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College Expenses Part 2: Repudiation

 

A previous article discussed the court ordered obligation of a divorced (or never married) parent to pay for a child’s college expenses. Sometimes, however, adult children cut off contact with their parents. Under certain circumstances, the court can then decline to enter a college order.  This is referred to as “repudiation.”  

Repudiation of a parent is “a complete refusal to participate in a relationship with his or her parent.” Norris v. Pethe, 833 N.E.2d 1024, 1033 (Ind.App.2005). The Indiana Court of Appeals has held:

Where a child, as an adult over eighteen years of age, repudiates a parent, that parent must be allowed to dictate what effect this will have on his or her contribution to college expenses for that child. . . Adult children who willfully abandon a parent must be deemed to have run the risk that such a parent may not be willing to underwrite their educational pursuits. Such children, when faced with the answer ‘no’ to their requests, may decide to seek the funds elsewhere; some may decide that the time is ripe for reconciliation. They will not, in any event, be allowed to enlist the aid of the court in compelling that parent to support their educational efforts unless and until they demonstrate a minimum amount of respect and consideration for that parent.

McKay v. McKay, 644 N.E.2d 164, 166-167 (Ind.App.1994).

The Court of Appeals has further opined, “one of a parent’s main duties in raising a child is to teach him that he must take responsibility for his actions.” Scales v. Scales, 891 N.E.2d 1116 (Ind.App.2008).

In these cases, it is the adult child who has taken the action to sever the parent/child relationship.  A parent cannot take actions which result in a termination of the parent/child relationship and expect the court to reward the parent by relieving him or her of a college obligation.  As is frequently the case in family law scenarios, the specific facts of each case will control the outcome.