Postsecondary Education Expense Statute Does NOT Permit an Award for Graduate or Professional School Expenses

Case: Case: David P. Allen v. Kimberly W. Allen
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Indiana Supreme Court holds that Indiana’s postsecondary educational expense statute does not permit an award for graduate or professional school expenses.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Father and Mother divorced in 2002. A subsequent 2010 agreed entry provided for an allocation between the parents of Daughter’s undergraduate educational expenses and health insurance.

In 2013, shortly before Daughter’s 21st birthday, when Daughter was a senior at IU, Father filed a petition to modify seeking orders regarding Daughter’s graduate school expenses. At subsequent hearings, it was determined that Daughter had been accepted into the IU dental school, which costs approximately $75,000 per year. The trial court found that both of the parents had significant resources, and then ordered the same apportionment of expenses that was set forth in the prior undergraduate order to continue for Daughter’s dental school.

The Court of Appeals rejected Mother’s argument that the trial court lacked the authority to issue a graduate school expense order. Mother then sought transfer, which was granted.

The Indiana Supreme Court noted that the interpretation of the term “postsecondary” was a matter of first impression, and that the term is not defined in the postsecondary educational expense statute. The Court took interest in the fact that other areas of the Indiana Code define the term, and limit its application to undergraduate matters. The Court also noted that the requirement that a petition for postsecondary expenses be filed when the child is of an age well short of graduate or professional school would seem to suggest that only undergraduate expenses were contemplated. Finally, the Court observed that Indiana’s statute allowing for any type of college expense order is unusual on the national level, and further permitting graduate or professional school expense orders would “put Indiana in the minority of the minority” on the issue.

The Court advised in a footnote that a “postsecondary” expense order may properly apply to a trade school or associate’s degree, not only to baccalaureate degrees.

The trial court’s graduate school expense order was reversed.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: David P. Allen v. Kimberly W. Allen

 

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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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