Family Law Case Review: Discord Between Father & Daughter Did Not Rise to the Level of Repudiation

Case: Stanley Kahn v. Beverly (Kahn) Bakera
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Daughter’s strained relationship with Father did not rise to the level of “repudiation” for purposes of excusing Father’s obligation to contribute to Daughter’s college expenses where, despite not speaking with Father for over a year, Daughter sent numerous cards, texts, and emails message to Father, telling him that she loved him, sharing updates about her life, and asking for Father about developments in his life.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Daughter began attending Emory University in 2009. In 2010, Father and Mother divorced. The Decree required Father to pay Daughter’s 2010-11 tuition. An agreed entry in early 2012 extended Father’s college obligations for Daughter through December 31, 2012.

In late 2011, Father and Daughter had a heated dispute which resulted in a lengthy strain on their relationship. They did not speak at all, in person or by phone, for all of 2012. However, there was significant “electronic” communication from Daughter to Father during this period: e-cards, e-mails, and text messages. In those, Daughter told Father that she loved him, missed him, happy birthday, photos of her new apartment, and details of other developments in her life. Daughter also asked Father about his eye surgery, a wedding he had attended, and his new apartment. After the Spring 2012 semester, Father stopped paying for all of Daughter’s post-secondary educational expenses.

Mother subsequently filed a motion for rule to show cause against Father. After a hearing, the trial court found Father to be in contempt, and ordered Father to pay various costs arising from his non-payment of Daughter’s post-secondary expenses. Father appealed.

The Court of Appeals reviewed the history of “repudiation” in the college expense context since the McKay case. Noting that each case should be determined with a fact-sensitive approach, the Court reviewed prior cases which found repudiation, and noted the highly acerbic and bitter attitudes that the children in those cases displayed. By contrast, here, while the relationship between Father and Daughter was clearly very strained, there was frequent, non-acrimonious and positive communication from Daughter to Father throughout the period in question. “Given this evidence, we find that the trial court’s findings amply support the conclusion that the discord that existed between [Daughter] and Father did not rise to the level of repudiation so as to obviate Father’s obligation to pay the expenses specified in the agreed order.”

The trial court’s order on the finding of contempt was affirmed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Stanley Kahn v. Beverly (Kahn) Baker

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James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, 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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