A new state law that drops the cutoff age for child support in Indiana is raising questions about how the courts may interpret it.
On July 1, the age of emancipation in Indiana moves from 21 to 19, automatically terminating child support payments for almost anyone who has turned 19.
Family law experts predict a period of confusion as judges, lawyers, and families figure out how to apply the new law to existing child support orders and agreements.
Drew Soshnick, past chair of the Indiana State Bar Association's family law section, said the new law will likely trigger a wave of calls to attorneys and a rush of requests to judges to modify child support orders and agreements.
One area of possible contention: the law exempts support for the “educational needs” of a child over 19 but doesn't spell out exactly what falls into that category. “We expect a lot of discussion about 'educational needs' as people try to broaden that definition,” Soshnick said.
Another area ripe for debate: Does the new law cancel out exisiting child support agreements involving children over 19?
Melissa Avery, current chair of the state bar association's family law section, said the law is written to apply retroactively. But she expects some debate on that issue from lawyers and their clients who may question whether the legislature can unravel child support agreements that have been crafted or approved by the courts. “There is some lack of clarity (in the law),” Avery said.
She also expects some angry reactions, as people see an abrupt end to child support payments they may have been expecting.
“Our challenge at this point is getting the word out, to make sure people are aware it's happening,” Avery said.
The change in the age of emancipation brings Indiana closer in line with most states, which terminate child support obligations at the age of 18.