duty to support that existed prior to June 30, 2012. Though the trial court’s dismissal of Father’s petition occurred in between the 2012 and 2013 amendments, the retroactive nature of the 2013 amendment requires that the dismissal of Father’s petition to establish a college expense order be reversed and remanded for a determination on its merits.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Richard Littke v. Laurie Littke

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The Matrimonial Law Group of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP is one of the largest full-service matrimonial and family law practices in the State of Indiana. We represent clients in a wide spectrum of family law matters, including premarital agreements, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.
ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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